After a month of practicing behind the walls of Howard Jones Practice Field, the USC Trojans showcased the early stages of their new-look, uptempo offense. While little can truly be gleaned from the spring game because so many returning starters sat out with injury, one thing was clear: The Trojans looked promising in their new scheme, and the team will be quite impressive once they perfect it.
Each of USC's three quarterbacks had his moment to show what the future of USC would look like under his leadership. While Max Browne and Jalen Greene turned heads with their arm strength and agility, respectively, Cody Kessler left no doubt that he should be the Trojans' starter in 2014.
He commanded his reps with poise and made fewer mistakes than did his competitors. As the offense continues to crystallize under him during the fall, we can expect that he will get even more confident operating out of the shotgun and scrambling when tasked with making plays on the fly.
Because of limitations, we didn't see anything too spectacular from the offense, but the progression that the defense showed promises another dominant performance in the fall.
Halfway through spring ball, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox expressed concerns to Garry Paskwietz of ESPN.com that the defense was struggling to keep up with the offense as scrimmages wore on:
That’s where we have to continue to emphasize finishing strong because the end of the game is when you get up there in play count. When you get to plays 100 to 120, that’s when you really need to sustain things mentally and that’s something we’ve got to work on. The effort has been good, we just have to get better. I would have thought through nine days that we would have it down pat and look great, but I don’t know if that’s reality.
In the spring game, the defense certainly seemed to have it down pat.
As a whole, the defense had a better performance than did the offense, even keeping all of the Trojans' prolific playmakers out of the red zone entirely. This is a vast improvement for a unit that was getting gassed in practices.
If the Trojans defense can continue to match the intensity and quickness of the offense on the practice field, it suggests that come game day, they will be able to hang with the likes of Oregon and the other spread offense teams in the Pac-12.
USC still has a lot of work to do before it's ready to compete on Saturdays, but it is clear now that the foundation is there. In August, the Trojans will focus on finding out the best combinations of talent to put on the field to produce the best results. That starts with having a complete roster of healthy bodies, something that has been a pressing issue for Steve Sarkisian while he has been molding the Trojans this spring.
It's been a month filled with many new changes for the Trojans, but if Saturday's spring game is any indication, USC is finally forming its new identity under Sarkisian. In the fall, we will really start to understand just what that identity is.
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