The biggest headline of USC’s summer camp was the dislocated kneecap suffered by quarterback Mark Sanchez. It proved to be nothing more than a temporary concern, as he completed the season without missing a start. But even with a healthy Sanchez, the camp closed with suspicions. The Trojans struggled offensively, including being shutout in a scrimmage between first team units that drew national attention. John David Booty was gone, and the majority of the offensive line went with him. The fall was supposedly an offensive preview of things to come, and didn't appear promising. The final assessment tagged the Trojan offense as less than average. Was it a fair analogy, or was the lack of production simply masked by another element?
Although Mark Sanchez and Kristofer O’Dowd were named to the All Pac 10 first team offense, for the first time in several years, not a single Trojans offensive player is represented as a first team All-American. Sam Baker was the lone representative in 2007. The omissions may support the early speculations of a lack of firepower for the 2008 season, but it doesn’t translate to the offensive rankings.
The young offensive line meshed and exceeded all expectations. The receiving corps matured and was more productive than the previous year. The running game was consistent, though no single back achieved eye-catching numbers, with equal distribution among the stable. Mark Sanchez was more efficient than Georgia’s highly touted Matthew Stafford, yet not given nearly the same praise. And the Trojans finished with the 14th ranked offense in the country, higher than Florida. So tell me, what struggles?
As we now look back on yesterday, we can see a reason for those so called “struggles” of the summer. It wasn’t about the offense, as much as it was about the nation’s top defense on the other side of the ball. Sure, the Trojans didn’t score in one scrimmage, but 3 regular season opponents were also shutout. They opened the season allowing Virginia just one touchdown and Ohio State a single field goal, while the “struggling” offense was putting up 52 against the Hoos, and 28 (also added a defensive score) against the Buckeyes. If anything, penalties killed drives, which would be a struggle with discipline. If many of those penalties were eliminated, Trojans opponents would have been drubbed, and no one would ever question the offense. But unfortunately, the penalties occur, and we do.