2013 USC Trojans Football Preview
Southern California Trojans
Head Coach: Lane Kiffin
2012 record: 7-6 overall, 5-4 Pac 12 South
2012 Bowl Result: Lost to Georgia Tech 21-7 in the Sun Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
Odds to Win 2014 BCS Championship Game: 95/2
Odds to Win 2013 Pac 12 Championship Game: 6/1
Odds to win 2013 Pac 12 South Division: +230
Regular Season Wins: under 9.5 -120 / over 9.5 -110
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Last season, USC was #1 in the preseason polls. It was quickly apparent, the Trojans were vastly overrated when they struggled to stop a mediocre Syaracuse team in New Jersey. Then USC lost at eventual Pac 12 Champion Stanford 21-14. USC would then win 4 straight conference games by double digits. Then the wheels fell off, as Southern Cal would only beat Arizona State for the rest of the season. The Trojans suffered humiliating losses at Arizona and UCLA and home losses to Oregon and Notre Dame. The Trojans finished the regular season with a very disappointing 7-5 record and were beaten by Georgia Tech 21-7 in the Sun Bowl. The Trojans had no interest in being in El Paso on New Year’s Eve and it showed in a lackluster performance against the Yellow Jackets. It didn’t help that quarterback Matt Barkley was injured against UCLA and would miss the season finale against Notre Dame and the Bowl game.
USC should be much better with 15 starters returning. They had better be or coach Lane Kiffin could be out of a job.
Kiffin fired offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Clay Helton. Kiffin will still likely call the plays. The offense wasn’t terrible last year averaging 32 points per game, but Kiffin has said he wants more of an emphasis on the running game this season after they averaged just over 150 yards a game last season.
Barkley is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, so the Trojans must find a new quarterback for the first time since 2008. A pair of sophomores, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are locked in a tight battle to replace Barkley. Barkley threw for over 3,200 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions before a shoulder injury ended his Trojan career. The Trojans closed up fall camp earlier this week and Kiffin has not named his starter yet. Wittek took over for Barkley after the injury and threw for 388 yards with 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. All five of his interceptions came in the two games he started against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Kessler threw only 2 passes last year but looked sharper in spring practice. True Freshman Max Browne will likely be the quarterback of the future unless something happens to Kessler and Wittek.
Senior running back Silas Redd, a former Penn State transfer had 167 carries, 905 yards, and 9 touchdowns, and also had 9 catches, 113 yards and a touchdown. He tore his meniscus is spring practice, but will be ready by the start of the season. Five star recruit Justin Davis will also get significant carries, and could even overtake Redd for the #1 back. Sophomore Tre Madden is coming off a torn ACL but will get some carries as well. Sophomores Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner will rotate at fullback.
Junior receiver Marqise Lee returns after a season in which he was an unanimous All-American and won the Biletnikoff award for the nation’s best receiver. Lee will be a very high NFL draft pick when he does leave USC. He had 118 catches, 1,721 yards, and 14 touchdowns, along with 13 carries for 106 yards. The Trojans must replace second leading receiver Robert Woods, now with the Buffalo Bills. Woods had 76 catches, 846 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with a 76 yard run. Sophomore Nelson Agholor looks to replace Woods after making 19 catches, 340 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior tight end Xavier Grimble is another NFL prospect who made 29 catches, for 316 yards and 5 touchdowns. Randall Telfer will also play on Sundays very soon. The junior tight end would start for almost every other team in the country, but he is behind Grimble. Telfer had 12 catches last year and 4 went for touchdowns. No other receiver on the depth chart besides Lee and Agholor caught more than one pass last year. Senior De’Von Flournoy has only one career catch at USC, but will get more targets as will freshman Darreus Rogers.
Four starters return on the offensive line for the Trojans, with the notable exception of center Khaled Holmes. The line led the Pac 12 in fewest sacks allowed. Junior Marcus Martin moves from left guard (where he started for the last two years) to center to replace Holmes. Sophomore Max Tuerk started the last 5 games last season at left tackle but now moves to left guard to replace Martin. Senior right guard John Martinez was honorable mention All-Pac 12 last season. Junior Aundrey Walker has battled injury in his career but will start at left tackle. Senior Kevin Graf will likely start at right tackle for the third straight season, but he has been pushed hard by redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler. Nathan Guertler and Cyrus Hobbi add depth to the unit.
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The USC defense allowed 24 points a game, which isn’t terrible but not exactly great either. However, in the losses to Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA, the defense gave up an average of 46 points, including 62 to Oregon. Kiffin even fired his own father Monte as defensive coordinator and replaced him with Clancy Pendergast. Monte Kiffin is now the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. USC will use a 5-2 defense.
The switch to the 5-2 defense means even though 7 starters return many of them will be at different positions. Sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams was the Pac 12 freshman defensive player of the year with 64 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 8 sacks, four blocked passes, and 2 recovered fumbles. Junior George Uko will start at the other end after making 31 tackles, 9 for loss, and 5 sacks. Sophomores Antwaun Woods and Cody Temple will rotate at the nose. Greg Townsend, Jr. and J.R. Tavai will also see time in the rotation.
The 5-2 will employ 2 traditional linebackers and a pair of hybrid ends/linebackers. Senior Morgan Breslin had 62 tackles, 19.5 for loss, and 13 sacks, and will be one of the outside linebackers. Devon Kennard missed all of 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle, but will start at the other outside linebacker. Middle linebacker Hayes Pullard moves over from the weakside and made 107 tackles last year. Junior Lamar Dawson and sophomore Anthony Sarao will rotate at the weakside. Dawson made 74 tackles last year. Senior Kevin Greene will also see time at linebacker.
Junior Dion Bailey moves from linebacker to strong safety after making 80 tackles and 4 interceptions last year. Junior Josh Shaw and 5 star recruit Su’a Cravens will also see time at safety. Shaw made 30 tackles, 8 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions last year. Cravens was the #1 rated safety in the class of 2013. Senior Demetrius Wright and freshman Leon McQuay III will rotate at free safety. Senior Gerald Bowman could also be in the mix if he recovers from a torn calf muscle. Junior Anthony Brown, senior Torin Harris, and sophomore Kevon Seymour will rotate at the 2 corner spots.
Junior kicker Andre Heidari made 39 of 41 extra points, and made 10 of 16 field goals. It was kind of a step down from his spectacular freshman year when he made 15 of 17 field goals.
Sophomore punter Kris Albarado takes over from Kyle Negrete, who averaged 42 yards per punt.
Nickell Robey will return punts. Robey averaged 9.5 yards per return. Lee will return kicks again after averaging 28.5 yards per return with a touchdown last year.
USC opens at Hawaii, before 3 straight home games against Washington St, Boston College, and Utah St. The Trojans then travel to Arizona State before hosting Arizona. USC should be undefeated as they head to South Bend to take on rival Notre Dame. A home game against Utah, precedes a road trip to Oregon State and California. The Stanford comes to the Coliseum, before the Trojans travel to Colorado. USC closes at home against crosstown rival UCLA.
With the questions at quarterback, USC will lean more on the running game. Lee is the best receiver in the country, and he will help out the young quarterbacks. The 5-2 defense is intriguing with so many players moving to different positions. Nine wins seems about right for USC but they could win 10 or 11 if everything goes right.
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