#49 – Sedrick Ellis – After serving as a backup to Mike Patterson at nose tackle as a redshirt freshman, Sedrick Ellis had a dominating spring practice session and grabbed hold of the position last season. He put together an outstanding season, totaling 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. With a year of experience under his belt, Ellis should come out firing yet again this season and help form a very solid defensive line. He has shown outstanding speed and technique and should put up great numbers and performances in the coming season.
#99 – Averell Spicer – Averell Spicer used his redshirt season in 2005 and will enter the 2006 season behind Sedrick Ellis and nose tackle. Depending on the game situation, Spicer could end up seeing quite a bit of playing time. With his size and skill, he seems poised for big things in the near future.
#93 – Lawrence Miles – Lawrence Miles will provide depth at defensive end this season.
#91 – Chris Barrett – Nicknamed “The Freak” for his combination of size and amazing athleticism, Chris Barrett has finally found a position. Barrett began his career at defensive end before being flipped to tight end during the 2004 season. Barrett was then moved back to defensive end last season before settling at defensive tackle during this season’s spring practices and blossoming into a star. Barrett won the defensive tackle position and will take over for departed LaJuan Ramsey this season. As long as he is able to put past injury problems behind him, Barrett should develop into a serious talent on the interior of the defensive line.
#95 – Travis Tofi – Travis Tofi will serve as a backup nose tackle in 2006. He can be an imposing force in the middle of the line and was able to pick up 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.
#75 – Fili Moala – Fili Moala will push for playing time at defensive tackle this season. He played in every game last season, starting two and making eight total tackles.
#94 – Walker Lee Ashley – A spring enrollee, Walker Lee Ashley is a freshman in a senior’s body. He will compete immediately for playing time at defensive tackle.
#96 – Lawrence Jackson – Lawrence Jackson was arguably the best Trojan defensive player last season, racking up 46 total tackles and leading the team with ten sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Jackson will be up for every defensive end award and should get some attention for All-American honors. This will be his third season at defensive end and all signs are pointing to a brilliant year. His ability to play the run and pass equally as well as his array of attacking moves make him a difficult match up for every offensive tackle and make it possible for him to put up those gaudy numbers.
#97 – Alex Morrow – Alex Morrow will serve as a backup defensive end in 2006 after filling that same role last season. In 2005, Morrow picked up five tackles, including a sack.
#84 – Kyle Moore – A rising star at defensive end, Kyle Moore will battle for a starting spot there heading into the 2006 season. He is an exceptional talent with a perfect frame and is quickly picking up the speed of the game and the mental aspects of his position. If Moore doesn’t land the starting job, he will see plenty of playing time off the bench.
#54 – Jeff Schweiger – Jeff Schweiger has shown signs of brilliance over the past two seasons, but hasn’t quite been able to put it all together. Hopefully new defensive line coach Nick Holt will be able to help Schweiger light a fire and make a name for himself among the Trojan defenders. All signs have been pointing toward that as he performed well during spring practice and is locked in a battle with Kyle Moore for a defensive end spot. With just two sacks in two years, Schweiger should improve on those numbers as he will earn significant playing time in a rotation with Moore as either the starter or backup.
#44 – Rashaad Goodrum – Rib and back injuries forced Rashaad Goodrum to miss the final few games of the 2005 season as well as all of spring practice. But come fall he should be ready to push for playing time at defensive end and special teams.
#90 – Derek Simmons – Simmons is a motor guy, and someone who will make plays under any circumstance. He definitely has the size and great technique for a defensive tackle and his speed and athleticism will only improve at USC.
#56 – Alex Parsons – Alex Parsons is a steady, intense defensive stalwart who will battle for playing time along the defensive line this season. Parsons combined size and strength to rack up 104 tackles and four sacks for a sub-par Woodbridge team in 2005. Parsons parlayed that effort into an invite to the CaliFlorida all-star game, where he turned in the most impressive performance of all the defensive linemen. Parsons, like the rest of his incoming freshmen teammates, will hope to take advantage of Pete Carroll’s penchant for playing freshmen and will look for playing time as a backup in 2006.
