September 20, 2006

USC Preview: Offense

The Arizona Wildcats will start off Pac-10 play with a bang on Saturday as they face arguably the top offense they will see all season in USC.

For the Trojans, it all starts at quarterback. Matt Leinart may not be there anymore, but John David Booty has stepped in and taken over rather strongly. Thus far, Booty has completed 69 percent of his passes for 518 yards and six touchdowns. More importantly, he has yet to throw an interception.

Booty might not be Leinart, but he certainly has a strong arm. Many USC fans have been waiting to see what Booty can do on the field, especially with all of the hype that he came to SC with.

At 158.2, his passing efficiency ranks 19th in the nation and his 259 yards a game rank 20th nationally. In other words, Booty has not only shown that he has the pure skill at the position, but he has impressed people with his decisions.

Then again, it is hard not to when you have the wide receivers that he has. Although there is plenty of depth, there are not many teams in the nation, if any, that can boast two starting receivers like Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

Currently Jarrett is fifth in the nation in receptions and first in the conference as he is averaging eight catches per game. He is also 24th in the nation with 98 yards a game. There really is not much to say about Jarrett, as fans in the conference are plenty aware of whom he is.

He is a guy that really cannot be stopped in the sense that if he is not beating you deep, he is plenty capable of playing a shorter, possession game and hurting you there.

There is not a game plan a coach can make to stop him, but the idea is that it is better if he is beating you on shorter routes than taking you to the house each time he touches the ball.

It obviously doesn't hurt that he has Smith on the other side of the field. Currently this season, Smith has 11 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown. He is ninth on the school's career list with 130 receptions and he also has six games with over 100 receiving yards.

Jarrett and Smith have caught a touchdown pass in the same game seven times, which is a considerable stat when you take the Trojans' depth into account. Smith and Jarrett seem to fit together perfectly as one has the ability to go deep and the other hurts you on the shorter patterns. That is not to say that Smith can not go deep, however, as he certainly has the talent to do so.

As if those two players were not enough, Booty's other main target this season has been tight end Fred Davis. Davis has seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown and has been compared to ex-USC tight end Dominique Byrd. The main difference being that many feel Davis is or will be better than Byrd.

In addition to Davis, Booty has legitimate targets in Chris McFoy, Travon Patterson and Patrick Turner. While they have not done much thus far, they still have plenty of talent to make an impact.

They are simply too good to go this quiet for the remainder of the season and the Arizona coaches will be game-planning to make sure that Saturday is not the game in which they break out.

The biggest question on offense for the Trojans is one in which coaches throughout the country wish they were asking as well. The Trojans have more than their fair share of running backs, though one has yet to really step up and show the ability to handle a full load.

So far the Trojans look to have three main options at the position with carries being split pretty evenly among the three. Emmanuel Moody leads the backs with 16 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown.

Moody is the shiftiest of the backs and while many expected him to be further down on the depth chart, he has really shown a nice ability to play for one of the better teams in the country. He does not seem to be the type of guy that can carry a full load, but it is somewhat irrelevant because he does not need to.

One of his counterparts is Chauncey Washington. Washington was expected by many to be the main man in the Trojans' backfield and while he has played well in the early going, many would have liked to see him separate himself from the pack. So far this season he has rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

The last running back that has seen substantial time is a name that Arizona fans are familiar with. C.J. Gable has 18 rushes for 73 yards and one touchdown. He has not really shown the ability to break away from defenses, with a long of only 11 yards, but he certainly has talent.

In fact, an argument could be made that he would have given the current Arizona running backs some trouble had he chosen Arizona over USC.

The USC offense is able to do a lot of things that they like doing due in large part to the play of their offensive line. While it is not as good as it could have been by having Fred Matua and Winston Justice back, it is still a formidable unit.

At left tackle, Sam Baker was a first-team All-American in 2005 and is one of two returning starters on the line. The other returning starter is center Ryan Kalil, an All-Pac-10 first teamer and one of the better offensive lineman in the country. There have been some questions with his health, but he seemed to be just fine against Nebraska.

There are numerous rotations on the offensive line, as USC has plenty of talent that allows them to do so. Senior Kyle Williams and sophomore Chilo Rachal entered the season as starters at the tackle and guard spots.

Junior Jeff Byers recently had back surgery, thus junior Drew Radovich will see the most time at left guard.

Arizona's 5 Keys to
Defensive Success
1. Get to Booty:
He has yet to be rattled this season and what a better time than Saturday? If Arizona can get to Booty, it will be interesting to see how he can react.
2. Don't let USC have a balanced attack:
They might have a fantastic offense, but it is even better when it is balanced. It opens up things for just about everybody and with the talent USC has, that is a scary thought.
3. Tackle:
Until Arizona proves it can do this consistently, it will be a key to every game. The Wildcats must wrap up because giving the Trojans free yardage is a recipe for disaster.
4. Cover Fred Davis:
He is the type of guy that can really hurt Arizona up the middle. If he gets going, it really makes Booty's life easier and Arizona could be in for a long day.
5. Keep Dwayne Jarrett in check: Easer said than done, but Arizona has the defensive backs to do it. He will get his yardage, but it does not need to be a 120-yard, two touchdown game like it was against Nebraska.

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