USC vs. Minnesota: Two areas of concern...

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin on the sidelines during the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Nothing new here as it has been discussed repeatedly but two areas are of concern as the season opens today.

The Defense:

Last years sub par defense is directly responsible for three losses...UW, Stanford and ND. They almost cost us the ASU game as well. This year Monte Kiffin has supposedly simplified the scheme and the defense has a full year under their belt.

[A] unit that surrendered a Pac-10-high 30 TD passes (five more than ninth-place Washington State) and wasn't much better against the run, ranking sixth in the conference (140.5).

But if you're wondering why many still rate the Trojans as the favorites in the Pac-12 South Division and believe they will improve upon their 8-5 finish of a year ago, the defense is a good place to start.

"I feel like we know what we're doing a little bit better as far as it being the second year in the system," Lane Kiffin said. "And in scrimmage formats, we're tackling better."

That will be put to its first test Saturday when Minnesota comes calling to the Coliseum.

The Trojans welcome back seven starters from last year's unit. They look strong at end with Nick Perry, Devon Kennard and Wes Horton. And few teams boast a better safety-cornerback combination than All-American T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey. But there are questions at linebacker, where they will be young around injury-prone Chris Galippo.

I am not so worried about the defensive line. We have some monsters up front.

The secondary is highly capable and motivated but they will be tested this season. Will they be significantly improved from last season?

In the middle is the bigger question. Will Chris Galippo start and have the type of season that we have expected form him since he came to USC?

Looking at the depth chart you see a lot youth at the LB position.

WILL MIKE SAM
10 Hayes Pullard (6-0, 225, Fr.*) OR 54 Chris Galippo (6-2, 250, Sr.*) OR 18 Dion Bailey (6-0, 200, Fr.*) OR
23 Shane Horton (6-1, 200, Sr.*) 55 Lamar Dawson (6-2, 235, Fr.) 53 Marquis Simmons (6-1, 215, So.*)
56 Anthony Sarao (6-0, 210, Fr.) 51 Will Andrew (6-2, 230, So.*) 13 Tre Madden (6-0, 220, Fr.)

Because they run the Spread and because the Tampa-2 is not a good Spread defense, Minnesota will offer some challenges to the defense this week. This will give them some opportunities to work out some kinks and show us just how much improved they are...

The Offensive Line:

Lane Kiffin is far from happy as the season starts...

Kiffin said Thursday the offensive front remains his biggest concern heading into the season.

"Offensive line, by far," Kiffin said. "Really as you look at it you have one player in (left tackle) Matt Kalil that has played the position that he’s going to play Saturday in a significant game. Everyone else has never even played in a game or not been in a significant snap or played a different position. So that’s a huge question mark.

"Because it’s one thing when a receiver plays bad or somebody on defense. But when your offensive line plays bad it effects the health of your quarterback."

USC quarterback Matt Barkley, however, said he isn’t concerned about the inexperience on the offensive line.

"I’m not worried," Barkley said. "I don’t think you can be. We’ll deal with it in the game. I don’t think I want that in the back of my head, thinking you have to throw off your back foot."

Khaled Holmes, Matt Kalil, Kevin Graf are the known starters...Lane Kiffin added John Martinez and Jeremy Galten as the other starters.

There is some experience there but depth is the primary concern.

LEFT TACKLE

LEFT GUARD

CENTER

  • 78 Khaled Holmes (6-4, 310, Jr.*)
  • 59 John Martinez (6-2, 290, So.*) OR
  • 50 Abe Markowitz (6-1, 290, Jr.*) OR
  • 69 Cyrus Hobbi (6-3, 275, Fr.)

RIGHT GUARD

RIGHT TACKLE

  • 77 Kevin Graf (6-6, 305, So.*)
  • 73 David Garness (6-5, 290, Jr.)

Lots of underclassmen on this list.

There is also some interchangeability as you can see if someone goes down but not enough for my liking.

As many have said repeatedly...how the O-Line plays is how your QB performs. If Barkley is running for his life it makes it hard for plays to develop.

Barkley may not be too worried but the rest of us are.

We find out later today...

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