It’s been a long nine weeks since the college football season ended for USC, but the Trojans are finally gearing up to return to the gridiron in less than one week.
The players have held their own self-guided work outs over the latter part of February, but next week they and the coaching staff will convene at Howard Jones field and really get to work defining what this Trojan team will stand for in 2013.
With that in mind, there are a some position battles as well as incoming players that will certainly be the point of this spring. Before the first ball is snapped, let’s take a look at what those will be:
Max Wittek vs. Cody Kessler vs. Max Browne
When Spring ball finally gets underway, USC will find itself in need of a new quarterback. Fortunately for them, there are three on roster that could answer the call of duty if beckoned. We have seen glimpses of what Wittek can do, however other than a few well-placed deep balls against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, he underwhelmed in his two starts. His arm strength isn’t questioned; but his skills beyond that have yet to be displayed. He struggled with looking off receivers in his two games, and with developing plays beyond the hot route. Chalk it up to nervous jitters, but those shortcomings will be a big problem for the Trojans if they haven’t been addressed come the fall.
Kessler hasn’t yet had his opportunity to shine at Troy, and Kessler’s struggles just might give Kessler a leg up going into spring ball. Last year, it was said that he had the better pocket presence and leadership skills in the huddle and he definitely can zip the ball to his targets. Look for him to use his strengths to propel himself to the front of the competition.
Lastly, Max Browne is the most unknown of this trio, but the one that many think has the most potential to start. He is coming into USC after a standout senior career where he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for 2012. He is a complete passer, and a strong spring ball could see him vaulted to the front of the pack as well. If not, no worries for him; he’s an incoming freshman and has plenty of time to develop.
Who Will Start At Cornerback?
With Nickell Robey having declared for the NFL Draft, USC finds itself with exactly zero experienced, reliable cornerbacks for 2013. Torin Harris started in 2012 but was nothing more than mediocre, and as it stands now, he is academically ineligible for the spring. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Brown has game experience and showed in 2011 that he is a fierce tackler, but an ankle injury kept him sidelined much of 2012. Aside from them, a slew of young guys–Kevon Seymour, Devian Shelton, and newcomers Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins–will all be competing to prove that they deserve field time.
The cornerbacks at USC have struggled much as of late, and hopefully the new guidance of Clancy Pendergast can change that. Setting the new standard of secondary play starts this spring, and this position battle will be of the most import, defensively.
Will The Offensive Line Get It Together?
Despite being one of the strongest units in 2011, the Trojan O-line was dreadful this past season. Chalk it up to having been depleted of experience at key postions, but they struggled to give Barkley sufficient protection and as a result he tasted turf, and he tasted it often. This spring, it is important that those growing pains and lingering issues are addressed, especially since they will be protecting a rookie quarterback this season. Max Tuerk will likely hold it down at left tackle again, though an argument could be made that he and Kevin Graf, the more experienced right tackle, should switch positions. Whether Aundrey Walker decides to get it together and live up to the athleticism that his size and build suggest he should have is also yet to be determined, and so is the successfulness of USC now having two offensive line coaches.
The foundation of the answers to these questions will come forth beginning next week, and the USC Trojans will be one step closer to beginning their 2013 campaign with the right mindset.