There wasn't that much doubt that the USC defense would show up at Saturday's spring game. Most positions have two-deep strength, with players reading to step up to fill in the spots left behind by departing seniors and draft juniors.
This left all eyes on the offense, where the success of the Sarkisian regime will be determined. Just like last year, the extensive list of injured players left the results of the game inconclusive, and it is remains to be seen how effective the final starting 11 will be under Sark's no-huddle offense. But with Kessler taking his first spring snaps with his starter status assured, several skill players looking to make a statement, and an offensive line trying to overcome sanctions and several key departures, there was still plenty of intrigue at the Coliseum.
Here are the key players and notes:
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick: Don't worry about the tight ends getting ignored in the passing game. Sophomore Cope-Fitzpatrick should get plenty of looks this fall as the second stringer behind senior Randall Tefler. With Tefler injured on Saturday, Cope-Fitzpatrick led all receivers with 3 catches for 56 yards.
James Toland: If the Trojans have to plumb the depths of the RB depth chart like they did this past season, you might see this name show up a few months from now. Toland, a walk-on freshman from Indio, got eight carries with the ball for 36 yards. In a spring game with plenty of injured starters, Toland got an unexpected opportunity to get plenty of carries in front of the Coliseum crowd.
Average passing game: The QBs threw no picks or touchdowns in the game, going a combined 15/37 for 223 yards. Early on, the offense came within one yard of the end zone on 3rd and Goal, only for Hayes Pullard to blitz into the backfield and kill their attempt to ram the ball in. Still, Sark insists that once the team is healthy, they will be a "great red zone offense" come August 30.
Andre Heidari: After immortalizing himself in Trojan history last season, Heidari is looking for a 2014 filled with Stanford moments. He's off to a good start. With the offense sputtering, Heidari made four of five field goal attempts, the longest from 44 yards out.
O-Line: The Trojans rotated their linemen throughout the game with mixed results. Pass protection by the starters for Kessler was very strong, leading to some big passes to Cope-Fitzpatrick. By the end, though, the defense scored five sacks in the game. The run blocking with even worse, with the offense only being able to produce a couple of big ground plays with Toland and Ty Issac. Toa Lobendahn, who is expected to start at left guard as a true freshman, gave a solid effort on Saturday, though he was roughed up by some of the defense's veterans like J.R. Tavai and Hayes Pullard.