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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

April 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Spring camps in the Pac-12: Part 1 — USC

This is the first in a series reviewing spring football camps at Pac-12 schools. Today, the USC Trojans.

Starters returning – 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense), plus two kickers.

Refresher on 2011 – Bowl-ineligible for the second straight year, the Trojans nevertheless had a strong season, going 10-2 and beating both teams (Oregon and UCLA) that played in the first Pac-12 title game. After a three-touchdown loss at Arizona State, they caught fire in mid-season, losing only in triple overtime to Stanford the rest of the way. The Trojans never scored fewer than 30 points over the final eight games and won as a big underdog at Oregon late in the season, spoiling the Ducks’ chance of a repeat trip to the national title game. Matt Barkley, one of the prime contenders for the 2012 Heisman Trophy, completed 69 percent of his passes, receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee turned in 1,000-yard seasons and tailback Curtis McNeal rushed for 1,005 yards with a 6.9-yard average. Barkley announced he was returning for his senior year, as did All-American safety T.J. McDonald. With the return of Barkley and McDonald, Trojans seem poised for a run at the ’12 national title.

Coaching changes – Three new full-time assistants are on board – Tee Martin, who quarterbacked the 1998 Tennessee team to the national title and has been on the Kentucky staff the past two years, is now wide receivers coach; Marvin Sanders, who headed up the Nebraska secondary from 2008-10, and is now in charge of the secondary; and Scottie Hazelton, new linebackers coach, who spent five years at North Dakota State, which won the FCS national title in 2011.

Major spring concerns – Replacing All-America left tackle Matt Kalil . . . developing depth at running back . . . finding a backup QB to Barkley . . . shoring up defensive tackle spots.

Developments – Backup RB Tre Madden tore an ACL in a non-contact drill. Redshirt freshman Javorious Allen (6-0, 215) occasionally showed promise as a possible backup there . . . USC is in the latter stages of construction on the $70-million John McKay Center, due to be finished by the fall. It will include coaches offices, football locker room, weight room and training room . . . Barkley threw seven interceptions in nine early spring workouts, leading coach Lane Kiffin to say he was “bored.” Barkley disputed that, saying the absence of Woods and Lee from some workouts hindered him . . . Woods, who played through some ankle problems last fall and had December surgery, didn’t respond as quickly as expected and sat out the last four weeks of drills to ensure his health in the fall . . . Lee, a 24-foot-plus long jumper, divided his time between track and football. Kiffin said Lee “could be the best receiver ever to play here.” . . . hamstring injury that kept WR George Farmer out of most of drills further cramped the offense . . . Barkley got fewer snaps than normal so backups Cody Kessler and Max Wittek could get more. The competition likely will heat up in a year with the addition of Max Browne, the Skyline High standout, having committed. Meanwhile, QB Jesse Scroggins missed time with a hip injury and academic issues. The end-of-spring depth chart shows Wittek and Kessler as co-No. 2s . . . Aundray Walker, 6-6, 320-pound rising sophomore, settled in at the LT spot . . . DT positions are led by J.R. Tavai, 6-2, 270-pound true soph, and George Uko, 6-3, 285-pound third-year soph.

Spring game – Using a scoring formula, the USC defense beat the offense, 34-27, in front of 15,515 Apr. 14. Tailback D.J. Morgan had a 47-yard TD run and fullback Soma Vainuku a 44-yard scoring pass from Barkley, who was 23 of 39 for 212 yards. Barkley threw an interception, as did Kessler, helping the defense’s total. It gained five points per turnover and three for stopping offensive drives.

2012 schedule – Trojans host Hawaii and play Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J., starting a four-games-in-five stretch of road tests, first in the Pac-12 at Stanford Sept. 15 and the last at Washington Oct. 13.

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