Although USC lost a few big-name players—such as Robert Woods, Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald—the 2013 roster is still strong at many positions. Last year’s record may not indicate such talent, but there aren't many weaknesses with this football team.
Nearly the entire offensive line returns, six starters from the defensive front seven, and then you can't forget about the best wide receiver in Marqise Lee. This isn't to say a national championship is a realistic goal, but there may be a few surprises in store for Trojans fans that can't seem to move on from last year’s disaster.
Here are the five strongest positions for USC entering the 2013 college football season.
Is it too soon to say the outside linebacker combination of Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin is the best in the country?
Breslin finished second in college football last year with 13 sacks. His combination of strength and speed is fun to watch. He can bully offensive linemen out of the way, but he also has that speed to blow by a defender and get into the backfield. Picking up double-digit sacks doesn't happen by accident. Breslin is a defensive playmaker.
Kennard will play more of a hybrid role for the Trojans, after missing all of last season due to injury. He is a disciplined defender who is comfortable in blitz packages, as well as dropping back into coverage. As long as he can remain healthy, he will have his best season yet for the Trojans.
USC did a nice job last season, sacking the quarterback 45 times. With both Breslin and Kennard tag-teaming at outside linebacker, Pac-12 signal-callers better keep their eyes open.
The Trojans finished ranked 73rd in college football in rushing yards. With the running backs on the roster, there is no excuse for such lousy performance. The good news is that there is still plenty of talent in the backfield, which should produce better results.
Running back Silas Redd will continue to be the workhorse and could see a larger role now that he has a year under his belt.
What will really help make this offense is the health of Tre Madden, as he missed all of last season due to injury. The playmaker will be a nice addition to the backfield, and having a home run threat will be a nice change of pace.
Those two runners are enough to create a 1-2 punch, but Justin Davis, Javorius Allen and D.J. Morgan are all solid runners who provide much-needed depth.
With the backfield looking better than it did last year, USC should be a balanced offense in 2013.
USC has no idea who the starting quarterback is going to be, and we likely won't find out until fall camp comes to an end. However, the situation could be a lot worse for Trojans fans.
Cody Kessler has looked terrific throughout spring ball and seems to be the front-runner for the job at the moment.
While it is great someone has been able to separate himself from the pack, there is also a top recruit in Max Browne who could handle things as a true freshman. Max Wittek is also a decent option, as he played well at the end of last year, showing promise each game he played.
None of these quarterbacks have the big name or the gaudy statistics, but they all have a different skill set and are capable of getting the job done. With three quarterbacks able to lead the way, this is a position where USC should be just fine.
Leonard Williams really made his impact felt as a freshman last year, racking up eight sacks and 64 tackles and intercepting a pass. His explosion off the ball and pure pass-rushing skills are incredible. Although he has made himself a household name throughout the Pac-12, he will have a chance to really emerge as an elite player.
George Uko provides the experience on the other side, as he is entering his redshirt-junior year. Capable of playing tackle or defensive end, Uko is great against the run but also shows impressive quickness off the ball and can play a factor against the pass. He had his best season last year, finishing with five sacks and 31 tackles.
These two pass rushers will help anchor the USC defense, and gives this unit a fighting chance to improve.
It all starts with Marqise Lee. Forget what you have heard about Johnny Manziel, Lee is the best offensive player in college football. His skill set is jaw-dropping. He catches everything thrown his way and there is absolutely no coverage out there that can slow him down.
While Lee is a huge part of this position finishing at the top, there are also other talented players in Nelson Agholor, De'Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell. All of those guys are capable of stepping up and proving that this offense is more than Lee and Robert Woods from last season.
If George Farmer didn't suffer a torn ACL, you could make a case this is the best receiving corps in the country.
Still, Lee and Agholor have a chance to form a dynamic duo and help keep this passing game afloat without Matt Barkley.