USC opens spring practice today and there are some big questions for the Trojans. Here’s a top 5 that I wrote for today’s paper.
1. WHO STARTS AT CENTER? There is no clear-cut frontrunner here because the Trojans lost three centers from last season (Marcus Martin, Abe Markowitz, Cyrus Hobbi). The best player for the job is starting left guard Max Tuerk, but does coach Steve Sarkisian want to create another void by moving Tuerk here? The most natural candidate is freshman Toa Lobendahn, who was in high school three months ago. Redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers is another candidate.
Point guard Jordan McLaughlin of Etiwanda High School, who signed with USC last November, suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and will undergo shoulder surgery. This type of surgery can sideline athletes 3-4 months but that is a general time frame.
As spring practice begins, it is ironic that three of the most high-profile assistants from last season — Ed Orgeron, Clancy Pendergast, John Baxter — are without jobs. Orgeron seems like he decided to take the year off. Pendergast’s personality is the not most outgoing and that might hurt him getting another job. Baxter’s kept a low profile and could be in Fresno for all I know.
How quickly will USC players learn the new defense? Former Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox runs a hybrid defense that uses 4-3 and 3-4 formations.
The main issue is the veteran players are adjusting to their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. That’s an adjustment that takes time for any player. And it’s also an indictment of the program the past three seasons.
Here’s 5 positions to keep an eye on during spring practice, which starts tomorrow:
Right guard Aundrey Walker is out after a slow recovery from a fractured ankle. Marcus Martin turned pro and Kevin Graf graduated. That leaves three open spots during the spring. USC desperately needs to find a center and figure out where to put its best lineman, Max Tuerk.
Last April, when Andy Enfield was introduced as basketball coach, who would have been laughed out of the room if they said, “Andy, you will win the same number of games in the Pac-12 next year as you just won in a week of the NCAA Tournament.”
What is an issue entering spring practice that is not being discussed in public? According to sources, it is the lack of athleticism at quarterback and whether USC can run all of Steve Sarkisian’s hurry-up offense. Maybe this is one reason Sarkisian speaks so highly of freshman Jalen Greene, despite the fact he is not ready to play.
Sarkisian was used to Keith Price and Cyler Miles at Washington. He might need to modify his offense to adjust to the traditional quarterbacks he is now dealing with at USC.
Arizona guard Nick Johnson is named player of the year and the Wildcats’ Sean Miller is coach of the year. No one from USC is anywhere on the all-conference lists, even honorable mention. At least that will change when the USC women’s team (above) gets its conference honors.
The Pac-12 all-conference team and individual honors after the jump:
Does anyone seriously believe the nation’s two top quarterbacks reside within a couple hours of each other? Josh Rosen and Ricky Town are ranked the top two quarterbacks by the recruiting services.
Rosen was the MVP at Sunday’s Nike combine but Town was inconsistent and threw an interception. Corona Santiago QB Blake Barnett (committed to Notre Dame) and Hart QB Brady White looked better.
Does it matter? Are high school combines really effective measures of one’s talent? Are you nervous Rosen seems headed to UCLA? Whatever you think, rankings are overrated. I do not believe for a second there is not a QB in the South or Midwest who is better or just as good as Rosen and Town. Blake Bortles was a three star and ranked the 44th-best quarterback by Rivals in 2010. Now he may be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
So does any of this combine/rankings chatter matter? Not really. You know what matters? Coaching.