#68 – Butch Lewis – At 6-5 and 280 pounds, Butch Lewis looked like a man among boys at times on his Regis Jesuit High School team. Playing on both offensive and defensive tackle, Lewis was a dominant force, using his long arms, quick feet and brute strength to knock the opposition off the ball or onto their backsides. Lewis is ranked as the #11 offensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com, but will enter USC as a defensive tackle, as it is here that Lewis has the potential to truly excel at the collegiate level.
#92 – Jermyah Graves – Jermyah Graves will provide depth at defensive tackle this season.
#64 – Mike Davis – Mike Davis will provide depth along the defensive line.
#65 – Jeff Tola – Jeff Tola will provide depth at defensive end this year.
#42 Dallas Sartz – Dallas Sartz injured his shoulder in the second game of last season and never made it back. He used his redshirt year and will return to the Trojans yet again as the starter at strongside linebacker this season. Sartz was set to take on the role of emotional and physical leader of the defense last season before the injury forced a void at those spots. This season, Sartz should step into that leadership role and should take pride in being one of the headliners of a group of linebackers able to rival any in the county.
#10 – Brian Cushing – As a true freshman last season, Brian Cushing did absolutely everything that could be asked of him. He was a starter for four of the most important games of the season, including the National Championship game, he made 23 tackles, recovered two fumbles, blocked a punt, and he did it all while suffering the effects of an early shoulder injury. The subsequent surgery kept him out of some of this season’s spring practices, but he will be back in the mix at strongside linebacker as a true sophomore. Cushing may not emerge as the starter for the season opener, but his skill, determination and tenacity will make it impossible to keep him off the field. He will contribute heavily as a linebacker and on special teams.
#41 – Thomas Williams – Thomas Williams was needed as a backup linebacker last season as he found his way into ten games, six of them as a starter. Always emotionally charged, Williams will again look for any opportunity to get on the field. He can play both strongside and middle linebacker and is a special teams wiz. Williams is yet another talented Trojan linebacker who will need to see the field at some point in 2006.
#47 – Clay Matthews Jr. – Clay Matthews Jr. will provide depth at linebacker this season.
#46 – Michael Morgan – A dynamic talent with brilliant football instincts, Michael Morgan will make an impact for the Trojan defense, but not before he spends some time bulking up. If Morgan can put on some weight while maintaining his speed, he could develop into a dominant outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid.
#45 – Oscar Lua – Oscar Lua emerged from spring practice last season as the starter at middle linebacker and performed well enough through the season, among stiff competition, to keep his starting spot. He led the team with 66 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass. The lasting memory of Lua’s season will be his punishing solo stop of an Arizona State running back on a 4th-and-1 as he met the back in the hole and drove him back several yards. This spring, Lua again fought off incredible competition to remain the starter at middle linebacker. He is a very smart player and although he lacks some physical tools, is a rock in the middle of the field defensively. Even if he is eventually beaten out for the starting spot, he is too talented to keep off the field and will see time in a rotation and as a major contributor on special teams.
#58 – Rey Maualuga – Rey Maualuga is an absolutely amazing football player. There is no other way to describe him. His combination of size, speed, strength and instincts will eventually make him the best linebacker in college football. Last season, Maualuga had 37 tackles, forced two fumbles and an interception in limited playing time. What stands out the most is the way Maualuga simply obliterates the ball carrier. It’s not enough to just tackle him; Maualuga upends, crushes and smashes him. This season, he will push Oscar Lua for the starting middle linebacker spot and star on special teams.
#52 – Luther Brown – Another part of the huge talent pool at linebacker, Luther Brown was the forgotten man last season as he redshirted while recovering from back surgery. This season, Brown will fight for playing time among the middle linebackers and could also provide an immediate impact on special teams.
#55 – Keith Rivers – Keith Rivers was the starting weakside linebacker last season, piling up 52 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. He is one of the most talented linebackers in the country and has the prototypical size and speed to dominate the game. He will begin the season again as the starter at weakside linebacker but will be pushed by the younger players behind him.
