Just two days before the start of the season in Hawaii, the Trojans announced their four captains for the upcoming season as voted by the entire USC roster. Biletnikoff-Award Winner Marqise Lee and center Marcus Martin represent the offense, while on the defensive side of things, senior Devon Kennard and linebacker Hayes Pullard complete the unit.
The most noteworthy surprise comes with the exclusion of a quarterback; this is the first time since 2009 that a quarterback will not be a captain, and only the second time since the Trojans won their last official National Championship in 2003. While Max Wittek and Cody Kessler have improved their play over the course of Fall Camp, the redshirt sophomores are far behind the curve in terms of leadership and playing experience on the field.
The only other player who seemed in proper consideration for a captain position is running back Silas Redd, who recently announced that he would not be traveling with the team to Hawaii. Lane Kiffin did confirm that Redd was one of two players who were right in consideration, but ultimately did not win.
I want to thank my teammates for choosing me as a captain for this 2013 season, truly an honor!!! #USCFOOTBALL
— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard42) August 27, 2013
That being said, one of the Trojans captain, Kennard, has been featured as the stand-up defensive end in a more natural position this Fall. Now fully recovered from a season-ending chest muscle tear, his exceptional performance on defense has garnered elite accolades from coaches and peers across the board.
“Every day those two guys [George Uko/Devon Kennard] bring it. Every day, every drill, they bring a championship effort,” Kiffin told members of the media during the second week of Fall Camp practice. “I told the other guys on the team to watch them and how they work.”
Pullard meanwhile, has been calling out plays all year long and will be featured as a vital run stuffer and tackling machine on defense. This for a player who is in the midst of this third season starting at linebacker, a position that will be tested to the extreme by spread-option attacks.
On the offensive end of the spectrum, arguably the most electrifying athlete at the wide receiver position is taking on a new but not unfamiliar role as leader of this program.
“Rob gave me some chances last year to lead our position group. And once you get your feet wet you are kind of like ok I understand the game, and it starts slowing down for you out there,” Lee said during a spree cast with USC fans last week.
Viewed as one of the most respected and vital pieces on the Trojans offensive line, Martin emerged as a vocal and emotional leader on the roster. After working on the starting unit for each of his first two seasons at Troy, the new-found center brings 20 career starts of experience to an up-and-coming ground and pound attack on the offensive side of the ball.
As the Trojans prepare to depart for Hawaii, leaders are now locked and loaded in place. From wiry playmaking options to stout defensive presence in the huddle, a lack of big-time experience is not lacking for what should be a season filled with passion, heart and plenty of vigor for 60 minutes of football.