Fall football camps haven’t even opened, and already a lot has happened in the last week with USC, a co-favorite in the Pac-12 and one of the programs given a shot at winning a national title this year.
Last week, the Trojans lost defensive end Devon Kennard to a torn pectoral muscle in a weightlifting accident. That’s a key blow, both from the standpoint that USC, limited to 75 scholarships by NCAA sanctions, can’t afford such hits, and secondly, because the defensive line had already suffered significant attrition from a year ago, losing starters Nick Perry (9.5 sacks), Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris. Those three combined for seven years of starting experience, which meant that the USC D-line was already the hardest-hit unit on the team by graduation.
My gut feeling was, if the Trojans were going to struggle any on either side of the ball, it would be on defense. After all, they allowed 35 points or more four times last year. So losing Kennard won’t help. The only other Trojan with D-line experience is Wes Horton, so a lot is going on the shoulders of people like redshirt freshman Greg Townsend Jr. and JC transfer Morgan Breslin.
On the other hand, the addition of running back Silas Redd from the splintered Penn State program is a major boost for the Trojans, solidifying a thin position. Redd (5-10, 200) is a shifty back with good feet who should work well within the USC offense, which ought to be lethal. He ran for 1,241 yards last year and showed durability with 244 carries.
Only seven days ago, I was with USC back Curtis McNeal on the school’s campus, when the subject of Redd being a possible Trojan was heating up.
“We’d welcome him with open arms,” McNeal told me. “That would just add more depth in the backfield. He’s a pretty good back, which would only help us.”
To the suggestion that it might steal playing time from McNeal, who rushed for 1,005 yards last year, he said, “I haven’t thought about it. Whatever plan the coaches come up with, we have to go along with.”
In the bigger picture, the Penn State scandal thus ripples to reaches far from State College, Pa. While you can debate whether Nittany Lion players should have been immediately eligible to transfer — I don’t begrudge that — it is unfortunate (yet inevitable, I realize) that those moves affect so many other programs. For instance, Redd’s transfer just makes it that much tougher for Utah to upend USC on Oct. 4 (and in the Pac-12 South), and it’s that much more of a challenge for Oregon to beat the Trojans out for the league title.