#43 – Kaluka Maiava – Kaluka Maiava served as a backup weakside linebacker as a freshman last season and was able to force his way into every game with his natural instincts and understanding of the game. Maiava will again provide depth at linebacker and should star on special teams this season. He is another in a long line of talented young linebackers who are pushing for playing time.
#51 – Joshua Tatum – Even with the great class of linebackers the Trojans received in 2005, Josh Tatum chose to enroll at USC in the fall of 2006. That decision speaks directly to Tatum’s talent, confidence and passion. He is the prototypical size for a weakside linebacker, with speed and instincts to match. An ACL injury limited him to just four games as a senior, but he piled up 82 tackles and five sacks in those four games. Tatum expects to be back to full health by the summer and enter fall camp at full speed.
#57 – Nick Garratt – Nick Garratt will provide depth at linebacker this season.
#59 – Lou Ferrigno Jr. – Lou Ferrigno Jr. will provide depth at linebacker this season.
#36 – Josh Pinkard – Arguably the team’s most versatile and important defender, Josh Pinkard returns to free safety this season after spending most of last year at cornerback. Pinkard is such a talent, however, that he could probably earn all-league honors at both positions. He has a nose for the ball and is always in the right place. His combination of smarts and aggressiveness makes him a joy for Trojan fans to watch and a nightmare for quarterbacks to get a read on. Pinkard finished third on the team last year with 54 tackles, and added two interceptions and two forced fumbles. His fumble recovery and subsequent return against Arkansas was one of the highlights of the game. This year, Pinkard will become a star as he is now the veteran leader of the Trojan secondary.
#4 – Kevin Ellison – Kevin Ellison entered USC during the spring semester in 2005 without much hype or fanfare, but spent the entire spring practice session proving that was a mistake. Ellison was a supremely quick learner, grasping head coach Pete Carroll’s defense faster than any freshman should and entering last year as a key reserve at the safety spot. Ellison saw action in the first four games and made one of the most important plays of the season with an acrobatic interception to save the game against Arizona State. He injured his knee on that play, however, and was forced to miss the rest of the season. His presence was sorely missed as the defensive backfield was stretched very thin through the remainder of the season. Heading into 2006, Ellison is the starter at strong safety and should prove himself as one of the best in the conference. He isn’t overly flashy or showy, but he has an incredible knowledge of the game and is constantly in the right position. He won’t call attention to himself, but you’ll notice him as he makes play after play.
#6 – Antwine Perez – Antwine Perez enrolled at USC during the spring semester and already has positioned himself as a key reserve at the free safety position. Perez is a huge hitter who will take some time learning the intricacies of the position but should blossom into a tremendous player. So far, he has shows a tremendous desire to be on the field and that will serve him well as he continues to compete for playing time.
#29 – Taylor Mays – Taylor Mays is a strong, sleek, speedy safety and possibly the best prospect on the West Coast. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, a 10.5 hundred-meter dash time seems almost unfair to the opposition. Mays is that truly special prospect who can be plugged in at multiple positions and can change a game in multiple ways. He has the potential to become an enforcer at safety, a stealthy linebacker or a deep-threat wide receiver. Mays will get his first shot at safety for the Trojans and will battle to fill the hole left by the departed Darnell Bing. Mays will need to fine-tune his mechanics in order to make an impact this season, but the speed and quickness of the college game should be no problem for the athletic safety.
#21 – Allen Bradford – At USC, Bradford will compete for a starting spot at one of the two vacated safety spots, but some believe it could only be a matter of time before he starts getting looks in the offensive backfield. Football simply comes naturally to Bradford as there is nothing he can’t do on the field. Whether it’s speed, strength or instincts you’re looking for, Bradford is at or near the top of every list.
#39 Alfred Rowe – Rowe possesses the height and weight to make an impact at either outside linebacker or strong safety, though he will probably start his career in the defensive backfield. As a senior, Rowe had 131 tackles, four sacks and five fumble recoveries.
#26 – Will Harris – Will Harris was set to battle for the open free safety spot, but a ligament tear in his right knee shortly after the conclusion of spring practice will sideline him for the season. He has the skills to perform at a high level as both a safety and cornerback and his presence and depth he would have brought to both positions will be missed.
