2013 USC spring football primer: Dates, players and more to know


The USC Trojans will be bringing in a lot of new freshmen in spring practice. Can they help save head coach Lane Kiffin?

At this point last year, the USC Trojans were being heralded as favorites for a national championship. The regular season clearly revealed those prognostications as terribly flawed. USC started the season 6-1, then dropped five of their final six games. The Trojans ended up losing to Arizona, Oregon, Notre Dame, UCLA and Georgia Tech to fall back to the middle of the Pac-12.

USC has a pretty favorable start to 2013, starting in Hawaii before three home games with Washington State, Boston College and Utah State. The Trojans should have time to adjust and adapt to the tougher matchups on their schedule, as well as the demands of playing an extra game (USC plays 13 regular season contests in 2013).

With UCLA overtaking USC in the Pac-12 standings for the first time in over a decade, Lane Kiffin will be feeling plenty of heat this season. Kiffin will need several new faces to engineer some sort of turnaround if he can be expected to return as the team's head coach a year from now. USC is drifting in the Pac-12, and too many teams are aiming to pass them.

This spring, Kiffin and USC will try to reverse course.

Spring practice start date: March 5

Spring game date, location, TV info: USC will play the spring game on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. PT, with the game being broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

Approximate returning starters: Eight starters return on both offense and defense, so the Trojans aren't in bad shape unless they get decimated by injury. USC will return Heisman contender Marqise Lee at wide receiver and Silas Redd at running back, along with both of their tight ends and four of their five offensive linemen. The Trojans will also return six of their starting front seven and should have plenty of talent on both sides of the football, as always.

Biggest addition: USC will be gaining plenty of early entries in this class, and many of them could really try to make a big difference overall. The top addition will probably be safety Su'a Cravens, a major candidate for the best recruit in California and even the entire country. USC is losing four safeties on their depth chart, and Cravens has a great shot at cracking the two-deep, if not starting outright as a true freshman.

On the offensive side, quarterback Max Browne is someone to watch as a candidate to replace departing starter Matt Barkley. With Max Wittek and Cody Kessler the only potential starting candidates at quarterback, Browne definitely has a chance to play immediately.

Biggest loss: Quarterback Matt Barkley is gone, as is junior wide receiver Robert Woods. Three of four USC defensive backs will also be departing, including junior cornerback Nickell Robey and both starting safeties in Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald.

USC's coaching staff underwent a massive overhaul. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin resigned after three disappointing years on the defensive end. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu was fired, and linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton left for Nevada.

New players? Browne and Cravens are the two guys to watch the most, but four other Trojans also enrolled early. That includes fellow defensive backs Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins, running back Justin Davis and defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow.

New coaches? Former Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will take over for Monte Kiffin and try to finally give USC the experience they need to handle spread offenses in the conference.

New schemes? USC will probably not deviate much from their pro-style West Coast offense. Pendergast has stated USC's defense will move from their long-standard 4-3 to the 5-2/3-4 scheme he prefers running.

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