Monday, October 7, 2013
Trojans set to kick off new era vs. Arizona
By Johnny Curren
LOS ANGELES -- After a drama-filled week at USC (3-2 overall, 0-2 Pac-12) in which Ed Orgeron took the reins as interim coach following the dismissal of Lane Kiffin, the Trojans will play host to Arizona (3-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) on Oct. 10 in the program's first non-Thanksgiving, non-bowl Thursday game in the Coliseum.
USC's season has been marked by ups and downs, but there has been a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm since Orgeron took charge. The Rich Rodriguez-led Wildcats, meanwhile, started 2013 red-hot, coming away with victories in each of their first three contests before being brought back down to earth by Washington, 31-13.
Arizona offense Scoring: 36 points per game (No. 3 Pac-12, No. 15 overall)
Rushing: 291.5 yards per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 10 overall)
Passing: 111.2 yards per game (No. 12 Pac-12, No. 118 overall)
Total: 402.8 yards per game (No. 10 Pac-12, No. 72 overall)
Quarterback: No. 7 B.J. Denker (6-foot-3, 184 pounds, Sr.)
Directing a run-heavy, spread-option offensive attack, Denker certainly has done his part on the ground, contributing an average of 70 rushing yards per game. As a passer, however, he has struggled, completing just 50 percent of his throws, while ranking No. 12 in the conference in pass efficiency (94.4).
Junior Ka'Deem Carey drives Arizona's run game, averaging more than 140 yards per game.
Running Back: No. 25 Ka'Deem Carey (5-10, 207, Jr.), No. 3 Daniel Jenkins (5-9, 194, RS Sr.)
Carey is the heart and soul of the Wildcats' vaunted ground attack, ranking No. 5 nationally with 143.7 rushing yards per game. Jenkins is another capable threat who averages 6.5 yards per carry.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: No. 10 Samajie Grant (5-9, 173, Fr.), No. 16 Garic Wharton (6-0, 169, RS Jr.), No. 30 Johnny Jackson (5-10, 180, RS So.), No. 6 Nate Phillips (5-7, 177, Fr.), No. 18 Terrence Miller (6-4, 233, RS Sr.)
With the passing game generating just 111.2 yards per game, the receivers haven't played a huge role in the offense, and the group still hasn't recovered from the offseason loss of Austin Hill with a torn ACL, or the transfer of Tyler Slavin. Grant currently leads the unit with just nine receptions.
Offensive Line: LT No. 68 Mickey Baucus (6-8, 305, RS Jr.), LG No. 61 Cayman Bundage (6-2, 267, So.), C No. 56 Steven Gurrola (6-2, 291, Jr.), RG No. 62 Chris Putton (6-4, 284, RS Sr.), RT No. 73 Fabbians Ebbele (6-8, 311, RS Jr.)
A group that has been fairly average in terms of its production, the offensive line is coming off of a somewhat lackluster outing in which it struggled at times against the Huskies' pass rush. On the positive side, the Wildcats have been solid in the run-blocking department, paving the way for the nation's No. 10 rushing offense.
Defense Scoring: 14.2 points per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 9 overall)
Rushing: 149.2 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 54 overall)
Passing: 185.8 yards per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 19 overall)
Total: 335 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 23 overall)
Defensive Line: DE No. 84 Reggie Gilbert (6-4, 261, Jr.), No. 98 Tevin Hood (6-0, 302, Sr.), DE No. 91 Sione Tuihalamaka (6-2, 269, RS Sr.)
Gilbert, Hood and Tuihalamaka anchor a Wildcats defense that has started to take off in the second year under Jeff Casteel, giving up 164 yards fewer per game than it did in 2012. Running out of a 3-3-5 base scheme, Hood paces the line with 16 tackles, including three for a loss.
Linebacker: No. 31 Scooby Wright (6-1, 230, Fr.), No. 33 Jake Fischer (6-0, 221, RS Sr.), No. 2 Marquis Flowers (6-3, 233, Sr.)
Arizona features an athletic trio of linebackers, the surprise of which has been SAM backer Scooby Wright, a true freshman who has recorded a team-best 28 stops. Fischer, a veteran leader who led the Wildcats in 2012 with 119 tackles, suffered an ankle injury against the Huskies and had to be helped off the field, but all signs point to him playing against USC.
Cornerback: No. 6 Jonathan McKnight (5-11, 171, RS Jr.), No. 5 Shaquille Richardson (6-1, 188, Sr.)
The Arizona cornerbacks were victimized by Marqise Lee -- who amassed a conference-record 345 receiving yards -- and the Trojans' passing offense in 2012, but Lee is questionable for this week's game. As a whole, McKnight and Richardson appear to have upped the level of their play this fall, with the latter collecting the eighth interception of his career against Washington.
Safety: No. 21 Tra'Mayne Bondurant (5-10, 198, Jr.), No. 38 Jared Tevis (5-11, 195, RS Jr.), No. 26 Jourdon Grandon (6-0, 195, RS Jr.)
The Wildcats possess an opportunistic safety corps that is headlined by Bondurant, who lines up at SPUR safety and has already made three interceptions -- two of which he returned for scores. Tevis was all over the place against the Huskies, amassing a team-high 13 tackles to go along with a forced fumble and two pass break-ups.
Punter: No. 39 Drew Riggleman (6-2, 207, RS So.)
Riggleman has punted 15 times for an average of 36.5 yards, with 6 of those being pinned inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
Kicker: No. 86 Jake Smith (6-2, 201, RS Sr.)
Smith, who missed the entire 2012 campaign after tearing his ACL, has connected on 4 of 6 field goal attempts, while recording touchbacks on 14 of 28 kickoffs.
Kick/Punt returner: No. 6 Nate Phillips (5-7, 177, Fr.), No. 30 Johnny Jackson (5-10, 180, RS So.)
The Wildcats rank No. 6 in the Pac-12 in punt return average (8 yards per return) and No. 11 in kickoff returns (18.4 yards per return).