Here are five key questions as USC holds its first practice today:
1. Who will start at quarterback?
Cody Kessler enjoyed the best spring of any quarterback. Max Wittek has the strongest arm and started two games last season. That is the dilemma for Lane Kiffin, who likes Wittek’s physical attributes. Freshman Max Browne is also available but needs more time to learn the offense.
2. What’s up with the secondary?
It was a near-emb arassment during spring practice. But safety Josh Shaw should move to cornerback and Dion Bailey will play safety, which might make this a better-than-anticipated group. The player to watch is freshman safety Su’a Cravens, who is an extraordinary playmaker.
3. Has Lane Kiffin really learned anything?
Kiffin spent the off-season trying to soften his image then promptly announced he would close practices during the regular season. More important, does the team listen to him? He lost the locker room last year and a key to this season is whether the Trojans actually respond to him.
4. Can USC stop the spread offense?
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pedergast was hired just to stop the Pac-12’s high-tempo spread offenses. His 5-2 formation needs to do that or it could be another tough season for the defense. At least he will make things simpler than his predecessor, Monte Kiffin.
5. Is the offensive line really better?
Kiffin blamed the offensive line for last season’s woes, which is easier than blaming his playcalling. He wants it to be more physical and with Max Tuerk a year older, that should be possible. But what is going on at right tackle? Kiffin made sure to note two-year starter Kevin Graf is a co-starter on depth chart with unused Chad Wheeler.