As 2013 winds to a close, the WeAreSC staffers take a look at some of the top storylines waiting for the Trojans in spring ball under Steve Sarkisian.
1. Most important position that will need to get filled with a new starter
Garry Paskwietz: Assuming Marqise Lee leaves for the NFL, I think it will be critical to fill his spot with someone who can produce right away, just as Nelson Agholor did this year in replacing Robert Woods. Agholor likely will move into the No. 1 receiver role and the most obvious candidate to get the other starting spot is Darreus Rogers, who showed flashes of potential this year. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see either George Farmer or Steven Mitchell in that mix as well when they return from their knee injuries.
Johnny Curren: With the departure of a three-year starter in Kevin Graf at right tackle, it's crucial the Trojans find a capable replacement. It will be interesting to see who winds up getting the first crack, because there are number of candidates to choose from, such as Nathan Guertler, Zach Banner and Nico Falah. There’s also the possibility that a starter at another position, such as Aundrey Walker, Max Tuerk or even Chad Wheeler, could make the switch. Or perhaps we'll see a freshman such as Toa Lobendahn get a shot.
Greg Katz: The most important position that will need to get filled with a new starter is right tackle. Filling the right tackle position will be critical and the top candidate would appear to be Tuerk, currently the starting right guard, who filled in admirably for Graf when the senior went down with a temporary injury.
2. Top spring position battle
GP: I think it will be the pass-rushing spots vacated by Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin. It remains to be seen if the Trojans will run a 4-3 or continue with the 5-2, and that will impact how those rush spots are filled. There are plenty of good candidates -- does J.R. Tavai get a shot outside or does he move back to the interior of the line? Are guys such as Jabari Ruffin, Scott Starr and Quinton Powell ready to go? This will be their opportunity to make a mark in spring.
JC: Tailback. There’s little doubt that Buck Allen will enter the spring atop the depth chart, and for good reason, but this is a position group that is absolutely overflowing with talent, so he can’t afford to let up for even a second. Tre Madden and Justin Davis were the dynamic duo of the early portion of the season, and it will be interesting to see if each can return to his prior form after both succumbed to injury. Ty Isaac stood out at times while also gaining valuable experience, so he can’t be counted out either. And then there’s D.J. Morgan. His career stymied by knee issues thus far, will he be healthy enough to throw his hat in the ring as well?
GK: The top spring position battle will be either the offensive guards if junior starting right guard Aundrey Walker turns pro or if junior All-Pac-12 center Marcus Martin departs for the NFL draft. It would be safe to say that the offensive line will be a potential battleground for position battles. It just depends on player movement.
3. Under-the-radar player who will rise up in spring
GP: I really liked what I saw this year from true freshman linebacker Powell and I expect him to push for more playing time this spring. He’s very aggressive, has a nose for the ball and should be a star on special teams in addition to any contributions on defense. It will be interesting to see which defensive scheme the Trojans use and where Powell will fit.
JC: So long as he continues to develop, while also remaining healthy, I expect to see big things from outside linebacker Starr. Injured throughout the early portion of the schedule, he eventually came back and really caught my eye in practice. He has a non-stop motor, and he just seems to have a knack for making plays. With the departure of Kennard, this could be Starr’s opportunity to make a move for playing time.
GK: The player under the radar who will rise up in the spring will be Starr, who could play inside or outside. It really depends on who will be the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. If Starr stays healthy, he flies above the radar by the end of spring ball.