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December 14, 2009If you've been following this list, you've probably figured out who the top two are. But what you might not know is that there were quite a few players who were tough to leave off of the list.
Before we get back to the countdown, it's important to recognize them here. Butch Lewis very easily could've been on this list. He played his way back onto the starting offensive line at a new position. Had they stayed injury-free, Stanley Havili and Anthony McCoy would've probably found their way into the top 10. On defense, Chris Galippo and Malcolm Smith both had some of the necessary credentials, but they weren't consistent enough. Kevin Thomas also had a fine season, but it's hard to quantify his play because teams didn't target him all that often.
Now, back to the list.
No. 10: Allen Bradford, RB - Big year could've been bigger with more carries.
No. 9: Everson Griffen, DE> - Finally reaching potential; could get even closer with a return for senior year.
No. 8: Will Harris, SS - Led team with four picks, started all 12 games.
No. 7: Matt Barkley, QB - Went 8-3 as a starter; played well in key wins.
No. 6: Charles Brown, LT - Steady, athletic lineman; should be an early draft pick.
No. 5: Jurrell Casey, DT - Big-time playmaker on the cusp of being elite.
No. 4: Joe McKnight, RB - Silenced some critics by hanging onto the ball, carrying the load.
No. 3: Jeff Byers, OL - Team player with great versatility; elite leader on and off field.
No. 2: Taylor Mays, FS - Mays shocked a lot of folks when he decided to return to school for his senior season. While it remains to be seen whether or not he helped or hurt his NFL Draft stock, Mays certainly made an impact on the back end of the USC defense.
As a senior, Mays led the Trojans with 91 tackles, 24 more tackles than Galippo's 67, which is second best on the team. Mays also made a number of huge plays during the course of the year. He delivered some knockout shots, as usual, and he showcased his speed chasing down Cal's Jahvid Best from behind and stopping the speedy running back before he could turn the corner and pick up a first down.
Mays is also one of the hardest workers on the team, and he set a great example for the young safeties and cornerbacks that will be forced into action next season.
No. 1: Damian Williams, WR - Picking Williams for the top spot is like having them put butter on your popcorn at the movies; there's really no other choice that makes any sense.
Williams showed that he's USC's most skilled player, making spectacular catches and plays as a receiver. He dazzled fans on punt returns, and he assumed a leadership role on the offense.
His touchdown on a bubble screen at Arizona State might have been the most exciting play of the entire season.
While he was doing all of that, Williams also showed that he might be USC's toughest player. He played in serious pain thanks to shoulder, hamstring and ankle injuries throughout the year.
Williams could come back for his senior season and make a serious run at a number of individual honors, or he could decide to try his luck in the NFL. Either way, Williams made the most of his chances this season, and he deserves to be recognized as this team's top performer.