Lots of great story lines are popping up out of spring ball.
With a new staff running things differently that what we are used to a number of players have taken the opportunity to either rededicate themselves or like some of the new players make their mark on the program.
Lets start with Kris O'Dowd.
O'Dowd, now the line's senior leader, is back this spring (though he missed some action after spraining his left knee) and so might be that swagger. It's no secret new coach Lane Kiffin and his staff have plenty of that. Kiffin and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron were two of the more boisterous presences during USC's best times working as assistants under former coach Pete Carroll.
"With this new coaching staff, they are teaching us the ways of what used to be -- the '03, '04, '05 seasons when USC was the team," O'Dowd said. "We're getting back there and it starts right now in spring."
O'Dowd picks his words carefully, but he admits something wasn't right last year, something about more than losing a bunch of starters to the NFL.
"It was full of a bunch of ups and downs," he said. "We didn't find that cohesiveness with one another on the team. I think that did affect us negatively last season."
As I have said a bunch of times before, it all starts with the line.
When the line isn't healthy that is always the first chink in the armor. O'Dowd is the main cog on that wheel. Even as a freshman he was one of the more mature players on the team. The line never performed as well as we liked when O'Dowd was out. Sure, other players stepped up but O'Dowd is one of those players that the team just can't be without.
He really is a special player. And his leadership is a big deal on this team.
O'Dowd also describes how character is built when you step up even when you are not 100%
Also of note...
We are beginning to see a number of players start to speak out over last years performance. It isn't the result of any one thing or person but something was not right and it affected the team played on the field. It is out there even if the players are playing it cool being politically correct in how they describe last season.
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Discipline and toughness is kind of is a central theme that we have been hearing a lot about.
Lane Kiffin is going to push a lot of buttons to see what this team is made of (with a little more on O'Dowd)...
On Saturday, after the Trojans' first practice in pads, Kiffin seemed to take the theme a step further. With the number of available offensive lineman dwindling and other positions such as fullback short-handed because of injuires, Kiffin did not mince words.
"I'm concerned to know, could they have kept going?" Kiffin said. "That's what we need to learn about our team and our players. We need to find out who's going to play through pain and who's going to be in there in the fourth quarter for us."
Kiffin praised senior center Kristofer O'Dowd, who sprained his left knee Thursday but completed Saturday's entire practice, which included a lengthy scrimmage.
"That's a good example of what we're trying to install," Kiffin said. "That it doesn't matter whether you've played before and been all-conference. You better get out here and earn your position."
As great as things were with the previous staff you could tell some things were slipping a bit. It happens. Kiffin knows what he is doing, he wants the team to get their swagger back. But he knows it has to come from inside the team, he is going to push this team to not only bring them together but to see what what they are made of.
As has been noted before, Kiffin doesn't need to to the things he did at UT to get his team some attention. What he needs to do at SC is bring it back to the early days of the Pete Carroll era. He definitely has the staff in place to push these guys.
How bad does this team want it?
No one had to like last years results. It wasn't just about the four losses...it was how SC lost those four games. The Oregon and Stanford losses were just brutal. The UW loss was more about bad luck while the Arizona loss was more about a team that seemed to just lose all hope.
Kiffin knows what he has with USC, tradition and all. Expectations have been set at a pretty high mark and you can tell that this team wants to get back to the glory years. There is no question they have the talent but do they have the drive. Kiffin is looking to see just what this team is made of...
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I mentioned how the new faces on the team were looking to make their presence known...Dillon Baxter is looking to get a head start...
Before USC even started spring practice, coach Lane Kiffin compared freshman tailback Dillon Baxter to Heisman Trophy-winner Reggie Bush.
Kiffin wants to use Baxter, who played several positions in high school, in multiple roles similar to Bush. The comparison means even more to Baxter because like Bush, he is from San Diego.
"It's an honor to be compared to Reggie Bush," Baxter said. "Hopefully, I'll get all these positions down. I'm not sure where I'll be playing. They're going to move me around once I get all the running back plays down."
Kiffin wants Baxter to start at running back and then move him around. Baxter gained 2,974 yards but also played quarterback and passed for another 1,922 at Mission Bay High School last season.
Well, it is a little early yet to be making those type of comparisons, but there is no question Baxter has a ton of talent. I look to see him make the most use of his potential.
See for yourself...
Here is a little more...
This kid will be fun to watch!