USC Football 2013 Team Program
The USC Trojans, ranked No. 24 by both the AP and the coaches, are out to prove that last year's disappointing season won't be repeated in 2013.
In his fourth year with the Trojans, Lane Kiffin returns 16 starters and loads of talent to take on a schedule that sets up for early success.
Will the Trojans be able to replace longtime starters such as quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods? Can USC stay healthy enough to prevent its limited depth from spoiling another season?
Here's a detailed look at the Trojans, including a two-deep depth chart, players to watch and a full prediction for the upcoming season.
Bleacher Report's own Adam Kramer, Michael Felder and Elika Sadeghi preview the Trojans' upcoming season.
USC entered the 2012 season as the nation's top-ranked team, and the Trojans looked the part in their 39-point Week 1 victory over Hawaii.
A tough loss to Stanford in Week 3, which at the time seemed like a huge upset, knocked USC out of the title race before the season reached October.
The Trojans bounced back with four straight victories over Cal, Utah, Washington and Colorado, but the season officially fell apart on the road at Arizona.
USC fell to Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats, 39-36, and the Trojans never recovered, losing four of their last five regular-season games.
Barkley, who entered the season as a leading Heisman candidate, finished a disappointing year on the bench after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against UCLA.
The Trojans hit rock bottom in the Sun Bowl, losing in embarrassing fashion to a mediocre Georgia Tech team. USC looked disinterested against the Yellow Jackets, gaining just 205 yards of offense in a 21-7 loss.
The Trojans finished the season with a 7-6 record and not ranked in the Top 25.
Depth Chart/Returning Starters
Returning Stares: Eight on offense, seven on defense.
* All Caps indicate returning starter.
1. SO Max Wittek 6'4", 235 lbs
2. SO Cody Kessler 6'1", 215 lbs
SR SILAS REDD 5'10", 200 lbs or FR Justin Davis 6'1", 220 lbs
1. JR MARQISE LEE 6'0", 195 lbs
2. FR Darreus Rogers 6'1", 190 lbs
1. SO Nelson Agholor 6'1", 185 lbs
2. SR De'Von Flournoy 6'0", 185 lbs
1. SO SOMA VAINUKU 6'0", 250 lbs or SO Jahleel Pinner 5'11", 240 lbs
1. JR XAVIER GRIMBLE 6'5", 250 lbs or JR RANDALL TELFER 6'4", 250 lbs
1. JR AUNDREY WALKER 6'6", 300 lbs
2. JR Nathan Guertler 6'5", 275 lbs
1. SO Max Tuerk 6'6", 285 lbs
2. JR Giovanni Di Poalo 6'4", 280 lbs
1. JR MARCUS MARTIN 6'3", 325 lbs
2. SO Cyrus Hobbi 6'3", 285 lbs
1. SR JOHN MARTINEZ 6'2", 305 lbs
2. FR Jordan Simmons 6'5", 335 lbs
1. SR KEVIN GRAF 6'6", 300 lbs
2. FR Chad Wheeler 6'7", 270 lbs
1. SO LEONARD WILLIAMS 6'5", 270 lbs
2. JR J.R. Tavai 6'2", 265 lbs
1. SO Antwaun Woods 6'1", 315 lbs or SO Cody Temple 6'3", 285 lbs
1. JR GEORGE UKO 6'3", 285 lbs
2. SO Charles Burks 6'0", 230 lbs
1. SR MORGAN BRESLIN 6'2", 250 lbs
2. SR Kevin Greene 6'4", 255 lbs
1. JR LAMAR DAWSON 6'2", 235 lbs or SO Anthony Sarao 6'0", 215 lbs
1. JR HAYES PULLARD 6'1", 235 lbs
2. SR Will Andrew 6'2", 235 lbs
1. SR Devon Kennard 6'3", 260 lbs
2. FR Jabari Ruffin 6'4", 230 lbs
1. SO Kevon Seymour 6'0", 170 lbs or SR TORIN HARRIS 6'0", 190 lbs
1. JR Dion Bailey 6'0", 200 lbs or SR Demetrius Wright 6'1", 195 lbs
1. FR Su'a Cravens 6'1", 215 lbs or JR JOSH SHAW 6'1", 190 lbs
1. JR Anthony Brown 5'9", 180 lbs
2. FR Devian Shelton 6'2", 185 lbs
Will be updated when Kiffin releases fall camp depth chart.
Players to Watch
Justin Davis, the freshman running back who reported to campus early, made waves this spring when Kiffin listed him as the co-starter alongside Silas Redd.
Davis, a 4-star prospect out of Stockton, Calif., will be expected to play the complementary role Curtis McNeal filled for the Trojans last year.
