USC set to open fall camp

USC opens fall camp Saturday afternoon. Here are a few things to know as the 2013 season gets underway...

USC head coach Lane Kiffin on the hot seat? Don't think so. Not publicly. The Trojans athletic director Pat Haden released a video statement on the eve of Pac-12 media day publicly backing his head coach "100%". So let the questions die about Kiffin...unless the Trojans start a losing spiral that's unrecoverable.

Much of the Trojans success will fall in the hands of the new starting quarterback. Redshirt sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are the frontrunners, but freshman Max Browne - Kiffin's prized five-star recruit - will be pushing the older guys for all their worth. The battle for now seems too close to call coming out of summer practices, but if you were to give someone the nod based on their final spring scrimmage performance, it would have to be Kessler. Kiffin told the media at Pac-12 media day he's in no rush to name a starter, he's more intent on naming the right starter.

The new defense. USC hired California defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast after Monte Kiffin departed at the end of the 2012 season for Dallas. Pendergast brought with him his 3-4, really 5-2, defense and installed it over the spring. The defensive line looks as physical as it has been in as many years, not to mention the big bodies it boasts in Leonard Williams and Morgan Breslin.

It's not a schematic problem, but it could be a problem - the Trojans' secondary. Redshirt junior Dion Bailey is moving back to his former high school position at safety, you can expect him to start there, along with Josh Shaw. Both are returning starters, but neither started at the position a year ago. Bailey was at linebacker. Shaw was at corner. Add freshman Su'a Cravens to the mix, and you have a squad back there in terms of position experience, plus the corners remain a question. Ryan Henderson? Torin Harris? Devian Shelton? It will be a toss-up to see who ends up fitting the bill.

The offensive line. They were beat handedly throughout the summer by the defensive line, which you might expect given the no-pads situation - advantage defense. But with center Khaled Holmes lost to graduation, Marcus Martin is taking over under center and will have to learn quickly on the job, so far he looks poised to do so. But what about left tackle? Aundrey Walker was inconsistent at best last season and he's the lone-starter listed on the depth chart. Fall camp will be telling to see how far the big guy has come.

Tailbacks Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan were MIA over the summer. Kiffin spoke openly at media day about the need to keep Redd healthy throughout the season. Is he healthy now? 100%? That remains a question since he's been a bit of a mystery during his recovery from a torn meniscus during spring practices. Morgan has been suffering from arthritis in his knee. Meanwhile, look out for the freshmen to really make their mark. Five-stars Ty Isaac and Justin Davis both committed to USC as part of the Trojans 2013 recruiting class and have shown no problem competing over the summer. These two are on the fast track for the Trojans and will no doubt leave some defenders in the dust.

Five scholarship receivers remain and the Trojans can't lose another. Practices need to be physical, but with only Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor as the two receivers with meaningful playing experience, no one can be lost at practice. Freshman Darreus Rogers stepped up big over the summer, he'll likely show more flashes during the fall. Victor Blackwell and De'Von Flournoy will likely also play big roles throughout camp.

And finally, Kiffin announced he's maintaining play calling duties. It will be interesting to note over the fall how he manages holding onto that role as well as overseeing his entire program. Last season, the vast majority of his time was spent overseeing the offense. Obviously, that's a good move for the offensive coordinator to make. However, the rumor mill was buzzing after last season that Haden told Kiffin he needed to spend more time checking out the defensive side of the ball too. Kiffin spent more time during bowl practices wandering over to the defense's field... it will be interesting to see if that holds any priority in 2013 fall camp as well.

The Trojans first game is Aug. 29 at Hawaii.

The first 200 fans are allowed to watch fall camp practices from the baseball deck on Dedeaux Field. For more information, check out usctrojans.com/blog

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