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FOOTBALL | USC PREVIEW

At a Glance

September 01, 2006|GARY KLEIN

* Coach: Pete Carroll, sixth season, 54-10.

* Last season: 12-1 overall, 8-0 in Pacific 10 Conference, first.

* Key losses: QB Matt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, RB LenDale White, OL Taitusi Lutui, OL Winston Justice, OL Fred Matua, S Darnell Bing, DL Frostee Rucker.

* Returning starters: LBs Dallas Sartz, Oscar Lua, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing, Thomas Williams and Kaluka Maiava started at least once in 2005. DE Lawrence Jackson, NT Sedrick Ellis, S Josh Pinkard, CB Terrell Thomas, WR Dwayne Jarrett, WR Steve Smith, OT Sam Baker, C Ryan Kalil, K Mario Danelo.

* Top newcomers: RBs C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford, Emmanuel Moody and Stafon Johnson, WR Travon Patterson, WR Vidal Hazelton, TE Anthony McCoy, P Greg Woidneck.

* Offense: QB John David Booty succeeds Leinart, with Mark Sanchez ready if Booty falters or is hurt. TB Chauncey Washington, eligible for the first time since 2003, had hoped to start, but his hamstring injury puts the freshmen on track to play immediately. Jarrett and Smith might be the nation's best receiving duo. TE Fred Davis is experienced. Kalil, a three-year starter, and Baker, an All-American, anchor an offensive line featuring three new starters -- OG Chilo Rachal, OG Drew Radovich and OT Kyle Williams.

* Defense: With a surplus of talented linebackers, the Trojans will often play four at a time to take advantage of Cushing's speed as a pass rusher. Jackson and Ellis are proven, but need help from T Chris Barrett or Fili Moala to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Pinkard anchors the secondary.

* Intangibles: The Rose Bowl loss to Texas eliminated the pressure of a winning streak and a chance for a fourth consecutive national title. Without such an intense spotlight, the Trojans can develop their own identity as they negotiate a schedule that features most of the toughest games at home.

* Key to the season: Booty must make good decisions and avoid mistakes while the rushing attack develops. The front seven must be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks and control games, especially if the offense experiences growing pains.

-- GARY KLEIN

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