Here’s my look at USC’s strengths and weaknesses as spring concludes:
Upside: Matt Barkley is a year older and some impact freshmen (tailback Dillon Baxter, wide receiver Robert Woods) are expected to shake things up.
Downside: Maybe Barkley won’t improve with age, the offensive line’s depth is a problem and where’s the reliable wide receiver to complement Ronald Johnson?
Key battles: Freshman Seantrel Henderson will push Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith at the tackle position. Nobody knows who will start at tight end (Blake Ayles? Jordan Cameron? Xavier Grimble? And will Allen Bradford finally be the guy at tailback?
Ones to watch: Baxter, Woods, Johnson.
Upside: Assistant coach Ed Orgeron is lucky because the defensive line is among the best in the nation.
Downside: The safeties and one cornerback will be suspect and the depth at linebacker is slightly more than non-existent.
Key battles: Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo are in the highest-profile competition at middle linebacker. T.J. Bryant, Brian Baucham and Torin Harris are trying to win the cornerback spot opposite Shareece Wright. Jawanza Starling and Drew McAllister will be a training camp story to see who starts at safety.
Ones to watch: Nose tackle Jurrell Casey, defensive end Armond Armstead, Wright.
Upside: New special teams coach John Baxter compiled a nation-leading 49 blocked kicks at Fresno State from 2002-2009.
Downside: Kicker Jordan Congdon is gone and USC needs a new snapper for punts.
Key battles: No real competition here. Joe Houston is the kicker and Jake Harfman is the punter. Harfman will handle kickoffs. Baxter needs to find a holder to replace Garrett Green.
Ones to watch: Snapper Chris Pousson will try to handle short-and-long snapping this season for the first time.