As USC shifts to a 3-4 defense this year, the play of nose tackle Antwaun Woods becomes pivotal to the Trojans' success.
USC has a number of outstanding pass-rushers, but for a 3-4 defense to be successful against the run, the nose tackle has to play at a high level.
USC's coaching staff went through a lot of changes this offseason, as Kiffin overhauled a lot of the Trojans' personnel.
Monte Kiffin, Lane's father, is out as defensive coordinator and will be replaced by former Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Mike Ekeler left the Indiana Hoosiers to coach the linebackers, and Kyle Williams and Jon Farmerie have been brought on to coach the secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Summers is now the offensive line coach and Tommie Robinson will be in charge of the running backs.
Jaron Fairman joined the staff as a grad assistant to work with the special teams.
2013 Schedule and Most Important Games
- Aug. 29 at Hawaii
- Sept. 7 vs. Washington State
- Sept. 14 vs. Boston College
- Sept. 21 vs. Utah State
- Sept. 28 at Arizona State
- Oct. 10 vs. Arizona
- Oct. 19 at Notre Dame
- Oct. 26 vs. Utah
- Nov. 1 vs. Oregon State
- Nov. 9 vs. California
- Nov. 16 vs. Stanford
- Nov. 23 at Colorado
- Nov. 30 vs. UCLA
USC's schedule sets up for early success with four very winnable games right out of the gate.
The back-to-back games against Arizona State and Arizona will be huge for the Trojans, though. If the Trojans can grab six victories before their trip to South Bend for their annual battle with Notre Dame, a 10-win season is entirely plausible, barring significant injuries.
College football fans around the country will be disappointed that USC and Oregon won't suit up against each other this season, as the two have produced some classics in recent years.
What to Look for on Offense
The unsettled quarterback position is USC's biggest question mark this season.
The Trojans have a pair of third-year sophomores in Max Wittek and Cody Kessler battling for the starting spot, and each have taken a fair share of first-team reps this fall.
Wittek was the one who stepped in after Barkley went down last year, and he performed decently in USC's nine-point loss to Notre Dame. The same can't be said for his Sun Bowl performance, when he completed just 14 of 37 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.
Whoever ends up winning the quarterback battle will have a lot of support, as the Trojans have eight starters back on offense. But Kiffin's pro-style offense relies heavily on consistent quarterback play, so one of these two will have to step up for USC
What to Look for on Defense
USC's switch to the 3-4 should allow new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to lean on his linebackers, which is a position of strength for the Trojans this year.
As mentioned previously, Woods will have to play well for USC to stop the run effectively, which it didn't do very well last year. With Monte Kiffin at the helm, the Trojans ranked No. 58 in rush defense, giving up 156 yards per game.
If Morgan Breslin can provide the kind of pass rush he produced last season, when he registered a team-high 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, it will help out a young secondary replacing all four starters.
USC's defensive backfield loses T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling, but there is promising talent ready to step in. Before his hip injury, Bailey was making waves with his move to safety, and sophmore Kevon Seymour and junior Anthony Brown have locked up the starting cornerback positions.
X-Factors for 2013
Aside from Wittek and Kessler trying to replace Barkley, wide receiver Nelson Agholor has the biggest shoes to fill with the loss of Robert Woods.
Woods, who caught 76 passes for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, was the perfect complement to Lee in USC's passing attack. Woods was a big enough threat to keep defenses honest, and that one-two punch is what made the Trojans so potent.
Agholor, who led the team with 17.9 yards per reception last year, will need to emerge as a consistent threat so defenses can't key in on Lee.
According to Dan Greenspan of NFL.com, Agholor would rather focus on his assignments than compare himself to Woods.
"Marqise is going to go out there and he is going to play the way he is going to play," Agholor said. "Personally, I must play my assignment and I must make plays when my turn comes."
Top Storylines to Watch
How Hot Will Kiffin's Seat Get?
Things were looking up following USC's surprising success in 2011, but after last year's disastrous season, Trojans fans are getting restless.
If the Trojans struggle this year, especially early, the hot-seat talk will only grow louder.
Will Marqise Lee Dominate Again?
The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner hauled in 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore season, and the explosive playmaker is back to lead USC in 2013.
It's hard to argue against the opinion that Lee is college football's best wide receiver, but will he be able to showcase that this season?
A lot of that will depend on things outside of his control. If the Trojans don't get quality play from the quarterback spot, or if Agholor doesn't emerge as a consistent option, Lee could see his numbers drop dramatically this season.
Regular season record: 9-4 (5-3)
The Trojans will avoid a collapse similar to last season's but will still drop games to Arizona, Notre Dame, Oregon State and Stanford before defeating UCLA in the regular-season finale.
USC will end its season with a trip to the Holiday Bowl.