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Insider

USC roundtable: Impact, battles and more

7/30/2014

The WeAreSC staffers discuss various topics related to the opening of USC Trojans fall camp practices next Monday.

Who will have the biggest camp impact? (offense/defense)

Garry Paskwietz: Steve Sarkisian says this will be a physical run-first offense and that should mean plenty of opportunities for Buck Allen to establish himself early as a critical piece of the system. The reigning Trojans MVP is in great shape and appears ready for that kind of role. On defense, Leonard Williams may be the most talented and Hayes Pullard is the most productive -- but in terms of impact, I'm going to go with Su'a Cravens. His athleticism should allow for him to make a lot of plays.

Johnny Curren: On offense, I'm going to go with Allen. The fourth-year junior tailback is in fantastic shape right now, and with Sarkisian showing a real desire to pound the ball on the ground, he should get plenty of chances to shine. On defense, Williams is the one to watch. Close to 100 percent after undergoing offseason surgery on his shoulder, there's every reason to believe he'll have an even bigger 2014 campaign than his season of 2013, when he garnered ESPN.com first-team All-America honors.

Greg Katz: Cody Kessler on offense. The Trojans' offense may have more explosive players, but the system doesn't work unless Kessler works, and he has been relentless in not only learning Sark's no-huddle, fast-paced offense but executing it and teaching others. Williams on defense. Teammates of the "Big Cat" know he played with pain in his shoulder last season and was never 100 percent. In the summer, however, it was darn scary just how must quicker and intense he was during voluntary workouts.

What will be the best position battle?

Paskwietz: The Trojans enter camp with no clear-cut starter at left guard and as many as four candidates for the job. The one veteran in the mix is Jordan Simmons, but he is coming off knee surgery last fall. The other three possibilities are all true freshmen in Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama. All are extremely talented, but all will be taking part in their first fall camp practices as Trojans, though Lobendahn did participate in spring drills.

Curren: I'm tempted to say the battle at Sam linebacker between Jabari Ruffin and Quinton Powell, but after seeing J.R. Tavai shine throughout the summer workouts, I'll go with the competition between he and Scott Starr at rush end. Both performers are excellent athletes who play physical and fast to the ball off the edge, and I look forward to watching them bring out the best in each other in fall camp.

Katz: Because of the importance of both offensive guard positions, one would have to lump this as a critical unit position battle. Whether starting senior right guard Aundrey Walker, coming off an ankle injury, and Simmons, coming off of a knee injury, at left guard can be physically in shape and hold up to the pace of the offense remains in question. What isn't in question are the true freshmen O-liners such as Lobendahn, who is a well advanced talent despite his inexperience.

Who will be the surprise player of camp?

Paskwietz: It's hard to call Adoree' Jackson a surprise player in anything when you consider he was the highest-rated recruit in this USC class. The surprise will come, however, in just how good he will be from the word go. And I'm not talking just at one spot, he will make a case for playing time on offense, defense and special teams.

Curren: I really liked what I saw out of Leon McQuay III, both in the spring as well as this past summer. He's going to really open some eyes in his role as the starting free safety. Having bulked up considerably since his freshman season, he's also played with a new level of confidence over the past six months.

Katz: Don't know if Jackson can be considered a surprise, but in watching him in the summer he just oozes talent. He made some plays that no freshman should be able to make -- no matter how talented.

Who will be the four captains named at the end of camp?

Paskwietz: I'm going to fudge a little bit on both sides of the ball. I think the two names that are set are Kessler on offense and Pullard on defense. No question on either guy. For the other offensive spot, I could see it going to either Allen or Nelson Agholor, I could see the second defensive spot going to either Williams or Josh Shaw.

Curren: As far as the four captains, I'll go with Kessler and Agholor on offense, and Pullard and Shaw on defense. All four of those veterans stood out as vocal team leaders throughout the spring and summer, and I was encouraged by the way each of them really made an effort with the incoming freshmen to ensure they were on the same page as everyone else during volunteer workouts.

Katz: Kessler -- A natural born leader who directed voluntary summer workouts expertly. The 2014 Trojans couldn't ask for a better representative on and off the field. Agholor -- A no-nonsense offensive performer, who leads by example through his play and his work habits. He has a serious tone that set the table. Pullard -- Not only a great player, a great leader and down the road a potentially outstanding coach at either the high school or collegiate level. Williams -- He has the respect of his teammates on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and he leads by example by his fierce determination and non-stop motor.