Culver City Observer -

By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

USC, Now An Underdog, Tries To Recover


August 14, 2013

USC, Now An Underdog, Tries To Recover

Can this really be happening?

USC, so dominant on the football field in the recent past, enters the 2013 season trying to recover from a dismal year.

Not only did USC lose to UCLA, it finished with a 7-6 record after being ranked No. 1 in the nation at the outset.

The season ended with a loss in the Sun Bowl, and reports surfaced about a dispute in the locker room among players, with quarterback Matt Barkley among the peacemakers.

Barkley, previously a likely first round choice in the NFL draft, wasn’t selected until the fourth round.

With such a disappointing season changes were expected. Coach Lane Kiffin survived but his father, Monte Kiffin, resigned as architect of the defense. He went back to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys.

So now the 2013 season is coming up, and USC has a lot to prove. It is ranked only 24th in the coaches’ pre-season poll.

Kiffin had said he might give up calling the plays, but he has decided to continue in that role for the fourth straight season.

It’s the first controversial decision of the season. Clay Helton has been promoted to offensive coordinator, a title that usually would give him play-calling duties.

“I feel this is in the best interest of the team,” Kiffin explained.

As for Kiffin’s status, athletic director Pat Haden made a video saying he’s 100 percent behind the coach.

But despite some optimism, there’s reason for Trojan fans to be concerned.

First, there isn’t a clear cut choice as to Barkley’s successor. Sophomores Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are competing to be the starting quarterback. Highly regarded freshman Max Browne is in the competition too. If Browne doesn’t win the job he may be redshirted.

Wittek has more experience, but Kiffin says that isn’t a factor. “It will strictly be whoever does best in practice.”

Among the Trojans’ highlights is the return of dynamic receiver Marqise Lee, who became Barkley’s favorite target last season.

Robert Woods, who caught 111 passes the previous year but only 76 last season, has gone on to the NFL. But sophomore Nelson Agholor, a reserve last season, should be able to blossom as his replacement.

The Trojans, who get most of their offensive and defensive linemen back, will open the season on Thursday night, August 29 at Hawaii.

The Trojans have seven home games this season. USC will not play Oregon this year or next and its games against Stanford and UCLA will be at the Coliseum.


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