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Daily 5: USC Trojans Spring Practice Questions

USC Trojans Spring Football Practice Questions


The USC Trojans spring practice kicks off on March 7th, trying to pick up where the team left off in the Rose Bowl. What are the five things that have to be answered this spring?


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Daily 5: USC Trojans Spring Questions

5. How quickly can USC replace the key defensive stars?

Adoree Jackson just spent his Monday in Indianapolis looking like the silkiest, smoothest defensive back in a loaded class of silky, smooth defensive backs. LB Michael Hutchings was the team’s third-leading tackler, solid SS Leon McQuay III is gone, as is the anchor and main man for the defensive front seven, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu on the nose.

USC might have a tremendous group of relatively young defensive players coming back, but those four were key parts of the puzzle. There’s a lot more talent ready to become national stars – LB Cameron Smith led the team in tackles and Iman Marshall has all the tools to be the next great corner – and spring ball has to unearth the new main men.

4. Who’s replacing the three NFL starters on the O line?

Tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner were fantastic, and guard Damien Mama was a mauler’s mauler for an offensive front that allowed just 12 sacks last season and pounded out over five yards per carry.

Mama might be the toughest replacement considering what a blaster he was, but it’ll be an open casting call at tackle with several options being tried out. If this isn’t fixed right away, and if this isn’t a plus early on in the season, forget about the College Football Playoff. There’s talent, and there’s potential, but the pieces of the puzzle might not be put together until later this summer.

3. Is wide receiver going to be a problem?

It’s USC, so of course not, but leading receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is gone, as is Darreus Rogers and his 56 catches – good for tying for second on the team. This is where Deontay Burnett comes in, making 56 grabs for 622 yards and seven scores, most notably ripping up Penn State for three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, and now the spotlight will be on to be the No. 1 guy.

However, watch out for the youth movement to shine through. There might be targets in place to get through the spring, but a loaded group of underclassmen have to start living up to the hype.

2. What can Sam Darnold do next?

Myles Garrett might be a special prospect, but Darnold would probably be a Cleveland Brown if he was eligible to come out for the NFL draft after his freshman season. He threw nine picks, had a few problems here and there putting the ball on the ground, and he wasn’t always perfect, but he ran well, bombed his way past Washington, ripped through Penn State, and finished the season with 31 touchdown passes and close to 3,100 yards despite not getting the starting not until the fourth game.

It’s his team now, and it’s his 2017 college footballs season. Already the preseason favorite to win the Heisman, already the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, already the guy who’ll win a national title or bust for the Trojans, the pressure will be suffocating. There can’t be a sophomore slump in any way, shape or form.

1. Really, is this a national championship-caliber team?

Short answer? Ehhhhhhh, potentially, but give it the offseason to see how the position battles shake out.

The hype will be off the charts after the way the Trojans ripped through the season after a 1-3 September, but there are way, way too many concerns to assume they’ll be a lock to get into the tournament.

Beyond the normal key position concerns – and blowing off the idea of what might happen if Darnold goes down for a stretch – the Pac-12 is better now. Yeah, the Trojans beat the Huskies and Nittany Lions, but there were a whole lot of wins over teams that didn’t go bowling.

Everyone always wants to beat USC no matter what, but now this is really and truly going to be the hunted team. With Stanford and Texas coming up early in the season, there won’t be much time to sharpen up – to go cliche, every spring practice matters. There’s more work to do than many might think.