Grades: USC season report card


Matt Barkley appeared on the verge of greatness for much of the year but never quite got to that point. Still, the 2010 season has to be deemed a success for the sophomore, who really only had two bad games -- Oregon and Oregon State. Robert Woods also exploded onto the scene and is likely to be the Trojans' top receiver for at least the next two years.


The complete surprise: Marc Tyler. The outright disappointment: Dillon Baxter. Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable fall somewhere in between. Tyler was an afterthought heading into training camp but seized the job when Bradford got hurt and is on the verge of 1000 yards; Bradford had a couple great mid-season games but got only six carries in November.


The offensive line, as Coach Lane Kiffin pointed out early on, was very up and down -- with some horrible games (Oregon State, Virginia) and some terrific games (Cal, Arizona State). On defense, Jurrell Casey was maybe USC's best overall player and Wes Horton was better than expected, but Nick Perry and Armond Armstead have to be considered 2010 disappointments.


The biggest problem with this year's USC team was undoubtedly the defense, which seemed to get it in gear some toward the end of the year but struggled mightily early in the year against teams like Washington. The secondary was expected to be a problem; what really ended up hurting USC was a linebacking corps that badly unperformed.


Special teams coach John Baxter obviously did a lot of good in his first year with the Trojans, but this unit was hurt by not having a reliable kicker early on. The Washington game, in particular, would likely have had a different outcome. But blocked kicks and solid returns from Woods and Ronald Johnson did become USC's specialty.


Kiffin was more different from Pete Carroll than we realized coming in, as he proved entirely unafraid of slamming his players after a crucial mistake. That approach did some good and some bad, but you can positively say this about Kiffin's first year: In large part, his team appeared ready to play every Saturday.