The excitement is beginning to build.
Going into the second year of the Lane Kiffin regime, there is a palatable vigor emanating from Trojanville, and with good reason.
With a great starting quarterback, a bevy of talented skill players and an improving defense, these days should find a broad smile on Kiffin's face.
But don't waste time looking for it, because you won't find it.
And that is part of the reason this will be his year.
Because he won't be satisfied until he leads his Trojans to a national championship.
While a Trojan return to the promised land may not be in the offering this year (thank you, NCAA), there are still plenty of reasons why USC and their fans should be looking forward to 2011.
And though we may not convince Kiffin that this will be his year, here are 10 reasons why he should be ready for success.
The importance of a second year in a system cannot be overstated.
Last year, the Trojans secondary appeared completely lost and when they were found, they couldn't tackle anyone.
Of course, those things tend to happen when you don't practice tackling, as was the case last year.
This year, the difference is startling.
Now the players are comfortable in Monte Kiffin's scheme, and tackling has been resumed.
And the elder Kiffin's defensive backfield have turned into a bunch of monsters.
Led by safety T.J. McDonald and the diminutive but relentless cornerback Nickell Robey, the Trojans are throwing blankets on whoever has the gall to enter their territory.
And its not just those two, but the entire roster of defensive backs have made significant strides.
With a suffocating pass coverage unit, pity opposing offenses because...
So here is how it is going to go down.
The Trojans defensive backfield suffocates the opposing receivers and while the poor quarterback searches in vain for someone, anyone, to get open...BAM! Nick Perry stuffs him like a hand-packed sausage.
Perry, the Trojans beastly defensive end, has promised he will get 15 sacks minimum this year.
And opposing defensive coordinators better pay attention.
Along with his 4.5 forty speed, Perry is 250+ pounds of unmitigated fury. If he stays healthy, he could be a high first-round draft choice should he make himself available for the NFL draft.
But a defensive line is not about one player, and to key on Perry means you are not focusing on the other leviathans the Trojans will trot out every Saturday.
One of those beasts goes by the name of George Uko.
Remember that name, because you are going to hear it a lot.
Uko, who is only a redshirt freshman, has improved dramatically since he arrived at USC.
At 6'4", 310 pounds and possessing cat-like quickness, Uko simply dominated the Trojans spring practice.
But those two aren't the only Trojans par excellence on the D-line.
DaJohn Harris, Wes Horton, Christian Tupoa and Kevin Greene can all play.
And if Armond Armstead can come back from a health scare, the defensive front will be unstoppable.
If Kiffin isn't smiling now, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron sure the hell is.
During Pete Carroll's hey day, Trojan fans often marveled at the abundance of fine running backs that USC possessed.
Of course, that was when they weren't bitching about who should start and how many carries they should receive.
Then the stable of running backs turned into a stall, although that didn't keep Trojan fans from displaying their angst on which running back should be featured (remember the Allen Bradford vs. Marc Tyler banter?).
Now that herd of running backs have been replenished.
Marc Tyler returns, Dillon Baxter still dazzles, Curtis McNeal can be dynamite, and DJ Morgan may be the best of them all when all is said and done.
And to top it off, Amir Carlisle, a blazing fast and powerful running back, will be here in the fall; he will be joined by Javorious (Buck) Allen, a beast of a running back with the size that Kiffin craves.
Each of these backs can have a legitimate case made for why they should be the featured back. They are that good.
Let the banter begin.
Though John Baxter, USC's special teams coach, may be the best in the country, it is hard to shine when your place kicker can't make field goals.
And last year, the Trojans couldn't make field goals.
In fact, at least one loss came directly as a result of USC's poor field goal kicking unit, and it can't be quantified how the other losses were affected by Kiffin's having to alter the offense to compensate for his inconsistent kicker.
That's all in the past now.
Meet Andre Heidari, the Trojans new three-point savior.
Heidari, who has already enrolled and participated in the spring camp, is all that is advertised and more.
In high school, Heidari was rated the No. 2 kicker in the country.
And in spring practice, Heidari could be seen kicking 50+ yard field goals with ridiculous ease and bombing unreturnable kickoffs.
Though he struggled a bit in the spring game, he will correct the probable "yips" he experienced from kicking in his first organized game at the college level.
Though largely overlooked (unless they miss one, of course), reliable field goal kickers are crucial to an offense's success.
Now that the Trojans have a good one, this also will contribute to this being Lane Kiffin's year.
Oh, and for good measure, Kris Albarado, the nations No. 6 prep punter will be here in the fall.
All of which has John Baxter grinning a lot these days.
As the Trojans sit and wait...and wait...and wait for the NCAA to rule on their appeal of the punishments handed down to USC related to the Reggie Bush scandal, the clock keeps ticking.
With one year off the board in their two-year bowl ban, Lane Kiffin can point to the upcoming year secure in the knowledge that no matter what the sanctimonious governing board decides, he knows that 2012 will be a year when USC can once again participate in a postseason bowl.
And while the emotional distress of not having a bowl game to play for is unquantifiable, it is a factor that weighs on the minds of not only the young players already with the Trojans but those prep players deciding where they will play their college ball.
Believe me, dangling that end-of-season carrot, in the form of a bowl game, matters.
And now that reward is one year closer.
Don't think for a moment that Kiffin and his staff won't use that to build momentum for the 2012 season.
Which is just another reason why 2011 is Kiffin's year.
What the casual USC fan may not understand is that Lane Kiffin has done a masterful job playing the recruiting cards dealt to him under the auspices of the looming NCAA sanctions, which, if not reduced via the Trojan appeal, will leave them 30 scholarships short over the next three years.
