26 days, 26 ways for USC to get there

With USC opening August practice Monday, the Trojans will have 26 days to get ready for the Fresno State opener. Here are 26 ways to do just that.

Twenty-six days, 26 ways for USC to get ready for the season starting with Monday's opening practice. We'll outline them here.

1) PICK A CENTER. Won't happen right away because they're not in full pads for three days but with two or three other positions possibly impacted with this call, get this one right first. Unless the pick is already set in stone, then never mind.

2. MAX TUERK can play anywhere. We know that. Can he be that perfect snapper that this shotgun-fueled offense needs? That is the question. He does have a bond with roommate Cody Kessler and that matters. But where does Max want to play? And could Toa Lobendahn do it if he's the pick? Need to find out.

3. GET REHABBERS Lamar Dawson, Steven Mitchell, Aundrey Walker, Devian Shelton, D.J. Morgan, Anthony Brown, Nico Falah, Don Hill and Jordan Simmons back and going ASAP so the personnel puzzle for this limited roster can start to be pieced together.

4. GEORGE FARMER. That's all we need to say. Is this his time? Is there a place for him? Can he make this his place right now. Another early decision needed here.

5. IMPLEMENT THE PLAYER RECOVERY REGIMEN right away so this team can go all out and yet keep from running out of gas. Not just through the end of September but through the end of November -- and into January.

6. GET THE ROTATIONS RIGHT -- and rolling right away. The first four on the D-line, and the first six. Then the four linebackers inside and the four out. Is Dawson in the mix inside? He says he thinks he'll be. We'll see.

7. FIGURE OUT THE FRESHMAN TWO-WAY GUYS as quickly as possible in the first five days, as Sark says they will, especially for the ones headed to defense. They'll need that team time more.

8. FIND A PLACE OR PLACES FOR Adoree Jackson, he's just too special and needs to be on the field. Figure it out and get him ready to go.

9. GET THE SIDELINE SIGNALLING DOWN right from the get-go. The summer was a great start here. Very serious effort. Keep it up. Figure who's going to do it and let 'em do it. It doesn't have to be a coach.

10. WITH TWO EXPECTED DB RETURNEES GONE, figure out which of the talented incoming freshmen can step in where and in what order and get them there. Probably need one or two who can get on the field.

11. MAKE A DECISION ON Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama and incorporate them ASAP when you do.

12. KEEP RUNNING, STAY FAST, PLAY FAST: Should be no problem here. These guys like playing this way. Reminds them of what they didn't like a year ago.

13. RUN, BUT NOT JUST ON OFFENSE. Running, as in running to the football, may matter more to this defense getting guys off blocks and on to the proper pursuit angles and into tackling position so that the hitting and takedown part of it just happens naturally when you get into games with no whiffs.

14. GET CODY AND Nelson Agholor & Co on the same page with the advice Peyton Manning passed on to the USC QB -- you should be able to complete your bread-and-butter stuff with your eyes closed. They've already started.

15. GET THE RUNNING BACK ROTATION worked out quickly and smoothly with all that talent. More plays will help. So will last season's work by departed assistant Tommie Robinson to get as many as four a game with carries that mattered. One of two major challenges for Johnny Nansen.

16. FORGET THE FINER POINTS OF THE O-LINE rotation and who ends up where and just find a way to get this group prepared to knock somebody off the line of scrimmage when it has to.

17. BUILD ON THE BALL SKILLS of defenders Su'a Cravens and Josh Shaw for a secondary that can take it away like the good old days.

18. MAKE SURE Max Browne gets to a point where he knows, as do his teammates, that he can win any game on the schedule if he's needed to do that.

19. FIGURE OUT THE WHOLE TIGHT END/H-BACK deal for the four -- or maybe five guys counting Soma Vainuku. This spot will be a key to the run-pass versatility of this team.

20. SAME DEAL FOR THE FULLBACKS if there are fullbacks.

21. TURN LEONARD WILLIAMS LOOSE within the system to make the kinds of plays he'll be healthy enough to make this season with two arms.

22. WHEN THEY'RE ALL HEALTHY, get that wide receiver group squared away behind Nelson. They're going to do lots of running. Lots of them will be needed.

23. PLENTY OF DEFENSIVE EDGE PROSPECTS with size, speed, the ability to hit people and get wide and deep. But very little history of three of the four actually doing it. Need to get the group up to game-ready quickly.

24. SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE who isn't exactly expected to must step up like a Cody Temple, Greg Townsend Jr., Charles Burks or a Victor Blackwell and provide a surprise bonus.

25. MAKE THEM SPECIAL and find out right away if this team can return both punts and kickoffs while covering both of them this season, not just one or the other. Would be a nice change of pace.

26. MAKE THEM SPECIAL, PART 2: We'll take a punter who can kick 'em deep when needed and a placekicker who can kick 'em consistently straight as well as from long range. Just coach 'em up here, JN.


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