USC started their 2012 campaign in style, with a 49-10 rout of the Hawaii Warriors. But despite the game being a team effort on the whole, a few players really stood for Troy last night, including three who were making their USC debuts. Let’s give some helmet stickers.
WR Marqise Lee
Where do you start with Lee? The sophomore not only played with flare and grace on his way to 291 all-purpose yards, he did so while being the featured receiver for the first time in his young career at USC. From his first play touchdown to his kick return, Lee provided all of the energy for the Trojans, on a day when the running game struggled, and Hawaii zoned in on Robert Woods.
DE Morgan Breslin
Breslin was making his first NCAA start for the Trojans on Saturday night, but you couldn’t tell from his performance. The junior college transfer wound up starting in place of Wes Horton, and had two of USC’s six sacks on the night, while being a constant force on the Trojans’ defensive line. Compared to J.R. Tavai, Breslin had the better night and he made a strong case to be the starter once Horton comes back. He was routinely in Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder’s shirt, keeping the first time starter under constant duress. The Trojans needed someone to step up on the defensive line, and even though the line had a stellar night on the whole, it was Breslin who stole the show and dominated Hawaii right tackle Sean Shigematsu.
In his first college action, Williams had a solid night, recording a sack, a fumble recovery and unloading a viscous block in the first quarter to allow Hayes Pullard to waltz into the endzone on a pick six. Williams brings plenty of size to the defensive line, and with the inexperience of George Uko at the three technique, expect Williams to get good share of playing time for the Trojans this season, especially if he keeps excelling as freshman like he did on Saturday night.
WLB Anthony Sarao
Like Breslin, Sarao got his first start for the Trojans in place of a returning start. In Sarao’s case that starter was Lamar Dawson, as Hayes Pullard slid to middle linebacker and Sarao got his number called at weakside linebacker. The redshirt junior and Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year a year ago had a big responsibility at linebacker, and never showed the jitters of a player making his first collegiate start. The redshirt freshman was only seen in the stat book once, with a third quarter sack, but he played soundly and was around the ball all night. Like Breslin, his strong play has to give Kiffin plenty of confidence that there’s depth in areas that were previously considered thin.
Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron
OK, coaches don’t wear helmets, but the coaches need some sort of recognition for their ability to shuffle the cards on defense and giving numerous new players and reserves meaningful minutes. From Leonard Williams to Greg Townsend, Jr., to Josh Shaw, there was plenty of substitutions and the Trojans seemed to only get better while playing with inexperienced players. For a team without depth, it was a strong move for the coaching staff to show faith in the defensive reserves by playing into the two-deep beginning in the first quarter.