The USC Trojans look to put last season’s failures behind them with the beginning of the 2013 spring practice. This will then be followed by the spring game that kicks off on April 23rd and will be played in a game-like atmosphere in front of thousands of fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, there are plenty of things to pay attention to before the practices take place. There is a quarterback position that tends to be at the top of everybody's list when discussing a program such as USC. We also pinpoint a few concerns in the secondary, and then there is head coach Lane Kiffin, who always seems to be up to something this time of year.
It should be another eventful spring for the USC Trojans.
Here are the top storylines in 2013 that you should be focused on the most.
New spring, new year, new coaching staff and new players to replace some of the older ones.
Is it truly a new season for the USC Trojans?
Sure, everybody would like to think so, and 2013 is certainly a different number than 2012.
However, last season is awfully hard to forget. Whether it was the constant off-the-field issues or the odd ways this team found ways to lose games, chances are the memories of last season aren't good ones.
I would also be willing to bet that you haven't forgotten them, and you continue to scratch your head wondering how so many things went wrong when everything looked so bright.
Most teams would be able to put disappointment in the past and look ahead, but not many experience what the Trojans did last year. Moving forward may be the toughest task of all and if it is possible, it will start with spring practice.
It is not USC football if we are not talking about the quarterback position. Max Wittek is not going to receive the same media attention that Matt Barkley earned last year, but the new kid on the block is going to have a fair share of pressure on his shoulders.
Is Wittek the starting quarterback for the new season?
Sure, he is the most experienced and played well in a limited role last year, but Cody Kessler won't go down quietly and the drooling over Max Browne won't go away anytime soon. Being the new leader of the team also comes with increased expectations and isn't nearly as easy as taking the field as a backup that nobody expects much from.
Trojans fans just saw a sure fire thing in Barkley blow up in their faces, and they would like to avoid that at all costs with Wittek, if possible. Like all USC teams, the quarterback position will receive a lot of attention this spring, and for good reason.
The Trojans only return one starter from the secondary, and that includes both safety positions being open for competition. The veteran leadership that T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling helped provide can no longer be counted on.
Good news is that this position isn't all lost and unlike most teams that have a position battle, USC is in a comfortable spot here. Both Josh Shaw and Demetrius Wright, two guys who have seen significant playing time already, are both competing for the free safety position.
The coaching staff also has the option of putting Dion Bailey at his more comfortable position, as he played linebacker last year and led the team with four interceptions. There are also two highly recruited safety prospects in Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, both who enrolled early to get a head start on the competition.
Needless to say, there are options for this team; it now just comes down to who steps up and provides that safety net for the defense.
While everybody is focused on the safety positions and who emerges from a large group of players, make sure to catch a glimpse of the guys who will be rushing the passer.
Last year the Trojans finished fourth in the Pac-12 with an impressive 45 sacks, and that has the potential to increase heading into the new season.
Sack leader Morgan Breslin, who finished last year with 13 sacks, will move to outside linebacker and be given even more chances to make plays in the backfield. The defensive line is experienced with George Uko and Leonard Williams returning after spending productive seasons up front. And this doesn't include Kenny Bigelow, one of the top defensive recruits of 2013, enrolling early to fight for immediate playing time.
USC made a living getting after the passer last season, as 11 different players had at least one sack. However, what we witnessed a few months ago may have just been the tip of the iceberg, as most of those guys return (plus a few key additions).
This will be one of the most exciting things to watch this spring and should make Trojans fans giggly inside.
Last season, depth was an issue at the running back position due to injuries and inexperience, but you always thought USC could overcome it with a consistent passing game. Now, with a new quarterback taking over, the backfield must find a way to get healthy and improve on last year’s inconsistent effort.
Silas Redd returns for his senior year and will continue to be the workhorse for this team, much like he has been throughout his career dating back to his Penn State days. The question marks begin when you mention D.J. Morgan, who was hot and cold last year, and Tre Madden, who missed all of last year with a knee injury.
Both of those talented runners need to have a productive spring and prove that this backfield is truly one of the best in the Pac-12.
It isn't a question of whether or not these runners are capable of getting the job done on Saturday. USC fans just need to see it come together and know that there is more than one healthy back that can be counted on. After all, having a running game that finished seventh in the Pac-12 a year ago will not cut it in the upcoming season.