It's been a tough offseason for Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans, but that won't prevent them from making a strong run at the Pac-12 title.
Five-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey switched from USC to Florida State, defensive end Jason Hatcher spurned the Trojans for Kentucky, and it appeared that defensive end Torrodney Prevot would sign with Texas A&M.
A fourth loss occurred Tuesday when defensive end Kylie Fitts of Redlands committed to UCLA.
Rivals Notre Dame and UCLA are ahead of the Trojans on each site, while the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks are also ahead on Scout.com.
Now let's check out the coaching changes.
Polamalu is the fourth USC assistant to leave since the end of the season. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin resigned, although he appeared to be shoved out of the program. Linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton quit to become the defensive coordinator at Nevada, and secondary coach Marvin Sanders was fired.
That's a lot of coaches gone after a season, but beginning as the preseason No. 1 and proceeding to finish a disappointing 7-6 makes change unsurprising.
The Trojans, though, are fortunate regarding their 2013 schedule.
Oregon is not an opponent, and USC has the potential to be 6-0 heading into Notre Dame in October. The first six contests consist of Hawaii, Washington State, Boston College, Utah State, Arizona State and Arizona, four of which are at home.
Beginning with the Irish is when the schedule does beef up.
Within the conference, USC squares off against Utah, Oregon State, California and Stanford consecutively. At the same time, all are winnable games, as the Utes will lose defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to the draft, and the Beavers aren't bringing in nearly as impressive of a recruiting class.
Also, coach Jeff Tedford was fired from California in November.
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#BREAKING: (AP) - A person with knowledge of the decision says Cal has fired coach Jeff Tedford.11/20/2012, 6:19:44 PM
Stanford is losing key players to pro football as well, namely running back Stepfan Taylor, tight end Zach Ertz and linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov.
Thereafter, Colorado is an expected win, and then UCLA is the regular season finale.
The Bruins are easily USC's toughest Pac-12 South opponent and arguably the most difficult for the entire conference next season. One major difference between the offseason of 2012 and 2013, though, will be preseason hype.
Coming off such a great year in 2011 and the return of Matt Barkley, the Trojans had every reason to believe a national title run was possible. That also gave their Pac-12 foes extra incentive to knock them off.
Well, the conference proved to be much stronger than expected as 2012 progressed, and USC lost three nailbiters that could have been victories. That's simply college football.
Regarding the 2013 campaign, USC won't feel the immense amount of pressure in the preseason. Combine the experience gained from last season, as well as the motive to rebound, and the Trojans will be in the mix.
Quarterback Max Wittek has that bit of experience when filling in for Barkley, and the ground game possesses great potential, not to mention receiver Marqise Lee.
Provided the defense even marginally improves, and a 10-3 or 11-2 regular season record is realistic.
The ultimate result will be a shot for the Pac-12 championship and BCS berth.
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