USC hosted its annual spring game on Saturday, and a number of players already look to be in mid-season form.
The informal exhibition game featured the team's offense wearing cardinal going against the defense in white. The defense would get points for stops (three points), turnovers (five points) and scores (seven points).
In the end, the offensive side was able to get the win 42-36.
However, more important than the score was how the players were able to perform in front of a solid crowd of Trojans fans. While every position featured its storylines, nothing was more interesting than the quarterback battle.
Max Wittek got the start after taking over for Matt Barkley toward the end of last season. While he struggled in his starts against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, he looked good against his teammates in the spring game.
He will have to hold off Cody Kessler, who only threw two passes last season but tossed three touchdowns in the win for the Cardinal team on Saturday.
Max Browne will also be in the competition throughout the offseason and had a few nice throws on the day. Unfortunately, he also had a few poor passes to make people remember that he is still very young.
Also noteworthy was three touchdown catches by Marqise Lee at wide receiver.
The rising junior is one of the best at his position in the country and will succeed regardless of who is throwing him the ball this year.
The defense showed a solid pass rush throughout the day, but the secondary left a lot to be desired. Still, there is plenty of time for improvement before opening the season on August 29.
Altogether, this was a successful day for a program looking to return to the top of the college football world.
The first thing fans noticed from the beginning of the game was that many regular players were absent due to injury. According to the athletic department's official Twitter account, there were 20 players out of commission:
USC Trojans @USC_Athletics
USC will be without 20 injured players for Saturday's Spring Game. The depth issues are so bad that Lane Kiffin played RB in practice today.4/12/2013, 2:18:10 AM
Still, the ones on the field performed very well, especially at quarterback. Lisa Horne of Fox Sports was quite impressed with the signal-callers on the day:
Lisa Horne @LisaHorne
The quarterbacks are playing very well....Kiffin's gonna have a tough decision to make in the fall.4/13/2013, 8:39:45 PM
Here were the final stats for the three players contending for a starting spot, courtesy of USC Football News:
USC Football News @USCFootballNews
#USC QB stats: Wittek 12/17, 145 yards, 2 TD 2 INT; Kessler 17/23, 236 yards, 3 TD; Browne 7/10, 82 yards, 1 TD 1 INT.4/13/2013, 9:57:42 PM
As you can see, there was plenty of yards and scoring to go around.
As a result, there were aspects of the team that Horne did not find as impressive:
Lisa Horne @LisaHorne
So USC's secondary....no words needed here.4/13/2013, 8:34:59 PM
Fortunately, Pac-12 writer Bryan Fischer is not concerned with the defense heading into next season:
Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer
On the positive side, USC should be better on defense and definitely will be against the run. Now the corners on the other hand…4/13/2013, 9:03:11 PM
It is quite tough to judge the defense in this game since there was no tackling allowed. The head coach Lane Kiffin made that decision just a day before the exhibition, according to Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register:
Rich Hammond @Hammond_OCR
Kiffin said he made decision yesterday to not tackle. Hard to judge running game because of that.4/13/2013, 10:06:58 PM
Either way, this was a nice showing for almost everyone on the team. While some players shined and others struggled, nothing will be decided on this game alone.