#25 – Chase McWhorter – Chase McWhorter will provide depth in the secondary this season.
#28 – Terrell Thomas – Terrell Thomas was on his way to asserting himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the conference last season until a brutal knee injury against Arkansas forced him to miss the rest of the season. Heading into the 2006 season, Thomas has regained his speed and agility. He should be able to make a strong showing during fall practice and win back his starting cornerback spot.
#15 – Kevin Thomas – Kevin Thomas saw action in several games as a true freshman last season. This year, he looks to lock down one of the open cornerback positions. Thomas has great size for a cornerback and enough speed to keep up with any wide receiver. As with most positions, there will be quite a bit of competition in the secondary, so Thomas still must impress during fall practice in order to lock up the cornerback spot.
#7 – Cary Harris – A talented freshman in 2005, Cary Harris saw limited action at cornerback and on special teams. This season, Harris will fight for a starting spot at corner. He will be a valuable asset in the secondary as well as on special teams.
#9 – Mozique McCurtis – Mozique McCurtis was looking to make an impact in the defensive secondary last season before he was forced to sit out with a strained abdominal muscle. This season, “Zeke” will push for playing time at cornerback and will probably see the field on special teams. His size and mentality make him one of the more physical cornerbacks on the roster and that, combined with his speed, should make him a special talent once he can get some experience.
#24 – Shareece Wright – Shareece Wright is a special player who can get it done anywhere on a football field. He has a nose for the ball and seems to be involved in just about every play. While he isn’t quite six feet tall, his athleticism allows him to match up well against any type of wide receiver and his strength and tenacity make him excellent at helping against the run. It will be difficult for Wright to see a lot of playing time as a true freshman with the pressure and responsibility placed on cornerbacks, but it will be difficult for Pete Carroll to keep Wright off the field for long.
#23 – Vincent Joseph – Vincent Joseph isn’t an extremely physical or big cornerback, but he has exceptional cover skills to go along with his great speed. But perhaps the greatest aspect of Vincent Joseph is his desire to be a Trojan. He waited until the 11th hour for the Trojans to offer a scholarship and immediately jumped on it when they did. He is part of a great defensive secondary haul in this recruiting class and will look to make an immediate impact on special teams.
#22 – Jim Abbott – Jim Abbott will provide depth at cornerback this season.
#35 – Justin Hart – Justin Hart will provide depth at safety this season.
#30 – Jerry Williams – Jerry Williams will provide depth at cornerback this season.
#31 – Jamel Williams – Jamel Williams will provide depth at cornerback this season.
#48 – Matthew Jordan – Matthew Jordan will provide depth at cornerback this season.
#19 – Mario Danelo – During his first year of significant playing time, all Mario Danelo did was set USC, Pac-10 and NCAA records for PATs with 83 and PAT attempts with 86. Danelo got off to a rough start by missing his first ever field goal attempt, but rebounded to hit every other try and finish the season making 11 of 12 field goals. Danelo was perfect from inside 40 yards on field goals and should be nearly automatic from inside that distance again in 2006. He won’t be asked to perform kickoff duties, but the placekicking job will be left up to his very able foot.
#17 – Troy Van Blarcom – Troy Van Blarcom spent 2005 handling the kickoff duties. 31 of his 110 kicks forced touchbacks, but the opposition was afforded too many chances for big returns. The coaches gave Van Blarcom a chance at punting during spring practice, but it doesn’t seem as if that will work out. Van Blarcom’s job is far from safe as kicking specialist David Buehler enters the picture this fall looking to show his abilities.
#16 – Taylor Odegard – Taylor Odegard will take over the punting duties heading into this season. He is an above average punter and should help out the coverage team by not out-kicking them and allowing the returner to get a running start.
#14 – David Buehler – David Buehler was given a scholarship as a kicker/safety and will enter fall practice looking to make his mark on special teams. Buehler possesses a huge leg and should be able to challenge incumbent Troy Van Blarcom when it comes to kickoffs.
#50 – Will Collins – Will Collins enters his third season as the team’s short snapper and second as the long snapper. He has been flawless on all snaps in his career and will be an invaluable asset to special teams.