USC Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer ISeptember 1, 2013

USC Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

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    USC started its 2013 season with an auspicious win at Hawaii, 30-13.

    In this case, "auspicious" carried both positive and negative connotations as the Trojans found both good and bad to take away from this game.

    And that applied to both the returning starters as well as the fresh, new faces starting for the men of Troy.

    In fact, this slideshow will look at the contributions of these first time starters and grade their performance against the Rainbow Warriors.

    But while these assessments are being offered, one should not forget that all of these players efforts—both good and bad—are just jumping off points for the 2013 season and should improve as time goes on.

    So let's get started on this report card for the new guys on the block...


    Note: Grades based on both individual and unit performances for this game.

Chad Wheeler (Left Tackle)

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    Chad Wheeler came from nowhere over the last year or so to claim the left tackle spot from Aundrey Walker, a guy whom big things were expected from in 2013.

    In his first start, Wheeler, like the entire offensive line, had mixed results against a Hawaii defense line that, quite frankly, isn't an elite unit.

    Many times, Wheeler's man gained penetration, which explained why USC gave up three sacks and a safety to Hawaii.

    Also, while the Trojans did gain 192 yards on the ground, there were many times that running backs Tre Madden and Justin Davis were stuffed when they needed a decent run.

    Overall, this was a marginal effort and one that will need improvement as the season wears on.


    Grade: C

Max Tuerk (Left Guard)

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    Max Tuerk has finally settled on left guard after playing tackle and dabbling with center over the last year and a half.

    Though he will absolutely improve as the season progresses, his play was only marginal against Hawaii.

    With individual performances on the offensive line mostly measured by the performance of the offense itself, there is plenty of room for growth for Tuerk as the season goes on. Fans should expect the big guard to be much better next time out.


    Grade: C

Nelson Agholor (Wide Receiver)

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    No one said it would be easy for Nelson Agholor to take the place of record-setting receiver Robert Woods, and it showed in the first game of the season against Hawaii.

    Of course, to be fair, Agholor's sparse production of two catches for 35 yards, including one touchdown, probably had a lot to do with the poor play of the quarterbacks—one of whom we will talk about later.

    In any event, Agholor's debut as USC's starting wide receiver left much to be desired.


    Grade: C

Jahleel Pinner (Fullback)

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    Speaking of sparse production, fullback Jahleel Pinner could barely be found in the stat sheet.

    With only one catch for five yards to show for his time on the field, Pinner's true value to the team is in his blocking ability and judging by the uneven performance of the tailbacks, that portion of his game will need working on.

    Pinner has a lot of room to grow in this position.


    Grade: C-

Cody Kessler (Quarterback)

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    I don't believe this is what Trojan fans had in mind when they were screaming for Cody Kessler to start over Max Wittek as USC's quarterback in 2013.

    Often looking confused, Kessler struggled for most of his time in the game and in my opinion, his 10-19, 95 yards and one touchdown effort doesn't really reflect the difficulty young Cody experienced against Hawaii.

    To compound his lack of overall production, Kessler also took a safety and threw an interception in what I am sure he would consider a poor effort on his part.

    Maybe this was just a case of nerves that got away from him after securing the start, but either way, Kessler has a ton of room for improvement if he wants to keep the starting gig.


    Grade: D

Kris Albarado (Punter)

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    In a game where the punter was on the field far too often, Kris Albardo had a good debut after taking over for Kyle Negrete this season.

    Punting six times for an average of 43.3 yards, Albarado also had a 64 yard punt which augmented that nice average.


    Grade: B-

Devon Kennard (Outside Linebacker)

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    Sometimes the stat sheet doesn't always reflect the true impact a player had in a game, which is the case with outside linebacker Devon Kennard.

    This is not to say that Kennard didn't fill up the stat sheet because his two tackles for loss, sack, forced fumble, and two passes broken up looks plenty good, but with only three total tackles, it doesn't reflect the value the senior had to his team in this game.

    What someone who didn't watch the game wouldn't know is Kennard was constantly in Hawaii's backfield creating havoc and altering a myriad of the Rainbow Warriors offensive efforts.

    If Kennard can keep this up, Trojan fans can only smile at the prospects of their defense when injured outside linebacker Morgan Breslin returns to the field of play.


    Grade: A

Jabari Ruffin (Outside Linebacker)

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    Thrust into a starting role when Morgan Breslin couldn't make the trip to Hawaii, Jabari Ruffin acquitted himself nicely with three solo tackles while being active all over the field.

    Taking care of his responsibilities in the 5-2 defense, Ruffin probably removed all doubts regarding his ability to play important minutes even after Breslin returns.


    Grade: B

Kevon Seymour (Cornerback)

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    If you looked at the stat sheet for Kevon Seymour's production, you might be confused as to his value to the Trojans in this game.

    After all, any perusal of said sheet would reveal that Seymour's name is conspicuously absent with the sophomore registering nothing in the way of tackles, passes broken up or anything else.

    On the surface, one might be tempted to say that Seymour had little or no impact on the game, but you would be wrong.

    The proper way to look at this absence of production was that Seymour did his job and, in doing so, didn't offer Hawaii's quarterback with any reason to throw his way.

    Sometimes less is better and, in this game, less meant Seymour was doing his job.


    Grade: B+

Josh Shaw (Free Safety)

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    Though Josh Shaw didn't fill up the stat sheet, he made his presence felt with a tackle for loss and an interception for a touchdown at a time in the game when USC really needed something good to happen.

    Active all over the field against Hawaii, Shaw will continue to be an important part of the rotation in the future regardless of whether he starts or not.


    Grade: A-



Su'a Cravens (Strong Safety)

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    When all is said and done, it may turn out that Su'a Cravens is the jewel of a very impressive—albeit small—2013 recruiting class.

    Cravens, who was somewhat of a surprise to start at the position given his tender age, made his presence felt early with an interception in the first quarter.

    Overall, Cravens finished fourth on the team in tackles with four, including three of the solo variety.

    Looking like a veteran in his first start, the sky is the limit for this impressive young player.


    Grade: A-


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    It is never easy to be thrust into a starting role, especially if you are a young player.

    In this game against Hawaii, there were 11 first time starters for the Trojans and for the most part, they did very well against the Rainbow Warriors.

    Now with a game under their belts, Lane Kiffin and his staff will be looking for these players to improve even more as the season goes on.

    This is especially true of the offensive players who need substantial improvement on that side of the ball, including the veterans.

    If the offense can somehow catch up to a very impressive Trojan defense, USC has a chance to be special in 2013.

    If not, things could get very dicey for USC this year and that goes not only for the first time starters but everyone else too.