Many were surprised Heisman
Trophy winner Matt Leinart bypassed the NFL for a senior season on the
college field. Potentially the
first overall selection last April, Leinart is now the early favorite to be the
initial choice in next year's draft. A
cognizant passer who plays with incredible intelligence, Leinart has a great
feel for the position and command of the offense.
Always in control of the situation, he makes good decisions and
consistently goes to secondary targets if the primary pass-catcher is covered. Throwing with solid fundamentals, Leinart consistently looks
down the field, searching for the open wide out and will take a hit in order to
get the throw off. And while he
does not possess the huge arm nor is a quarterback that can escape the rush,
this lefty has enough going for him to be the centerpiece of an NFL franchise.
The Trojans have a pair of outstanding running back prospects with
complementary styles. LenDale White is a big, bruising runner on the inside
who easily adjusts off the initial hit and breaks several tackles during the
course of a single run. Seeing the
hole, he displays good footwork in a small area and has the ability to squirt
through the small creases in the defense. Working
hard White runs with authority and get as much out of every carry as possible.
Not elusive, he cannot create and is not a back that beats opponents in a
foot race. That is a problem for Reggie Bush, an undersized yet versatile prospect dangerous whenever the ball is in
his hands. Running low to the
ground, Bush displays the ability to immediately cutback and make defenders
miss. Possessing excellent open
field running skills, he is also a game impacting return specialist and a skill
player that produces catching the ball. Lacking
the size to be every down ball handler, Bush looks more like a third
down/situational back. Both White
and Bush are first day prospects. Tight
end Dominique Byrd is a solid pass catcher who makes plays into the
secondary, presenting mismatches for defensive backs. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, Byrd possesses
both soft and strong hands while also displaying the ability to contort for the
errant throw. Making the acrobatic
reception, he offers natural receiving skills yet gets minimal results as an
in-line blocker. Pre-draft workouts
will be all important for his final grade next April and good forty times will
put him into the first day. Receiver
Steve Smith is consistent yet not outstanding in any aspect. A late round prospect, he is a fifth wide out at the next
level. The team has a trio of
offensive lineman who grade highly starting with returning tackle Winston Justice. A well-built blocker
with terrific strength at the point of attack, Justice was a dominant force as a
sophomore before sitting out last season due to a student conduct violation. Should he pick up where he left off in 2003, Justice has
first round abilities. Filling in
for him last year was Taitusi Lutui, another king-sized blocker with
great power at the point of attack. An
overwhelming force, Lutui quickly gets into blocks and destroys opponents.
More of a small area blocker, Lutui does not play with much balance off
the line of scrimmage and is limited in space.
Built for the strong side, there is a good chance he will be used at
guard this season with the return of Winston Justice.
A solid post season at right tackle could help him find a spot in the
draft's first day. Finally
sophomore Sam Baker is an outstanding prospect for the future.
Displaying solid footwork sliding out off the edge, Baker is a cognizant
lineman with the physical skills necessary to stop speedy edge rushers.
Strong at the point of attack, he easily steers defenders from the action
and already stands as one of the nations top underclassmen prospects at left
the program lost a lot of talent to graduation and early defection to the NFL
draft, yet brings back several solid prospects. Pass rusher Frostee Rucker plays with great balance,
gives effort and displays speed off the edge or out to the flanks.
Quick changing direction, Rucker is fluid making plays down the line of
scrimmage and can also be used in space. Possessing
barely adequate size, Rucker looks like a middle round selection that will be a
situational rusher at the next level. Linebacker
Dallas Startz is a decent athlete with the ability to make plays sideline
to sideline. Quickly diagnosing the
action, Sartz remains disciplined in coverage and is a middle round choice with
potential on the strong side. Safety
Darnell Bing is a sudden defensive back that can deliver the knockout
blow and displays great explosion. Disciplined
in centerfield, Bing reads the quarterback, stays with the action and keeps the
play in front of him. Quickly
planting on the throw, he has a burst of closing speed and makes a lot of plays
on the ball. At times, Bing takes
side angles to the ball carrier and would rather knock down rather then wrap
out, which results in broken tackles. He
has top 75 potential but must show more consistency as a senior in '05.
Finally cornerback Justin Wyatt is a cognizant cover man with a
good feel for coverage. Quickly picking up assignments, he immediately positions
himself to defend the throw. More
of a nickel a cornerback, he is potentially a late round choice.
Coming off back-to-back National Championships, the Trojans look to make it three in a row starting in September. Bringing back their essential talent from the offensive side of the ball, the program will again have a major impact on April's NFL draft.