Pete Carroll's program is built on competition and the competition between Mark Sanchez, Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp for the starting quarterback spot will be the most watched position battle at Howard Jones Field, and throughout all of college football, this spring.
The question that will be answered on the practice field: Is an experienced Mark Sanchez
While Mustain certainly opened a lot of eyes with his consistent performance on the scout team last season and has showed off his strong arm during off-season workouts, Sanchez looks to be the emotional leader of the offense coming into spring and has to be considered the frontrunner for the starting job.
Our Call: While both players are capable of leading the Trojans to a successful season in 2008, Mark Sanchez, with three years in the program and three starts in 2007, will win the starting job.
Will the receivers step up in 2008?
Last season, the Trojans talented but young receiving corps struggled with catching the ball at times and no one player emerged as John David Booty's go-to receiver. While Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton shined at times, neither player was able to put together a string of consistent performances that the coaches were hoping for.
Everyone around the USC program is very optimistic about the progress and growth of the wide receivers heading into spring practice. The group is deeper; more experienced and should be a lot more explosive in 2008.
Along with the emergence of Damian Williams, sophomore Ronald Johnson has been hard at work this off-season and looks poised to take on a much larger role in the Trojans offense. Travon Patterson is back from injury and could help stretch the defense with Ronald Johnson. David Ausberry, Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton have another year of experience under their belt and should provide some much needed veteran leadership.
Our Call: Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson will emerge as impact players this season and will see plenty of playing time along with Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton.
How will the tailback rotation play out?
Our Call: Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable will share carries as the featured backs and USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will find a way to get Joe McKnight touches in the running game and will be used as a weapon in the passing game, much like Reggie Bush.
While Johnson, Gable, and McKnight are the top three backs heading into spring, Marc Tyler or Broderick Green will join the top group and see consistent playing time in 2008.
How will the injured Trojans respond in 2008?
The Trojans lost a number of key players to season-ending injuries in 2007 that are now healthy and ready to contribute in a big way. Josh Pinkard, Kevin Thomas, Travon Patterson and Chris Galippo all will participate in spring practice and if they don't suffer any setbacks should all play major roles in 2008.
Josh Pinkard – Pinkard missed the past two seasons with knee injuries but has been participating in off-season workouts with Coach Carlisle and is optimistic about his return. Pinkard will be limited this spring but should be full speed by the beginning of fall camp. If Pinkard is healthy he will add depth to the secondary and could play either safety or cornerback. Pinkard, who was once called the best player on the team by Pete Carroll, said he didn't petition for a medical redshirt for the 2007 season so this will be his final season as a Trojan.
Kevin Thomas – After missing the 2007 season with a shoulder injury, Kevin Thomas has been healthy during off-season workouts and has been very impressive in 7-on-7 drills. Thomas will compete with Cary Harris, Shareece Wright and Josh Pinkard for playing time at corner.
Travon Patterson – In the last few weeks Travon Patterson has started running full speed for the first time since injuring his foot. Patterson will give the Trojans a true deep threat in the passing game and will compete for a spot in the rotation at receiver.
Chris Galippo – The all-world linebacker from Servite High School was having a successful start to his career before he had to have season-ending back surgery. Galippo will be a capable backup at the middle linebacker position and is a future star.