LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans have plenty of star talent to lead the way for the remainder of the season but for the team to reach its goals it will need to rely on an unexpected contributor at some point.
So far in the season there has been no better example of that scenario than defensive end Morgan Breslin. The junior college transfer was expected to play a role in the rotation, but nobody expected the kind of production he has put up through the first five games. For a defensive line short on experience, his emergence has been nothing short of amazing.
Here are other players to watch to see if they can rise up and deliver when the team needs them:
RB D.J. Morgan: After undergoing knee surgery early in the year and missing several games, Morgan returned to action against Utah and provided some key reps when other tailbacks were injured. Morgan offers a speed element from the tailback spot that the Trojans don't otherwise have, and he could be a real weapon. The more he can carry the ball and prove to the coaches that they can rely on him, the more likely it will be that he makes a big play at a key moment to help deliver a Trojans win.
WR Nelson Agholor: The true freshman has shown flashes of the kind of game-breaking ability to follow in line with the recent USC tradition of Woods and Lee. Through the early part of the season the USC offense has looked brilliant at times, but it hasn't been at a consistent level. If the offense should slow at a critical time, Agholor is mentally and physically capable of being that surprise player who seizes the moment.
OL Abe Markowitz: He's already stepped up once when he was inserted into the starting lineup at left guard against Cal and performed well. The versatile Markowitz can play either guard or center, and on a thin USC offensive line he could end up being as valuable as anybody. On top of that, he's a physical player with experience in the system, so he knows his assignments and isn't going to be overwhelmed in the pressure-packed games that remain.
DL J.R. Tavai: Even though Breslin has played well and Wes Horton has returned from his ankle injury, the defensive end spot can still use all the help it can get to continue putting pressure on the passer. Ed Orgeron likes to use a deep rotation on the line, and that requires a lot of bodies. Tavai was a starter at the beginning of the season and the coaches clearly like his game. Remember, he got some good playing time last year as a true freshman when he wasn't hurt. He's got a motor and he's strong, so it would be a real boost to the defense to get him back off the injury list and playing well.
CB Kevon Seymour or Josh Shaw: The Trojans need this. The cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey has been an issue all season long and these two are the most likely candidates to settle the position. Seymour is a talented freshman and he seems to have the necessary coverage skills, so the coaches may just decide it's worth the risk to throw him in there now and let him grow on the job. Shaw is a little more proven with starting experience at safety in the SEC. His primary attributes are his size and aggressive style, it just remains to be seen if he has the cover skills needed to succeed against some of the passing offenses the Trojans have left on the schedule.