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Insider

Up to Trojans to return to standard

8/29/2013

For the USC Trojans players and coaches, there is a common theme to the 2013 season. Sure, they want to win all their games and they will compete hard against every opponent but there is something else at play.

For every player who signed up to play at USC -- and every coach who accepted the job to coach them -- there is something personal about a 7-6 season like the one the Trojans had in 2012. These players didn’t come to the school for that and they know it’s not an acceptable performance for a program like USC.

The Trojans fans certainly didn’t accept it and they have made their feelings known throughout the offseason. The former USC players didn’t think it was up to their standards. Several of the current players talked about hearing from former players, in blunt terms, that 7-6 is not what USC football is all about.

For eight long months these players and coaches have heard about it from every angle, from people questioning how a team can tumble so far in one year, to the bulls-eye planted squarely on the chest of the head coach coming into the new season. A program that was the media darling a year ago as the preseason No. 1 team, can now barely crack the Top 25 in some polls, and aren’t ranked in some polls.

This is the reality for the 2013 Trojans. The bloom is off the rose from last year and what’s left is a team searching for a way to move forward. This is a personal mission because it now becomes a pride issue. They can’t hide from what happened in 2012 and there isn’t anybody else who can change the perception and get USC football back in its proper place.

The responsibility for righting this ship falls onto the shoulders of guys like Marqise Lee, Kevin Graf, Leonard Williams and Su’a Cravens. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Lane Kiffin. As if Kiffin didn’t have enough to worry about as the captain of the USC ship, he has to do it in unsteady waters as he tries to find the proper balance. It’s not an easy thing to do in the steadiest of times but it has also been made harder by the reality of NCAA sanctions, which are another factor that must be taken into account.

The good news is that the team the Trojans will be putting on the field has enough talent to compete at the highest levels. Yes, there might be an occasional depth issues and some practice habits might have to change, but if you take the USC two-deep depth chart of 44 players, is there any opponent where you would trade their top 44 for the top 44 Trojans? The answer is no.

So what you have this year is a team with plenty of talent that will have the personal motivation to find a way to restore an element of pride to a tradition-rich program that took a hit last year. Guys like Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen -- along with other great USC players through the years -- built the program to a certain standard and now it’s time for the current players to go on the field in an attempt to get that standard back. It’s time for a season of redemption. It’s time for a season of Trojans football.