The Steve Sarkisian era got underway on Saturday afternoon as the Cardinal (offense) and White teams battled to a 15-15 tie in the Coliseum:
Cardinal ties it up with another field goal from Andre Heidari. Cardinal 15, White 15. #USCSpringGame— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 19, 2014
After finishing with a 10-win season in 2013, there was no doubt a palpable buzz to see how the squad will look this season under Sarkisian:
Format for today's USC spring game: pic.twitter.com/CYVNYe22nj— Rich Hammond (@RegisterUSC) April 19, 2014
If there's one clear takeaway from the spring scrimmage, it's that the defense won't skip a beat next season. Sarkisian put the unit that ranked 16th in scoring defense last season (per CFBstats.com) in a disadvantageous position and they were still highly effective in shutting down the Trojans offense early on:
6 possessions for USC: 3 field goals, 1 missed field goal, 1, three/out, 1 turnover on downs. They start from opponent’s 40— Rich Hammond (@RegisterUSC) April 19, 2014
In fact, it wasn't until the Trojans let a 10-year-old fan throw a pass that the Cardinal side was finally able to find pay dirt:
Cardinal scores its first TD of the game thanks to a 10-year-old fan who took the snap at QB. Glad the Trojan Family can join in on the fun!— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 19, 2014
The touchdown celebration would be short-lived, however. The defense continued to have its way with the offense and sacks from Scott Starr and Charles Burks would advance the defense's lead against the offense:
Sack #3 for the defense courtesy of OLB Charles Burks forcing another three-and-out for the offense. White 14, Cardinal 9— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 19, 2014
The scrimmage wasn't all bad for the Trojans offense, though. After all, with all the talent coming back on defense in Los Angeles, it was to be expected that the offense would have a difficult time moving the ball.
While Cody Kessler and Max Browne made some plays at quarterback, Trojans fans were treated to their first glimpse at quarterback of the future Jalen Greene. The dual-threat freshman showcased his arm strength and accuracy on more than one occasion and impressed analysts, such as former FOX Sports writer Lisa Horne, with his confidence as the third-string freshman:
QB Jalen Greene is going to be special. Already love his swaggyness. #USCSpringGame— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) April 19, 2014
One kid that stood out to Sark: "[QB] Jalen Greene." Sark said he "should still be in high school." #USCSpringGame— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) April 20, 2014
Even though it wasn't the greatest performance from the Trojans offense, Kessler was pleased with the team's performance. He acknowledged the strong play of the defense while also citing the absence of some important offensive pieces in this post-game interview posted by Inside USC.
While there are still plenty of question marks surrounding the offense, especially along the offensive line, there's no doubt that the upbeat attitude surrounding the program and suffocating defense are strong positives to take away from the scrimmage.
Overall, Trojans fans have to like what they've seen from spring practices this season. Not only did the Trojans figure out their starting quarterback (Cody Kessler) but also saw first hand that the defense will return to its 2013 form.
With an elite defense coming back and the offense presumably getting better with a consistent leader at quarterback like Kessler, there's no reason to believe that the Trojans won't be among the top teams in the Pac-12 South.