USC has come a long way from the days of Lienart and Bush. I still look back on that play when Reggie Bush pushed Lienart into the end zone as one of my favorite. But, all good things must come to an end, and a 7-6 record last season is definitely an end. Opposing coaches and the media both thought Kiffin lost control of the locker room last year, and that spells disaster in college football. When you have a locker room full of young, hungry, athletic guys they need a leader to keep them in line and guide them towards the big goal. Lane needs to be that guy or there is no way the Trojans can get back to the promised land.
Kessler really stepped up this spring among the quarterbacks, but that didn't get him the starting nod from Kiffin. He is leaning towards Wittek because of his physical talents. Wittek has the biggest arm among all the QB's on the roster and that goes a long way in the coach's book. When you have a quarterback who can stretch the field it keeps defenses from crowding the box and attacking your run game. Not to mention, all things being equal, Wittek is 6-5 and Kessler is only6-1. If Kessler can start playing like an undersized QB in Seattle I'm sure he'll get the job, but he has a long way to go before he gets those kind of accolades.
Whoever is the starting quarterback will have a lot of help from the wide receivers on the team. Lee is the best receiver in the nation and that will go a long way towards helping the passing game rack up yards. Lee has a chance to finish this season as the all-time leading receiver in Trojans history, not an easy feat. He caught 118 balls last year and hauled in 14 touchdowns. He is guaranteed to earn All American honors once again.
When you play in the Pac-12 you have to know how to deal with speed and the spread offense. USC didn't do that too well and they suffered because of it. They brought in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast from California just to stop teams like Oregon and Arizona from shredding them up and down the field. They plan on starting five lineman and two linebackers with Breslin and Williams expected to lead the team in sacks. It won't be easy to turn the defense around in one season and Pendergast can't be expected to change the culture form the sidelines. Pullard is the leader of this unit and he will have to step up into his new role as middle linebacker. He will be the team captain and the coach on the field. These guys aren't professionals yet and it shows in more ways than one. Not only do they have work to do on their skill set, but they don't have the concentration level and discipline of the guys who play on Sunday either. They need someone to lead from the front not only during practice and on the sidelines, but on the field too. If Pullard is able to establish himself as the emotional leader of this defense it will really help strengthen the front seven.
Make no mistake about it the pressure is on Lane Kiffin. He had a winning season last year, but going 7-6 is not enough for USC. They have a proud tradition and a community that is used to winning. It's going to be hard to do after losing five of the last six and having to replace your starting QB. But nobody said making it was going to be easy.