The Trojans in 2010 got along well enough, but didn't have that spirit and camaraderie necessary to be a championship contender. Maybe it was to be expected, with the coaching change and loss of seniors and leaders like Taylor Mays and Damian Williams.
But after watching USC go through its voluntary summer workouts, these guys have chemistry in bunches. They are having fun and, more importantly, making one another accountable. That resulted in greater attendance at throwing session, more engaged participation in those events that, while not mandatory, set the stage for a successful season.
Leadership is everywhere, not only from the visible guys like Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald, but from less obvious places like Dillon Baxter and D.J. Morgan assisting incoming freshman Amir Carlisle with learning plays.
And that carries over, starting Thursday as fall camp opens. It will carry over starting Sept. 3. It will carry over years from now when the likes of Carlisle are leading the way.
Whitney Blaine, USC beat writer and reporter
An 8-5 record didn't sit well with these USC Trojans. Mediocrity has been on their mouths and minds since January, when they watched other teams with greater records win bowl games.
That team knew there was no postseason. But they truly thought if they could go undefeated it wouldn't all be for naught.
Now, after a stellar incoming class and a more seasoned group under Kiffin and Co., these players aren't out to prove to the rest of the country that they are talented or that they deserve respect. Now they're doing it for themselves.
When I talk to the players, their motivation is drawn from family members suffering, relatives looking on, NFL careers looming, or personal satisfaction at overcoming an injury. Last season it was about letting everyone know USC had come to play. Not only did they not do that, they didn't knock any chips off their shoulders by playing to expectations.
That focus has taken on a different gear this offseason. Guys are spreading motivation around through budding friendships and an inner desire. Sure they still want to blow every opponent out of the water to show that they can. But to say it's why they are on the field would be inaccurate.
The motivation questions will persist each week if the Trojans suffer a loss. But that 8-5 record in 2010 is serving as pretty good motivation right now.