Fall Storylines: Offense

Are you ready for some football? Never have truer words been spoken. For USC fans, players, coaches and administrators, the start of fall camp Wednesday represents a clean break from the unprecedented turmoil of the offseason.

Are you ready for some football?

Never have truer words been spoken. For USC fans, players, coaches and administrators, the start of fall camp Wednesday represents a clean break from the unprecedented turmoil of the offseason, including sanctions, transfers, releases and now a lawsuit.

But all those circumstances will have an effect on what happens at Howard Jones Field, in addition to the unanswered questions left from the spring.

With all that said, there are 27 practices before the season opener at Hawaii and plenty of issues still to be hashed out.

What impact does Kennedy Pola's hiring have on the running back rotation?

Make no mistake, this is still Allen Bradford's job. However, Pola's recent track record with the Jacksonville Jaguars shows two divergent paths.

As any fantasy football owner knows, the Jags were one of the few teams to have one lead back in Maurice Jones-Drew handing all duties: between the 20s, passing downs and goal line. However, Pola paired a younger Jones-Drew with the veteran Fred Taylor as he developed as an inside runner and got comfortable with the professional game.


Can Kyle Prater make an impact as a freshman?
That model would put Dillon Baxter in a satellite role to compliment the bruising Bradford, but the other tailbacks will all be evaluated with new eyes for the first time. Ticketed as Bradford's backup, senior C.J. Gable has a chance to carve out a larger role with a strong showing.

Who starts opposite Ronald Johnson?

Damian Williams was electric last season. The rest of the USC passing game was not.

With Johnson set to step into the number one spot vacated by Williams, it will be on Brice Butler or Kyle Prater to take some pressure off and become a steady option for quarterback Matt Barkley.

Butler has flashed the ability, but has struggled with inconsistency, often alternating spectacular catches in the spring with drops on easy catches. Prater, on the other hand, was very impressive despite being limited by a hamstring injury.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Prater supplant Butler early, taking a page from the Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett playbooks.

The wild cards are the other two freshmen, Robert Woods and Markeith Ambles. Ambles is as physically gifted as any first-year receiver in recent memory, while Woods has the natural elusiveness where he could make an early impact on screens, reverses and as a return specialist.

How does the tight end position shake out?

Outside of Splash Mountain and the Timber Mountain Log Ride, you won't find a bigger logjam in Southern California than at the tight end spot. You've got three very impressive freshmen competing for that starting job, but a cavalcade of unproven veterans who do have the advantage of experience in the system in front of them.

The most likely scenario, at least early on, could be a platoon with Rhett Ellison handing blocking duties and Jordan Cameron in on obvious passing downs and in the red zone, bringing along Xavier Grimble, Christian Thomas and Randall Telfer at a deliberate pace.

Can the offensive line stay healthy?

It would be easy to say it can't be worse for the Trojan front five than it was in the spring, when they often worked with just six available players, but flashback to 2007 when that exact scenario played out.

The release of Seantrel Henderson from his letter of intent leaves USC with just 11 linemen on scholarship and just two true offensive tackles in Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith with Kevin Graf and Butch Lewis likely to see time inside. An injury to Kalil or Smith would result in dramatic changes all over the line and could sink the season.

As such, Kiffin indicated he might employ NFL-style practices this year with less contact and the line's health would be a main reason why.


Jordan Cameron will compete for the starting tight end spot this fall.


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