The 2012 college football season began with the University of Southern California Trojans (USC) ranked first in the country. However, the rating became suspect early on and then the team came apart as the season ended, losing an astonishing five contests through their last six games. Plenty of questions arose after the season ended and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for queries into just about every phase of the team.
With many new coaches and players along with a new system, uncertainty reigns supreme in Southern California. Of course, the biggest matter at hand was how do you start the 2012 season as the nation’s favorite to go all the way but end up 7-6, topped off with a loss to lowly Georgia Tech in the cool wind-swept Sun Bowl?
True, the Trojans were 6-1 at one stage of the season and looked like they could still challenge for national recognition. However, a sloppy shootout loss in Tucson ended those hopes, and now we’re left with more questions. Head coach Lane Kiffin will likely be on the hot seat this coming year but he hasn’t sat back but rather has made big changes at USC. Here’s a look at five of the main issues in front of the men of Troy heading into 2013.
Sources: University of Southern California
USC Trojans Dynamic Dozen
Who will be the Trojan quarterback?
With four-year starter Matt Barkley moving on to the NFL, which of the two remaining quarterbacks will start or might the incoming phenom break through?
When Kiffin named Max Wittek as Barkley’s replacement before the Notre Dame game, Wittek certainly was the front-runner for 2013. But less than stellar play in losses to the Irish and again in the Sun Bowl has blown the competition wide open. Cody Kessler who has been neck-and-neck with Wittek since both entered USC two years ago doesn’t have the size of his two competitors but he does have a great many intangibles. The incoming number one prep quarterback in the country Max Browne is already enrolled and going to classes. He has everything a QB needs except for experience. Again, this is a wide open competition and will be watched closely during spring practice.
What changes will Lane Kiffin install on offense?
Kiffin has moved quarterback coach Clay Helton into the offensive coordinator role but what that means as far as play-calling remains to be seen. Kiffin has always called his own plays since he became the Trojans head coach. There was a lot of scrutiny from all corners as to Kiffin’s running of the offense last season and most will be watching to see if or what changes will come from the offense.
How will the new coaches work out?
Speaking of new coaches, on offense Kiffin hired Mike Summers as offensive line coach and Tommie Robinson as running back coach. Summers will take on the additional duties as coordinator of the running game (he had the exact same coaching titles at Kentucky). If you’re counting, there are now two offensive line coaches because James Cregg still remains the offensive line coach. Kiffin also hired Mike Ekeler as linebacker coach. Without going into an expanded explanation of these changes, it appears Kiffin is trying. Whether that means it’s all on paper and Kiffin continues his old ways remains to be seen.
Will the new 3-4 defense help?
USC is moving from Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 style 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Kiffin hired Clancy Pendergast in the offseason and the former Cal coach will be both the defensive backfield coach and the defensive coordinator. Pendergast also likes to use a 5-2 scheme to slow down the spread offenses and that should help considering the athletes the Trojans can put on the field. This will be a developing situation.
When will the new changes take shape with results?
On paper, the USC Trojans will be a different team in 2013. This spring will offer up new coaches and maybe different play-calling along with a brand new defense. How this develops during spring and fall and finally the season is still a huge question.
What hasn’t changed for the Los Angeles school is the quality of players. If these gridiron stars are put in the right place at the right time, they can offer up potentially a fresh and dynamic team capable of playing with anyone in the country. How soon this comes to fruition is up for debate and surely Kiffin’s job may be on the line if these changes don’t happen soon enough.