USC Football: 5 Biggest Question Marks of Training Camp
After a two-year bowl ban, it is safe to say the USC Trojans are back. They return 17 starters, which includes a very underrated defense, arguably the best offense in the country and a team that is ready to compete for a BCS National Championship.
On paper, this team looks like it can compete with any team you want to put up against it, but that doesn't mean there aren't concerns as USC prepares for the regular season.
With fall camp underway, here are five questions that the USC Trojans must answer before the season begins in September.
Which True Freshmen Will Play Significant Minutes?
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Despite having scholarship reductions, USC still managed to put together another top-25 class in 2012. The class includes 15 players, many of which are 5-star or 4-star players, and many that are more than capable of helping this Trojans team right away.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor is one of the favorites to land significant playing time this year. Sure, the offense is already loaded for USC, but Agholor has great hands and has made such an impact already that he will likely see the field quite often. Safety Gerald Bowman is a junior college transfer, who is about a solid tackler as you are going to find and plays the game with a very physical style.
Other players that could see playing time their true freshman season include Leonard Williams, Max Tuerk and Scott Starr. Fall camp is usually the first opportunity that thee young kids have a chance to prove themselves, and USC has a lot of talented players eager to show their skills.
How Is the Defensive Line Shaping Up?
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There aren't many weaknesses on this football team, but if you had to pick one, you would certainly look at the defensive line. This is a unit that will have to replace three starters, including Nick Perry, who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss last season.
What makes things even worse is that projected starter Devon Kennard may likely end up missing the entire season due to a recent surgery.
Lane Kiffin and company expect a big year from senior defensive end Wes Horton, who had 22 tackles and four sacks last year. Sophomore defensive tackle George Uko is another player who the coaching staff expects a big year from.
But the experience is very limited, which has to be scary for this Trojans team heading into the year.
Expect to see red-shirt freshman Greg Townsend and true freshman Leonard Williams get a lot of reps this year.
How Will Silas Redd Be Used in the Offense?
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Due to the Penn State sanctions, the Nittany Lions lost their best player in running back Silas Redd. He transferred to USC, giving the Trojans another 1,000-yard rusher they will add to the backfield.
The question now is, how is USC going to use him, and will he be ready once the season begins?
Redd rushed for over 1,200 yards last season and scored seven touchdowns. He is a powerful back who rarely goes down on initial contact. Switching from the Big Ten to the Pac-12 should be a cakewalk for Redd, who will likely take advantage of the smaller defensive players in his new conference. The Big Ten is a more physical conference, which the Pac-12 has never been mistaken for.
He will certainly get the bulk of the red-zone carries, but having another 1,000-yard rusher in Curtis McNeal will make things interesting to see how he is used throughout the year.
Who Is Going to Protect Barkley's Blindside?
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USC has arguably the best offense in college football, but it does not mean much if the left tackle position remains a question mark.
Aundrey Walker is still the favorite to play the position, but does not have much experience at the position. He is in much better shape since he first arrived on campus and is real confident about his new position.
“I feel like a left tackle,” Walker said. “I’m going to take pride in it. It’s my job. It’s my job to protect Matt Barkley‘s blind side.” (Via Michael Lev of usc.ocregister.com)
The other candidate is Kevin Graf, who would seem like the more logical pick considering he started the entire 2011 season at right tackle. Still, this is likely going to be a battle that lasts throughout camp, as it is critical that the coaching staff gets this one right.
How Good Can This Team Truly Be?
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One of the things that this team must work on is taking things one game at a time and not getting caught looking ahead. The hype for USC to win not only the Pac-12, but the national championship, is overwhelming.
On paper, this is arguably the most talented team in the country, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
While depth still remains an issue, the offense remains explosive, and the defense is more than capable of getting enough stops to win ball games.
So how good can this football team be in 2012?
I think that is a question we are all waiting for the answer to.