January 20, 2009

Several Trojans need to step up this winter

During the season, USC practices are generally intended for the team, as a whole, to improve.

Camp Carlisle, though, is a different story.

Working under strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle, USC players will begin working on improving their individual strength, speed and explosiveness Tuesday morning on campus.

When the Trojans take the field next season, they'll have a new quarterback on the field and will be replacing the bulk of their defense.

It's a major task, and the work begins now.

Here's a look at some players who have a lot to gain during winter workouts.

Michael Morgan

When Rey Maualuga went down with a knee injury in the middle of the season, Brian Cushing slid over to middle linebacker from the strongside. Morgan got the start and was all over the ball in the first half until leaving the game with an injury.

Morgan is tall and rangy, not unlike a small forward. He's quick with good instincts, things he showed in the Trojans' win over Oregon. However, he didn't finish a lot of tackles.

Morgan needs to get stronger to be able to wrap up and take care of powerful runners like Oregon's LaGarrette Blount.

Brice Butler

When Brice Butler got on campus, he was almost instantly tabbed as the Trojans' best route runner. With another route-running technician, Patrick Turner, lost to graduation, USC will have a receiver spot open. David Ausberry seems like the logical choice to step in, but if Butler bulks up, who knows?

He is skinny, but he did star at times on the service team, managing to get open against the first-team secondary.

Now, suggesting Butler will take Turner's place is a bit of a stretch, but Butler does have the skills to make an impact on USC's offense in 2009.

Chris Galippo

The heir apparent at middle linebacker has plenty to prove this offseason. Namely, he has to stay healthy.

A veteran of a pair of back surgeries, Galippo needs to come out of camp a leader, and to lead, he'll need to be on the field.

Shareece Wright

Remember him? He's the guy who has been called USC's best cover corner in the Carroll tenure.

Wright missed the bulk of 2008 with a neck injury, but defensive coordinator Rocky Seto said he thinks Wright will be back on the field, working out before spring ball begins.

Wright will have some ground to make up, as Kevin Thomas and Josh Pinkard played well late in the season.

Marc Tyler

USC head coach Pete Carroll always has his teams peaking down the stretch of the season. Tyler embodied that trend personally, putting together a nice run down the backstretch of 2008.

A big, physical runner, Tyler hasn't been truly healthy for much of his time on campus. A hamstring injury kept him out of time during the season, and if Tyler is going to make a serious run at getting meaningful carries, it starts Tuesday.

Taylor Mays

Mays doesn't need much work physically. He couldn't possibly get much faster, much bigger or more explosive.

However, if Mays is going to help lead this revamped defense, it starts now. He'll be called upon to help motivate guys through some of the workouts and push the competition.

The 2008 recruiting class

This group hasn't yet experienced a full workout schedule. These are the guys who could make the biggest physical jumps.

Coaches are counting on guys like Malik Jackson, T.J. Bryant, Wes Horton, Armond Armstead, Jurrell Casey, Nick Perry, Curtis McNeal and Matt Kalil to really get bigger, faster and stronger.

Add Matt Barkley to that list, as his redshirt season could be in doubt with Mark Sanchez headed early to the NFL.

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