USC Football: 5 Most Important Takeaways from September
With September now in the bank and USC's "account" now standing at a disappointing 3-2, it is time to look back at the first full month of the Trojans 2013 college football season.
Of course, the unceremonious dumping of former head coach Lane Kiffin in the middle of the night dominates the news of this football campaign but as to be expected when such moves are motivated, it is not the only thing revealed by the early efforts of the men of Troy.
This slideshow will look at the five most important issues surrounding USC at this point in the season and offer some insight as to how the Trojans proceed from here.
With eight games left in 2013, USC still has a lot to play for although the road in front of them is steep to say the least.
Can the Trojans circle the wagons and make something out of what is left in this season?
Here are the things must address if they hope to...
How Much Time Will Marqise Lee Miss Due to Injury?
As if USC doesn't have enough to deal with already, now an already very thin receiving corps will have to make do without Marqise Lee for the foreseeable future.
Lee, USC's best player, hurt his knee in the Trojan's 62-41 loss to Arizona State and had to be carted off the field.
Although it appears that the injury isn't as bad as once feared, Lee will miss games and a receiving unit that was already missing George Farmer Jr. and Steven Mitchell—both lost for the season—is now down to four scholarship players in that unit.
Even with a healthy Lee, the Trojans were going to need luck to get through the season with this unit intact.
Now it looks like the walk-ons will get some serious playing time for at least a little while.
Tre Madden Is the Real Deal at Running Back
When it was revealed that running back Silas Redd would miss the start of the season due to a knee injury, it was thought that the Trojans would get by with a tailback committee of Tre Madden, true freshman Justin Davis, Buck Allen and perhaps Ty Isaac, another true freshman.
However, from the moment he first toted the rock, Tre Madden took over as "the guy" at the position and he hasn't looked back.
Averaging 116 yards per game, Madden has been a combination of power and speed as he has helped make USC's rushing attack the most reliable option on that side of the ball.
Now with almost 600 yards to his credit in 2013, Madden looks like a lock for a 1000-plus yard season.
Cody Kessler Is Beginning to Look More Comfortable at Quarterback
If one wanted to point a single finger at the reason why Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2013 season, it was due to the anemic offense led by first year starter, quarterback Cody Kessler.
Looking lost and confused, Kessler was horrible in all facets of his game, at least early on.
Though certainly not a world-beater now, Kessler has at least appeared to be in control of a still ineffective offense and is getting better by the week.
Completing 63.5% of his passes, Kessler has thrown six touchdowns against four interceptions although it should be noted that the picks Kessler dealt have been back-breakers.
Still, the current version of young Cody beats the hell out of the earlier one and this should give new play-caller Clay Helton confidence going forward this year.
Is the Defense Overrated?
Through the first four games, USC's defense looked like the second coming of the vaunted Pittsburgh Steeler "Iron Curtain" of years gone by.
Residing in the top ten of many defensive categories, new coordinator Clancy Pendergast seemed to have molded his group into a dominant unit worthy of high praise to say the least.
Then came Arizona State and the 600-plus yards of total offense and—gulp—those 62 points the Sun Devils laid on the Trojans.
Now fans of the program are wondering exactly who their defense is—that juggernaut of the first four games or the sieve against ASU.
Pendergast has two weeks now to re-orient his charges and we will know more when Arizona comes to the Coliseum after the bye.
Ed Orgeron Has His Work Cut out for Him
So Pat Haden has turned this sinking ship over to recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron.
Good luck with that Ed.
Actually, Haden probably could not find a better coach to hold down the fort than Orgeron and his enthusiasm could even motivate the Trojans to salvage a few games before 2013 ends.
However, it will be a tall order for Orgeron or anyone else to turn this team into a winner this year.
Now entering the tough part of the schedule, Orgeron will still have to deal with a depleted roster that haunted Kiffin and a team that seems to be suffering injuries at an alarming rate.
Whether or not he can make a difference remains to be seen but if he does, Orgeron should receive consideration for the permanent gig.
Either way, Orgeron has his work cut out for him.
With more than half of the season in front of them, USC will try to somehow regroup and salvage the 2013 season, but it won't be easy.
The same issues that helped to cost Lane Kiffin his job remain for Ed Orgeron and if anything, they may be worse.
Without a healthy Marqise Lee, the Trojans lack firepower on offense and defensively, USC is at a crossroads after the debacle in the desert last week against Arizona State.
All of which presents issues that if not addressed, will extend long beyond September for Coach "O" and the Trojans.
If USC can rectify these problems, they can put smiles on a lot of frustrated fans faces. If not, expect a lot of frowns in 2013.