1) How will Carson Palmer perform?
There has been plenty of hype surrounding Carson since he arrived on campus and, while there have been few games which showcased his tremendous ability, he has yet to become the dominant player on a consistent basis that we know he is capable of being. There can be many reasons for this from improper coaching and schemes to the fact that he just hasn't gotten it done but as of now he is starting from scratch with Norm Chow and that is more than enough to get Trojan fans excited. The thought of Carson standing back and firing away in a system that simply produces results is one of the primary reasons we can't wait for the season to start.
2) Linebacking corps
With the loss of three starters from last season there were many who thought the linebackers would be the weakest link for the defense this year but a look during spring ball showed that may not be the case. Pete Carroll uses an attacking system on defense which emphasizes linebackers who can run and with guys like Mike Pollard, Chris Prosser, John Cousins and the incoming Marvin Simmons we have players who can fly from sideline to sideline. Add a steady veteran like Aaron Graham in the middle and this unit could be one to watch this year.
3) Can the offensive line finally come together
What was once a trademark of the USC Trojan teams, a dominant offensive line, has become a missing element in recent years. The coaches are satisfied at this point with the progress on the interior of the line with Mailo, Vandermade and Wilson but one of the top priorities of fall camp will be to solidify the tackle spots. Look for Chow to use to offensive scheme to keep the pressure off the line early in the season with quicker drops and a variation in play calling but make no mistake that in order for the Trojans to see a dramatic rise in success we must see improved play from the line.
4) Kicking game
One of the best moves Pete Carroll made this past off season was to establish Kennedy Pola as special teams coach. The struggles of the kicking game have been well documented but Pola is perhaps the best motivator on the Trojan staff and he saw excellent results last season with his kickoff coverage unit after he convinced David Bell that every kickoff was going in the end zone and Bell responded with a solid senior year. We saw good results this spring with Mike MacGillivray at punter but the biggest test for Pola will be with David Newbury and the placekicking game.
5) Can Pete Carroll coach?
The biggest remaining question when it comes to our new coach. He has received nothing but praise so far as he moves through his first off season as Trojan coach and even those who were his most vocal critics when he was hired have been impressed with the enthusiasm he brings and the spirit he has fostered among the players. All of that is well and good, of course, but the real test will come this fall when he is faced with the game day decisions that seemed to overwhelm our previous coach. Carroll has the reputation for making tremendous in game adjustments as a defensive coordinator and he has Chow to run the offense but will all the pieces come together in the manner that Trojan fans are hoping for? We will soon find out.