USC Football: 7 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013

Rick McMahanSenior Writer ISeptember 22, 2013

USC Football: 7 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Another week has passed in the 2013 college football season, and with it came yet another disappointing performance by this year's version of the men of Troy.

    Despite a 17-14 win over a game Utah State team that elevated the Trojans' record to 3-1, USC still has some significant hurdles to overcome to get where they want to be this year.

    Though defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast still has his unit playing at a very high level, Lane Kiffin's offense is nothing short of pathetic.

    Unable to put points on the board—or even get a first down when needed—USC's offense has been a study in futility since the season began.

    Now preparing to enter the meat of the schedule, USC has to find some answers now or suffer the indignity of what could very quickly become an ugly season.

    However, there have been some surprises for the Trojans as players have either stepped up or—in some cases—slipped down in 2013.

    This slideshow will look at those players who have either helped or hurt the Trojans so far this year.

    So without further delay, here are the surprising players of 2013 for the Cardinal and Gold.

Cody Kessler (Quarterback)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Not all surprises are of the pleasant variety, and this is certainly the case with quarterback Cody Kessler.

    Kessler, a first-year starter, was the fans' choice to take over for the departed Matt Barkley, and so far, it looks as though this experiment is failing.

    Leading an offense that usually looks bewildered, Kessler has been a combination of bad or worse as he either overthrows his receivers or takes bad sacks.

    Of course, this is not to say the Trojans have anyone better because Kessler's backup, Max Wittek, has been awful as well, but suffice to say, this is not what people had in mind when they called for Kessler to lead USC in 2013.

Marqise Lee (Wide Receiver)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Another player on the wrong side of the "surprise" list, All-American wide receiver Marqise Lee has struggled this season, but his woes come with an asterisk.

    As mentioned before, USC has had serious issues at quarterback, and that has directly impacted Lee's productivity to be certain.

    However, Lee is not without fault himself as he has uncharacteristically dropped several passes and at times seems disinterested or perhaps even frustrated.

    And it's not like Lee has been horrible, but by his standards, 23 receptions and one touchdown through four games are not "Lee-like" numbers to be sure.

Andre Heidari (Kicker)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Special teams are also represented on this list of surprises, and unfortunately, the surprise is that kicker Andre Heidari is struggling in 2013.

    Heidari—who was injured for much of 2012—was thought to be healthy now, but his performance on the field would not support that contention.

    While kickoffs that often don't reach the end zone are merely annoying, it is his inconsistency in the field-goal department that is truly vexing.

    Including his miss Saturday against Utah State, Heidari is now 4-for-7 on the year, which, as anyone can tell you, does not qualify as "money" when it comes to producing three points when needed.

    With such an anemic offense in 2013, USC counts on Heidari, and so far, he has not produced.

Kris Albarado (Punter)

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    photo from usctrojans.com
    photo from usctrojans.com

    Not all of the surprises in 2013 are bad for the Trojans, and one of the pleasant variety is punter Kris Albarado.

    Taking over for the graduated Kyle Negrete, Albarado has seen the field of play more than Trojan fans would like, but when called, he has delivered.

    Averaging over 40 yards per attempt, Albarado's specialty has been pinning opponents inside their own 20, which he has done 12 times out of the 23 times he has kicked the ball.

    Though all would agree that he has had far too many opportunities, Albarado has been a pleasant surprise in 2013.

Demetrius Wright (Safety)

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    photo from 247sports.com
    photo from 247sports.com

    On a defense that has been lights out in 2013, safety Demetrius Wright has been outstanding for coordinator Clancy Pendergast's unit.

    Often an afterthought when it came to analyzing the safeties, Wright has not only played well but also is tied for second on the team in total tackles with 19.

    Playing well in all facets of the game, Wright has been a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Su'a Cravens (Safety)

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    photo from 247sports.com
    photo from 247sports.com

    Although he was a very highly regarded recruit, true freshmen aren't supposed to play so well, so soon, yet there is Su'a Cravens, simply blowing people away for the Trojans' vaunted defense in 2013.

    Intelligent and athletically gifted, Cravens looks like a veteran rather than an 19-year-old kid with only four games under his belt.

    Tied for fifth on the team with 18 tackles, Cravens also has an interception to show for his efforts.

    Though it is not a surprise that he is this good, it is a revelation that he has become so dominant so quickly.

Tre Madden (Running Back)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When USC opened the 2013 college football season, it was expected that senior running back Silas Redd would be toting the rock for the men of Troy.

    However, a knee injury to Redd in the spring resulted in surgery, and that has opened the door for Tre Madden, a converted linebacker who also is returning from a knee injury he suffered in 2012.

    To say Madden has made the most of the opportunity would be an understatement to say the least.

    Madden opened the season by rushing for more than 100 yards in the first three games, and although his streak of 100-plus yard games was snapped against Utah State, Madden came close with 93 tough yards in USC's close win.

    As of this writing, Madden is averaging more than 113 yards rushing per game and, for good measure, has also caught nine passes, including one for a touchdown.

    At a time when the Trojans needed him most, Tre Madden has been a most pleasant surprise indeed.

Conclusion

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    With USC a "work in progress," Trojan fans are awaiting the return of the dominant team they expected when the season opened.

    While they wait, head coach Lane Kiffin will continue to craft a team that hopes to make some noise in the 2013 college football season.

    Whether they do or not will depend on established players—such as the aforementioned Marqise Lee—returning to the form they have displayed in the past.

    However, for the Trojans to return to glory, they will have to also have players who play beyond expectations.

    This slideshow has looked at seven players who have surprised us so far in 2013, some for the better, others, not so much.

    For USC to succeed this year, that ledger will have to include many more players who are on the right side of the "surprise" list.

    Otherwise, it could be a very long season for the men of Troy, and that is the kind of surprise no fan wants.