We’ve been fielding your questions for our Mailbag Monday feature, so let’s celebrate the start of the work week by getting right into your questions on the USC Trojans.
1. If the Trojans have another stellar season this year, should Lane Kiffin’s national perception change? (Paul from Glendora)
Quite simply, yes. Going into last season, Kiffin was still seen as an agitator and perceived to be incredibly arrogant. But in reality, most if not all of that perception stems from his year in Tennessee and while at USC he’s been both a better coach and a more mature coach. Mind you that some of that maturity comes with the lock-down that SID Tim Tessalone and company have on Kiffin, but other than blowing up about officials in last year’s Stanford game, he’s been as cool as can be, without the bold statements that he made while in the SEC. Also, while he was on the hot seat early last year, the attitude of the team seen in the Notre Dame game and carried throughout the rest of the season came directly from Lane Kiffin. He had his team ready, hungry and eager to prove everyone wrong, which they did despite long odds under probation. Give the Trojans at least 11 wins in 2012, and he becomes taken more for his coaching ability than his personality.
2. Aside from Barkley, Woods or Lee, who is the single most important Trojan this season? (Kris from Palm Springs)
Dion Bailey. While T.J McDonald is the anchor of the defense in terms of talent and scheme, Bailey’s ability to stop both the run and the pass from the outside linebacker position makes him far more valuable when you consider that the depth at his position lies in the hands of two freshmen: Scott Starr and Jabari Ruffin. Bailey took a huge step last year from a redshirted safety to leading the Trojans in tackles, so it’ll be interesting to see how he improves in year two.
3. Who is more likely to transfer, Cody Kessler or Max Wittek on the arrival of Max Browne? (Chris from Texas)
Whoever loses the three-way quarterback battle that begins in spring camp, will be a strong candidate to transfer. When looking at Kessler and Wittek, it’s hard to say who is better and more in line to start in the Post-Barkley Era, especially when their battle has been so publicized and relatively even for a full year now. For me, Kessler has always had the edge. His attitude and leadership stands out more so than Wittek, and his arm is exactly what you want from a starter in the Pac-12. If Kessler wins the job, my money is on Wittek to transfer and Browne to redshirt while still backing up Kessler, much like both Kessler and Wittek did in 2011. Now, want to talk about throwing a wrench into this, if Max Browne shows up on campus in January and starts to blow those two away, it’s anyone’s game to see who stays as a backup and who goes to be a starter elsewhere.
4. What position will George Farmer play this year? (Amber from Van Nuys)
Although the running back position is thin, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan should be able to handle the load at tailback, along with Nelson Agholor, who will plugged into the same role Farmer played a year ago. That opens Farmer up to play receiver and be a strong candidate to win the third receiver role, which he should take if he’s healthy.
5. How will the back end of USC’s crowded receiving corps shake out? (Jerry from Las Vegas)
If health isn’t an issue, the likely scenario sees Farmer as the third option, while De’Von Flournoy plays a similar role to Brandon Carswell a year ago, playing a third/fourth possession receiver role. That should see a fifth spot going to Victor Blackwell or Darreus Rogers, although if you have to make a bet, Blackwell is the guy you want to wager on. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kiffin throw a redshirt on Darreus Rogers, as although he does have the talent to surprise a lot of people as a freshman, with Woods, Lee, Farmer and Agholor all ahead of him, it’s hard to see a reason not to push back his eligibility to 2013, when Woods will likely be playing in the NFL.
* * *
Topics: Cody Kessler, Curtis McNeal, D.J. Morgan, De'von Flournoy, Dion Bailey, George Farmer, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Max Browne, Max Wittek, Nelson Agholor, Robert Woods, T.J. McDonald, Victor Blackwell