Today, USC is second in our series on Pac-12 spring football camps.
Starters returning: 16 (8 each way), plus PK Andre Heidari and P Kris Albarado.
Refresher on 2013: Trojans probably topped the nation for eventful seasons. They lost early at home to 15-point underdog Washington State, and soon after, allowed 62 points at Arizona State, which caused coach Lane Kiffin to be fired at the LA airport after his team returned home. Interim coach Ed Orgeron piloted Troy to a 6-1 record before a blowout loss to UCLA, and after USC named Steve Sarkisian to replace Kiffin, offensive aide Clay Helton coached USC’s wide win in the Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State. In the end, it was a 10-4 season.
Coaching changes: Sarkisian came from Washington, marking the fourth time he arrived as a coach at USC. He brought with him five assistants from the UW, including defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, and went outside to hire OL coach Tim Drevno (from the 49ers) and DL coach Chris Wilson (from Georgia).
Spring concerns: Installing Sarkisian’s no-huddle offense (which retains most of USC’s traditional pro-style look) and Wilcox’s hybrid 3-4 defense.
Developments: Trojans had to replace five early departures to the NFL – WR Marqise Lee, C Marcus Martin, DT George Uko, TE Xavier Grimble and S-LB Dion Bailey . . . NCAA scholarship restrictions caused by the Reggie Bush violations are now done, but the effect lingers; USC won’t have more than 70 players on scholarship, and in 2013, the Trojans used 14 or fewer players on defense in six games . . . lots of raw material, though, as the Trojans were in the top 25 on defense in eight statistical categories, and they return their top three tacklers, as well as their leaders in tackles for loss, forced fumbles and pass deflections . . . defense mostly ruled the spring . . . Max Tuerk moved to center, after having played 20 games at center and guard . . . OL was a jumble, as one of three starters back, Aundray Walker, recovered from an ankle injury . . . some 20-plus players missed much of spring while rehabbing or out with injuries, including standouts DT Leonard Williams, S Su’a Cravens, CB Josh Shaw and TB Justin Davis . . . incumbent QB Cody Kessler nailed down the starting job over Skyline product Max Browne in what the LA Times said was “generously” labeled a competition by Sarkisian . . . DL got a boost with the play of Delvon Simmons, Kenny Bigelow and JC transfer Claude Pelon . . . Sarkisian said returning DL Antwaun Woods set “the standard” on that side of the ball . . . TB Javorius “Buck” Allen missed time with an ankle sprain, but WR Nelson Agholor said not to worry: “Whoever plays us should be worried. We’ve got monsters in the backfield.” . . . lefty QB Jalen Greene came in early from nearby Serra High and impressed . . . OG Toa Lobendahn arrived early as well and unwittingly became part of a mini-controversy when he was given USC’s hallowed No. 55. When ex-Trojans great Willie McGinest questioned that, Sarkisian said Lobendahn probably wouldn’t wear that number in the fall.
Spring game: In a low-key scrimmage, Kessler went five of 10 for 86 yards, Browne 6 of 17 for 76, and Heidari accounted for the only points with four field goals.
Quotable: Sarkisian (on Browne’s status) – “I thought Max had a tremendous spring. He showed tremendous development not only physically but mentally. He’s an unbelievable competitor, and I really believe whenever his number’s called, he’s going to play great football for us.”
2014 schedule: After an opener against Fresno State, Trojans go to Stanford in an early Pac-12 crucial Sept. 6. In ’14, they miss Oregon and Washington.