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July 7, 2009

O-line will drive offense

There's a lot to like when you look at the depth chart for the USC football team heading into fall camp.

There is a veteran secondary lead by one of the nation's most devastating athletes. There's a trio of capable quarterbacks and plenty of offensive weapons including a stable of runners. The linebackers and defensive line are young, but hungry.

But more important, more valuable than any other single unit on the team is a group of big, burly guys with a passion for imposing their will.

With vets like Jeff Byers, Kristofer O'Dowd and Charles Brown surrounding players like Alex Parsons, Zack Heberer, Butch Lewis, Tyron Smith and Nick Howell, the offensive line might be just what makes this edition of the USC football team truly special.

The offensive line will prove to be ridiculously valuable this season for a number of indisputable reasons.

For starters, with a young quarterback taking the snaps, protecting him will be of the utmost importance. The group, remaining entirely in tact, protected Mark Sanchez phenomenally for an entire season.

In USC's ball control offense, keeping Aaron Corp, Matt Barkley and/or Mitch Mustain safe is incredibly important. It's not a secret that pressuring the quarterback is a great way to force turnovers, and if USC can keep its quarterback safe, it should limit turnovers.

While the line didn't do the best job of this during spring practices, it wasn't working at full strength. O'Dowd didn't play at all, forcing Byers to center. Parsons, Brown, Howell and Lewis missed time with injuries, helping the Trojans' defensive line cause havoc.

But the injuries may have made the offensive line stronger.

Because so many different guys missed time, the Trojans were forced to move some players around. Now instead of just being deep, the USC line is versatile. Byers, O'Dowd and Parsons can all play center, and Lewis, Howell, Parsons and Byers can also line up at guard.

And because the group is so versatile, it will be difficult for injuries to cause too much harm.

Add in the fact that USC is going to run the ball, and all things are pointing to an offensive outburst. USC will score points, and the Trojans will do this regularly.

When people are looking for reasons, they won't have to try too hard. They can point at the five guys with their hands in the dirt, protecting USC's legacy of success.


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