The USC Trojans are heading into the annual spring game with a number of questions surrounding the offense.
With the graduation of Matt Barkley, the competition at quarterback is wide open, and injuries at running back and receiver have led to a lot of new names at key positions. There is also a battle going on along the offensive line as the Trojans try and find a new center.
Most of the focus is being pushed to the quarterback competition heading into the spring game, and as of now, it appears to be even for the starting job.
The Trojans took to spring with an open competition at quarterback with Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and incoming freshman Max Browne fighting for the job.
Heading into the spring game, there hasn’t been a ton of separation, but an injury to Wittek early in spring gave Kessler a few extra snaps and a leg up in the competition. According to Greg Katz at ESPN.com, the competition is wide open heading into the spring game.
The quarterback competition is really a two-horse race. Because he was missing for a period of time with a knee injury, Max Wittek has slightly fallen behind Cody Kessler in the race to be No. 1. I do think that Wittek has closed the gap some this week, as he seems to have shaken off the previous week’s cobwebs as a result of his previous inactivity.
I think the quarterback difference right now is that Wittek has the more powerful arm, but Kessler has the ability to make things happen and has taken advantage of Wittek's absence to show some good stuff out there. These are really two contrasting styles of quarterbacks. We have already had a glimpse of Wittek in the final two regular season games (Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), but despite his inexperience, Kessler is a very intriguing prospect with his combination of athletic mobility, leadership, and command in the huddle. With fans in the stands to add some real game atmosphere, perhaps the upcoming spring game will help sort things out.
This has been a fun competition to watch, but it is far from over. The spring game should provide some clarity, but the race will likely continue through the summer.
Options at Running Back
When star runner Silas Redd fell to a knee injury (h/t ESPN) earlier this spring, the Trojans took a hit, but there are four others challenging for time that have made the competition interesting.
Buck Allen, Tre Madden, D.J. Morgan and Justin Davis are the four battling for playing time behind Redd, but only two are currently healthy enough to compete. Morgan is currently nursing a minor knee injury (h/t ESPN), and Tre Madden has not been cleared for contact drills after last year’s ACL injury.
All of those setbacks have opened the door for rising star Justin Davis. Davis has been one of the pleasant surprises out of spring as an early enrollee.
Davis has earned high praise from head coach Lane Kiffin and appears to be challenging for the starting job.
Kiffin recently told the media (h/t ESPN) that "It's possible for him to be the No. 1 tailback. We're going to play the best guy, regardless of whether he's been here, whether he's a senior or whether he's a freshman.”
That is high praise for a rising freshman, and with the injuries that the Trojans are facing at running back, Davis appears to be headed for early stardom in L.A.
Watch this group closely on Saturday, as a solid day by Davis could solidify his position at the top of the depth chart heading into the summer.
Answers at Center
Losing a star offensive lineman always hurts a program, but when that player is the two-year starter at center, teams begin to worry. Khaled Holmes was that player, and he leaves behind a huge void along the offensive line.
There are a number of players that are battling for the starting job, and heading into the spring game, the Trojans appear set on Marcus Martin (h/t USC Trojans Blog) as the starter.
He will be watched closely on Saturday as the Trojans take the field in front of a crowd for the first time since this past fall.
Second Option at Receiver
The answer at receiver appears pretty clear, with Nelson Agholor taking over the second starting position after the departure of Robert Woods. And this one-handed catch during practice on April 4 shows that he has the game-changing ability to become a star this fall.
Watching Agholor develop into a star this spring has been expected, but he still has to show that he can put it all together in front of a crowd this Saturday.
The Trojans need to have a solid day on Saturday offensively because of the load of questions that surround the unit.