Nov 3, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive guard Marcus Martin and teammates run onto the field before the game against the Oregon Ducks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 62-51. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Worried about the secondary?
Frustrated with Lane Kiffin and the QB battle?
Tearing out your hair looking at the injury report?
It’s USC opening day and it is time to get positive.
That’s right, take all that trauma from last season and throw it out the window. Forget the off-the-field shenanigans – coaches poll votes, closed practices, deflated footballs. Forget losing to Notre Dame and UCLA. Take the Sun Bowl loss that you’ve already blocked from your memory and toss it in the trash beside the 2006 Rose Bowl that, by NCAA logic, never took place anyways.
None of those things matter anymore because the 2013 season is officially upon us. It’s game day! And what a beautiful thing that is.
Right now, USC is undefeated and the possibilities are endless.
Will the Trojans stay undefeated? It’s unlikely, but for tonight at least there’s a good chance the L column will stay empty. USC is undefeated against the Rainbow Warriors in eight meetings and trounced them in last season’s opener, 49-10.
Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Looking at the schedule, in fact, there’s a no reason USC can’t stay undefeated awhile longer than that. Following tonight’s game in Hawaii, USC has three straight home games against very beatable opponents. Speaking of home games, two of the Trojans three toughest games this season will be played in Los Angeles – Stanford and UCLA. They also skip the prospect of facing Oregon except in a potential Pac-12 Championship game match up. While there is always the chance of a slip up, the schedule primes USC for improvement on the 7-6 record posted in 2012.
Need more than a favorable schedule to get you on the positive train?
USC has arguably upgraded at every coaching position filled this off season.
The obvious one is in defensive coordinator, where Monte Kiffin never quite translated the genius of his NFL mind to the college level. Clancy Pendergast may not have the stature of the elder Kiffin, but he does understand the college game. His “52” scheme is an upgrade in simplicity alone. As USC prepares to head into battle with a host of young talent on defense, a more easily grasped scheme will make a huge difference. Beyond that, the aggressive style will take advantage of USC’s existing personnel, including Devon Kennard who is returning from injury and poised to have a big year as a hybrid linebacker and pass rusher. With more blitzing and man-to-man coverage, gone are the days of USC sitting back and letting quarterbacks have their way. More importantly, Pendergast’s mentality has struck a nerve with USC’s players.
“Pendergast brings that swagger. That’s been great for us,” linebacker Hayes Pullard told the LA Times.
On the offensive line, Mike Summers has brought more attention to the technical aspects of blocking, while also focusing on the strength and toughness it takes to be great as individuals and as a unit. Along with new running backs coach Tommie Robinson, Summers could renew the Trojan running game which struggled to gain a foothold in 2012.
There are tons of other new faces joining USC on the field this season and they give the Trojans tons of reasons to get excited. USC’s incoming freshmen class is an historic collection of talent. With five five-star and seven four-star recruits, the 2013 class had the highest average star rating in Rivals history. In fact, USC had more five star recruits than any two schools combined.
November 10, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Marqise Lee (9) runs the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Those freshman are already looking to make their mark. Running back Justin Davis blew observers away in fall practice and could start today’s opener. Joining him, Ty Isaac is also tabbed to see his share of hand offs. Safety Su’a Cravens will start tonight as well and Leon McQuay III will be in the safety rotation.
Then there’s returning starters like Marqise Lee – Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, All-American, Biletnikoff Award winner, Hesiman Trophy candidate and on track to hold nearly every USC receiving record possible. Lee could single-handedly carry the USC offense (like he did against Arizona last season to the tune of 468 total yards and two touchdowns), but he won’t be alone with up-and-comer Nelson Agholor whose speed will give opponents quite the problem on the other side of the field. Dareus Rodgers, Victor Blackwell and De’Von Flournoy round out an incredibly talented wide receiving core.
Tell me that doesn’t get you excited. Tell me that doesn’t make things look bright, regardless of who throws the ball their way.
Here’s to 2013. Here’s to the clean slate. And here’s to a great season of Trojan football.