The USC Pass Catching Machine
The University of Southern California football program has been a college fantasy football goldmine during the Pete Carroll era. Fantasy stalwarts such as Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and many others have been driving forces behind championship runs. Not only have these players produced, but they’ve been models of consistent excellence regardless of the Trojan opponent; simply put, the USC Trojan offensive skill players have been as close to sure things as there are in the college fantasy football world.
As we look towards the 2007 season, only the quarterback position can be labeled a Trojan lock, and this is a combination of both eligibility exhaustion as well as there simply being too much talent that has been accumulated by Coach Carroll. We’ve touched on the chaotic RB outlook in brief, and will do so in greater detail in the coming weeks, however of special interest at this very moment in the tradition-rich WR position where as glass-half-full dudes, we’re going to spin this uncertainty as an opportunity to stockpile talent not only for the upcoming season, but for the next couple of seasons.
It will certainly not be easy to replace the 2100 yards and 21 touchdowns worth of production that was taken to Sunday by Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Please note that we say, “not be easy” rather than impossible. If you think that Petey decided to recruit slow, dim-witted short guys with hands of stones in the past few recruiting seasons then you’ve got another thing coming there Buster. So, talent is present. Quarterback and system are humming along. It’s now a matter of choosing the right wide receiver to lead your beloved squad to new aerial heights.
Sifting through the USC wide receiver talent pool is like wandering through a micro-brewery during a Grey’s Anatomy season-finale party rather than looking around the Sentimental Lady Saloon at 2:00 a.m on a Saturday night while searching for your future #1 gal. In other words, the odds of hitting relationship paydirt with a productive WR (lovely lass) are much greater dealing with USC than with most other programs. With this glory in mind, here are the prime candidates…if you will, the super seven.
Candidate #1: Patrick Turner, Junior
Turner fits the mold of productive USC receivers of years gone by. Like Mike Williams, Jarrett and even Give me the Damn Ball, Turner is a big target that presents matchup difficulties for all opposing DB’s. His 41 career catches, among them two for scores in 2006, bode well for the 2007 season. Booty will need a go-to guy, and the smart money is on Turner being the man to get the most yardage, and most importantly, most redzone looks as the USC offensive machine continues to roll.
Candidate #2: David Ausberry, RS Freshman
If it’s possible to be both a sleeper and a relatively safe bet (quite the oxymoron), then Ausberry may be it. What Ausberry, like Turner, has that others are lacking is the uncoachable element of size. He is a big target and this has proved very beneficial in USC offenses past. We like him to assume the #2 WR spot out wide, and build towards much bigger things in 2008.
Candidate #3: Travon Patterson, Sophomore
If you want us to name one true sleeper, then Patterson is it. We just have a feeling about this kid, and while we rank Ausberry a bit higher because Ausberry stands a bit higher, we certainly don’t want to undervalue Patterson. He, of course like seemingly every other Trojan skill player, offers big play potential, and we think even his limited game action puts him ahead of the likes of Vidal Hazelton. Patterson was one of the highlights of the final spring scrimmage grabbing 3 balls for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns (1 on a punt return). This was not a one shot deal for Patterson, a week earlier Patterson posted 3 touchdowns (again...1 on a punt return). Patterson has big play potential.
Candidate #4: Jamere Holland, RS Freshman
The former Cali state sprint champ can flat out fly. In fact, Carroll has called Holland possibly the fastest Trojan since Sultan McCullough. Hollan is coming off a collarbone injury and this causes concern because he’s not the biggest guy, however he’s the fastest of the bunch, and those that have seen the Trojans roll over the years recognize what speed has done to opponents. A potential big-play star who will likely struggle to put up fantasy numbers with any consistency.
Candidate #5: Vidal Hazelton, Sophomore
Hazelton is yet another Trojan who could make major strides in 2007. Having only caught one ball in 2007 says one thing; the fact that he played (and wasn’t redshirted) also speaks to what the coaching staff thinks of Hazelton. The fact that the NCAA still uses one football at a time tempers our enthusiasm regarding Hazelton in 2007, but the future appears to be bright for this WR from the east coast.
Candidate #6: Ronald Johnson, True Frosh
Sitting in Ford Field watching the Michigan State Title Game last season I saw Ronald Johnson make one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen an athlete make. Johnson’s Muskegon High School was in a dogfight against Warren De LaSalle and hoping to hold on to a win in a classic game. De LaSalle’s do-everything player was about to score the winning touchdown in the waning, and I mean waning seconds, as he broke free for what appeared to be a game-winning score in what would’ve been a huge upset. Johnson, from seemingly nowhere, caught Don Fowler at the 1, yes 1-yard line, stripped him, and caused the fumble a teammate would fall on, preserving a state title for his team. What was most impressive wasn’t the speed with which he made the play; rather it was the fact that he didn’t give up on a play that seemed hopeless.
The reason I ramble about Johnson, is one to say that he’s the best prep athlete I’ve seen since Charles Rogers, and two he’s equally as devastating as a DB as he is WR, and this should cause concern. What happens if Johnson, who is listed as a WR in the 2007 media guide, is told that the best way to see the field early is as a DB? If this happens then a potential sleeper pick with the potential to become All-World falls into the fantasy abyss. Either way, I have no doubt that Johnson will be a star for the USC Trojans, but maybe not a fantasy player.
Candidate #7: Brandon Carswell, True Frosh
Carswell is young, talented and vying for playing time. Get in line.
Like the tailback spot, USC has the type of depth at the WR spot that other coaches at outstanding programs can only dream about. It really isn’t fair, and this glut of talent makes it very difficult for the fantasy drafter. To summarize, Turner is the best of the bunch, and may even push the likes of DeSean Jackson as best fantasy WR in the conference. Ausberry will likely put up steady numbers (500 and 6) and be a very viable option in Pac Ten-only leagues. The situation becomes a bit more cloudy at this point. We like Patterson a lot, but others will certainly see the field. When draft day rolls around, Turner is the closest that either the USC RB or WR position has to a sure thing, and we recommend a high pick to secure the only true proven commodity lining up wide in this juggernaut of an offense.
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