To lose that many scholarships over that short of a period can be simply debilitating for any program.
So what did Kiffin do?
Well, to put it simply, he and his staff went out and beat the cement relentlessly.
With the immense help of recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, the Trojans delivered a top five national class against all odds.
Last year's recruiting class was big on numbers (a necessity with the reduced scholarships expected to be available in the next three years) and huge on talent.
Heavy on talented skill players such receivers George Farmer Jr. and Victor Blackwell, running backs Amir Carlisle and Buck Allen, to go along with much-needed offensive linemen Aundrey Walker and Cyrus Hobbi, these youngsters will be cornerstones for the Trojans for years to come.
And only restrictions on space prevents me from mentioning all of the great other players Kiffin and his cohorts snagged last February.
Much like last year when Robert Woods and cornerback Nickell Robey came in and started as true freshmen, so will some of this year's incoming class.
Though very young, this class is also cerebral, and at least some will display the football acumen needed to complement their physical talent and thus find the field of play early.
Which also contributes mightily to the notion that this is Kiffin's year.
Khaled Holmes (returning center)
If any coaches of teams that are opponents of USC witnessed the spring practices of the Trojans this year, they would have smiled and smugly thought, "Well, we don't have much to fear this year from them."
And based on the generally sloppy play, they would be justified in taking that position.
They would also be foolhardy to do so.
With 23 players missing mostly due to injury, the Trojans cobbled a makeshift team together during the spring and the results were not unexpected.
Specifically, a patchwork offensive line left quarterback Matt Barkley scrambling for his life and any hope for the cohesion needed to mold a fine tuned unit was lost.
Because the offense couldn't operate at peak efficiency, it trickled down through the whole team.
Running backs couldn't find holes to run through, wide receivers didn't have the time to get open, and offensive plays broke down before they even started.
When was said and done, the defense dominated the offense and USC looked like a team with massive deficiencies.
But in the fall, those 23 players will be back.
And so will the hopes for a good offensive line.
Though the players who formed the offensive line in the spring should be commended for their efforts, they simply didn't have the experience needed to implement the playbook smoothly.
That will change in the fall.
And that is yet another reason this will be Kiffin's year.
Last year, wide receiver Robert Woods came to the Trojans hailed as one of the best prep players in the nation, and boy, he did not disappoint.
After a stellar true freshman campaign led to his being named to the freshman all-American team, even bigger things are expected from Woods in 2011.
And in terms of the passing game, Woods won't have to do it alone.
If Kyle Prater, a wideout who was just as heralded as Woods coming into 2010, can find his health, the Trojans will pack a 1-2 punch that may be as good as anyone in the nation.
Add proven veterans such Brandon Carswell and the newly re-admitted Brice Butler, and USC may have the deepest roster of receivers in the country.
Oh, and lets not forget that five-star wide receiver George Farmer Jr., and highly regarded pass catchers, Victor Blackwell and Junior Pomee will be here in the fall as well.
A veritable embarrassment of riches for quarterback Matt Barkley to play with.
Speaking of whom...
The Pac-12 is blessed with some of the finest quarterbacks, top to bottom, in the nation.
Whether you talking about Stanford's Andrew Luck, the consensus favorite to win this year's Heisman Trophy or Nick Foles, Arizona's excellent signal caller, no other conference can boast the quality of QB's as this conference.
And among the field generals who are considered among the very best in the country is none other than USC's Matt Barkley.
Barkley, who already has two years of starting experience under his belt, has everything one looks for in a quarterback.
Big, mobile enough, and blessed with an Einstein-like football IQ, Barkley is poised for a huge junior campaign.
Combine all that with a cannon for an arm and a plethora of talented receivers to play catch with, and all he needs to shine in 2011 is the time to throw.
And while the offensive line remains in flux, whatever situation presents itself to Barkley will be dealt with in the most productive manner possible.
Look for Matt Barkley to have a big year in 2011.
In doing so, he will provide yet another reason for Kiffin to have a big year.
Count on it.
As stated in prior slides, this will be the second year for the Trojans in Lane Kiffin's system.
While the basic framework of Lane Kiffin's and Pete Carroll's system may not be radically different in terms of fundamental philosophy, the people implementing it are.
With an almost complete turnover in personnel from the Carroll regime, it takes time for adjustment and last year was when that took place.
Now in 2011, with a year of exposure to the football acumen of Monte Kiffin, the gruff enthusiasm of Ed Orgeron, and the high energy of John Baxter, as well as all of the other outstanding coaches that make up Kiffin's staff, the players know what to expect and what is expected from them.
And that is huge.
Already the difference between this year and last in terms of how fast the defense is playing is abundantly evident.
The offense is expected to follow suit in the fall when the "big uglies" return to form the starting O-line.
To be certain, a second year in his system will help make this Lane Kiffin's year.
In all candor, it must be acknowledged that 2012, not 2011, should be the year when USC really makes hay as far as BCS bowl aspirations go.
And not just because the NCAA says so.
If Barkley returns for his senior year, the Trojans will be very well-placed to have a banner campaign after this year's dress rehearsal.
That year, USC will be a very good blend of experienced quality players and the incoming recruiting class of 2010 will have that all important year under their belts.
Nonetheless, there is a good possibly that 2011 will be more than just a tune up in preparation for 2012.
If things go right, this year can be special.
And if it is, USC can symbolically flip off the NCAA should its appeal be denied as expected.
If USC wins its division and is denied the ability to play for the conference title, it would strip away the veneer of legitimacy of its conference championship for the Pac-12 in its inaugural season.
Boy, would the NCAA gag on that.
And that would be the best reason of all for why this is Lane Kiffin's year.