USC Football: 5 Glaring Weaknesses the Trojans Must Fix Going Forward
As the Trojans lick their wounds from yet another loss to Stanford, they will turn their attention to preventing Saturday's debacle from occurring again.
With a game full of errors magnified through the prism of the national spotlight broadcast in primetime college football, USC must somehow find a way to put a band-aid on a team whose weaknesses are hemorrhaging through unexpectedly massive wounds.
To say it won't be easy is an understatement.
Their opponents going forward will be in possession of a master game plan for the Trojans delivered first class by the Cardinal, and now in 2012, they will look to exploit USC's problems with the same effectiveness as Stanford did last Saturday.
This slideshow will look at five of the Trojans' most glaring weaknesses, and while there are other areas of concern, what follows are immediate needs that must be addressed.
For USC to salvage what is left of this season requires improvement now.
Here is where the Trojans must start that process.
No. 5: Kiffin Must Figure out His Kicking Game
It is apparent that all of the Trojans' field goal kicking "eggs" have been put in place kicker Andre Heidari's basket.
The problem is Heidari is recovering from knee surgery and may or may not be ready by the time USC returns from its bye-week after the Cal game.
What is fairly certain, though, is that Heidari will not be available for the Bears this Saturday, and this creates a dilemma for the Trojans.
With the improvement shown by Jeff Tedford's boys against Ohio State last weekend, what was thought to be a fairly easy home game this week now looks demonstrably more difficult.
Which means the availability of those three-point opportunities could loom large for USC, but now the question is: Will Kiffin even attempt those possible field goals?
After exhibiting a lack of faith in walk-on kicker Alex Wood against Stanford, will Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter leave points on the field and go for it on future fourth downs against the Bears?
Certainly, Wood appears capable of kicking field goals from at least 30-35 yards out.
Kiffin needs to give young Mr. Wood the chance to prove he can get the job done, at least once, because those three points may come in very handy this week.
No. 4: Morgan Breslin Needs Help Getting to the Opposing Quarterback
So far in 2012, the Trojans' defensive line, USC's biggest concern going into this season, has been surprisingly effective in the first three games.
Led by junior college transfer, defensive end Morgan Breslin, line coach Ed Orgeron's crew has pretty much held their own through the early part of the season.
However, last Saturday against Stanford, something became painfully obvious for those who follow the men of Troy.
Young Mr. Breslin desperately needs some help rushing the passer.
Beyond the efforts of Breslin, there have been very little disruption for the opposing quarterback.
Where are Wes Horton, Greg Townsend Jr and/or an effective blitzing linebacker or two?
Where is the pressure needed to relieve the burden on a suspect secondary?
Orgeron needs to get his pass rush squared away and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin needs to dial up a creative blitz or two to help them.
Otherwise a pass defense that is already in the bottom tier of national rankings will sink even further.
No. 3: The Tailback Situation Must Be Resolved
On Saturday, it didn't matter who was toting the rock because the results were simply abysmal and while arguments can certainly be made that the lack of an effective offensive line was the reason for this, there are still questions that need to be answered.
During the Stanford game, both Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd left the game with injuries and although McNeal did return, his effectiveness was minimal.
Now the Trojans welcome Cal to the Coliseum, and the tailback situation is murky.
If either Redd and/or McNeal are available, how effective will they be?
Of course, if the offensive line continues their year long hiatus from producing holes for the running backs to exploit, it won't matter anyway.
Nonetheless, who is available and how healthy the tailbacks are must be addressed, and the sooner, the better.
No. 2: Lane Kiffin Needs to Take Responsibility for His Play Calling
Okay, so I have read that Lane Kiffin has pointed the finger at left tackle Aundrey Walker, the entire offensive line and his quarterback Matt Barkley.
Who he hasn't pointed a finger at—at least as far as I know—is himself for the play calling in the Stanford game.
Perhaps he should.
After the usual assortment of flanker screens and plays designed to bring the Cardinal close to the line of scrimmage—all of which didn't work very well—Kiffin then called plays for specific players that his quarterback was unable to deliver on.
When the dust cleared, USC had produced 14 paltry points for the game and none in the second half.
For a brilliant offensive mind—which he does possess—Kiffin has been ineffective in utilizing what many perceive as the finest talent in the nation on that side of the ball.
Now is the time for Kiffin to understand that when he points a finger at his players, three more are pointing back at him.
It's time to do something about that, Lane.
No. 1: The Offensive Line Needs to Get It's Act Together...Now!
Unlike the defensive line, which was supposed to be a concern going into this season, the offensive line was perceived to be a strength.
So much for perceptions.
For an o-line that returned four of five starters and had what was thought to be a star in the making in left tackle Aundrey Walker, they have left a lot to be desired in 2012.
Of course, against Stanford, they were missing their heart and soul in center Khaled Holmes who was out with a lower leg injury.
But while the loss of Holmes cannot be diminished, it should also be noted that even before Holmes was injured, the running game was less than scintillating.
For USC to become the dominant offense everyone expected, the offensive line needs to find their way quickly.
It seems that against Cal would be as good a time as any.
A good team overcomes obstacles, and Lord knows the Trojans have placed a giant one in front of them in 2012.
How they respond to the debacle that was the Stanford game will reveal much about how the rest of the season unfolds for the men of Troy.
Certainly, the season can still be magical, and while it will take a lot of things to go USC's way for them to get to the national championship game, they can still make a BCS bowl game and finish the year on a high note.
But it will require a single-minded focus that takes it one game at a time, and that first game starts with Cal this Saturday.
For the Trojans to start a new winning streak, they will have to address the five things outlined in this slideshow.
Take care of them, and USC wins this game and the rest that follow.
Fail to do so, however, and it is going to be a very long season.
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