When the Trojan offense takes the field later this afternoon, three true freshmen are slated to be in the starting lineup. It will be up to offensive coordinator Clay Helton to make sure Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Ajene Harris integrate well with Cody Kessler and all of the veterans.
"We are very fortunate to have recruited some very talented players that really put a lot of good work in over the summer and are prepared and ready to play," Helton said. "That is the beauty about USC, it is always a competitive atmosphere, it doesn't matter if you are a senior or a freshman, the best player is going to play.
"It was a great job by the positions coaches, getting those kids ready for the first game.
With talent returning at quarterback, tailback and wide receiver, the biggest concern for this USC offense are the big guys up front. Both starting guards played in high school last season, but that isn't a concern for Helton.
"No, I have no concerns, none whatsoever," Helton said. "Obviously, any time you have freshmen, you'll have growing pains, but these kids have really worked hard and Tim Drevno has done an unbelievable job of preparing them. We have some quality depth at the position to be able to roll those kids too. I have no fear going in that they will play great on Saturday."
Helton feels Kessler won't have to change what he is doing just because of the inexperience factor on the offensive line.
"It is team protection and part of the quarterbacks job is to get the ball out on time," Helton said. "If there is a slight protection breakdown, it is the quarterbacks responsibility to get the ball out before they get to him. So he hasn't changed a thing, he's got a coach that is on his butt pretty good about getting the ball out on time."
"I thought it was an unbelievable evaluation by coach Sarkisian and coach Martin to realize what a great athlete that kid was and to see the potential at wide receiver that he had, even playing quarterback in high school." Helton said. "He is a very, very sharp and intelligent kid that has picked up not only his position but the concepts of the offense. I honestly believe he could play any position out there because of understanding the concepts.
"I am very proud of him, when you know what to do it eliminates hesitation. Confusion creates hesitation and this kid is not confused, he knows what to do and he is letting his talent take over."
Harris, who had not played receiver since he was in eighth grade, caught the coaches' attention last summer.
"We were very fortunate to be able to see his abilities at the summer camp that he came to and the 7-on-7 tournaments," he said. "He came out here and really did a nice job of playing quarterback, wide receiver and corner, just a really natural athlete and I think that is that is one of the things that coach Sarkisian does a great job in recruiting, is taking guys like Ajene, Adoree (Jackson), JuJu (Smith) or Rahshead (Johnson), those type of guys who can play multiple positions and see what's the best fit for our team and in the long run it will make us a better team."