USC Football: 5 Items on Trojans' 2013 Offseason Checklist
USC enters the 2013 season with a lot at stake. The Trojans were embarrassed last year after starting the season at No. 1 only to finish with an embarrassing 7-6 record that was capped with a 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
This offseason, five things will be pushed by the Lane Kiffin-led staff as they attempt to guide the Trojans back into the top of the Pac-12 conference.
This USC team has the talent, but if these five items are not given attention this offseason, it will be another disappointing effort for the Trojans in 2013.
Find a Starting Quarterback
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The Trojans appeared to have a clear answer at quarterback when Matt Barkley fell to injury and Max Wittek stepped in like a veteran last year. Wittek played well in a few outings, but he fell apart in the bowl game against Georgia Tech.
The terrible performance against the Yellow Jackets led to questions of whether he could handle the starting job heading into 2013.
The lineup is loaded with talent alongside Wittek, with Cody Kessler and Max Browne challenging for the No. 1 spot this spring.
Wittek has the most game experience, but it isn’t all quality playing time. This is the first question that needs an answer this offseason.
Solidify Receiver Lineup
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The Trojans head into the new year with one less playmaker at receiver. Robert Woods opted for the NFL draft, but Marqise Lee returns to the fold as one of the best receivers in the country.
USC still has Nelson Agholor and De’Von Flournoy on roster, so the lineup remains full of talent.
This program is going to face a lot of struggle in the passing game to start the year as a new quarterback works himself into the offense and a key playmaker is replaced.
By midseason the Trojans will be flying up and down the field, but don’t expect last season’s results until after the first few games.
Find a Center
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Khaled Holmes is one of the premier blockers that is in the NFL draft this fall, and his departure leaves a gaping hole on the Trojans' offensive line.
This offseason, USC will try and find a replacement for the middle, but that is easier said than done. Center is the captain of the offensive line, and it is the most difficult position on the offensive front.
It appears that Cyrus Hobbi has the straight line to starting time, but there is a lot of time before the first snap occurs this fall. Look for the Trojans to try out a lot of different bodies in the middle before they settle on a lineup.
Iron Out Safety Position
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The Trojans need to find answers to depth at safety this year, and one of the answers may be converting players from different positions.
Incoming freshman Su’a Cravens is expected to be a potential contender and could see playing time very soon in the USC defense. He is a talented freshman that can step in and play right away. Once he grasps the new defense, he should make the field.
This team has the talent to build a shutdown secondary, but it may have to rely on the inconsistent play of freshmen to help win games this fall. In the Pac-12, passing defense is a must.
This is one of the biggest issues facing the Kiffin staff heading into the new year.
Implement a New Defense
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USC hired Clancy Pendergast as the new defensive coordinator for the Trojans this winter when Monte Kiffin resigned from the post.
Pendergast was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Cal Bears, and helped turn around a struggling defense. He has spent time in the NFL at Dallas and Arizona among others, and he has collegiate stops at Mississippi State, USC (previously), Oklahoma and Cal.
There will be a major change for the Trojans this offseason with the Pendergast hire, as he begins the implementation of his 3-4 defensive scheme.
The Trojans have been using the Monte Kiffin designed Tampa 2-system based off of the 4-3.
If the new system works well, Kiffin will be labeled a genius. If it fails, the Trojans will probably cut ties with his regime.
This is the biggest development for USC this offseason, as well as the largest gamble.