I asked lead editor Trenise Ferreia from Reign of Troy about the USC program this year and here is what he had to say:
1. Who are the most dangerous returning players on offense?
The Trojans can attack from all fronts. On the receiving end they are led by Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, two young guys who had insane seasons last year. Woods is still recovering from an ankle injury, but he will be up and running come August. Between the two of them last season, they garnered 2735 yards and 26 touchdowns. On the ground, USC has Curtis McNeal, who exploded last year. He rushed for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns of his own. And if USC doesn’t feel like using those guys, it can rely on Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble, two big tight ends that can run it down opponent’s throats, or snag balls out of the air. USC is pretty deep offensively this season, with the only area of concern being at running back, as the Trojans have yet to establish a viable option for the back up position.
2. Who are the most dangerous returning players on defense?
USC is returning 10 defensive starters, most notably T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey. McDonald is a hard-hitting safety that absolutely crushes opponents. He is imposing for his size and his ability to get to and break up plays. He had 67 tackles, a team-high three picks, two deflections, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt. Look for him to improve his stock even more this season. Nickell Robey is USC’s best cornerback, and one of the best corners in the conference. He is going into his junior season but already has established his on Robey Island in the Trojan backfield. He gets under receivers and effectively jams them, as we have seen him shut down the best the Pac-12 has to offer time and time again. Robey has 63 tackles, two sacks, a team-high nine deflections and two picks. One of those was a pick-6 against Stanford in that triple-OT thriller. These guys are going to lead the way for USC defensively.
3. Which freshman player do you expect to make the most impact right out of the gate?
WR Nelson Agholor is probably the freshman most poised to have an immediate impact. He will be the next best thing in the Trojan wide receiver corps.
4. Which player from last year will the team miss the most?
USC is going to miss Matt Kalil the most, and is experience at left tackle. He deftly protected Matt Barkley’s blindside, as the quarterback only got sacked eight times. The Trojans are going to be hard pressed to replace him, but with tackles like Aundrey Walker and Kevin Graf on the line, they should be fine without him.
5. What is one major aspect of your team’s gameplan that you expect to be different from last year?
Since USC is returning so many of its offensive and defensive stars, it’s hard to say just how different this squad will be from the 2011 one, if it all. If anything, they will be more cohesive and therefore stronger.
6. What is your biggest concern heading in to the season?
The game at Utah is going to be HUGE for SC, as this game could easily be a trap. The Utes almost upset the Trojans in the Coliseum this year, so it will be key that SC does not take this game lightly. Also, the health of Curtis McNeal will be important, as the run game will live and die by him until a reliable backup emerges.
7.What game are you most excited about and why?
The most exciting game will probably be the rematch between Oregon and USC in the Coliseum. Last year USC went to Autzen and beat the Ducks, in front of all the Ducks fans and the NBA stars that Phil Knight brought to the game. These two teams will likely duke it out again in the Pac-12 title game, but the first time around will determine a lot in terms of SC’s title hopes.
8. What is the overall expectation of how this team should finish?
USC is expected to win the Pac-12 South and win out the conference, and then from their go on to bowl game glory, which is exciting since they haven’t been able to go to the postseason for two years. Fans and analysts alike have USC pegged in the title game, but at the very least a Rose Bowl is expected. Anything less will be considered a fail.