It's that time of year again -- USC football training camp is upon us.
There's a lot to be excited about going into the season, which is why you owe it to yourself to go along for the full ride by learning what's happening in camp and staying tuned as the team develops. It takes a bit for teams to fully hit their stride, but training camp is always a glimpse into how we can expect the rest of the year to play out.
Since the squad is just getting started, a lot can change between today and the opening game against UNLV Labor Day Weekend.
To get an idea of where the team is headed at the moment, read on and consider these points below.
1. JT Daniels is Looking Legit
If coaches impressions are any indication, it's very possible that USC will be starting a true freshman behind center this season. While there's still plenty of time left in this quarterback battle, Daniels jumped out in front of the pack as camp opened due to his accuracy and decision making.
JT Daniels graduated from high school early, and even still had a year of eligibility to play ball before coming to USC. He's in competition with Matt Fink, a redshirt sophomore, and Jack Sears, a redshirt freshman.
Daniels didn't attend spring ball sessions, but immediately hit the ground running during summer practice. Coaches have been on the record as saying that the true freshman played as though he already knew the playbook.
2. New Faces in the Secondary
USC had some holes in their secondary leading into camp, but those holes were quickly filled with some very viable prospect options. This includes 5-star recruit Olaijah Griffin, and Isaac Taylor-Stuart, who was in the top 50 rankings. They also have some players returning who have missed action, so you can expect to see lots of great battles at the defensive back position.
Regardless, we're going to see some new faces get more action than they are accustomed to going into the season. Don't be surprised to see some freshman starting in the secondary going into the opening game against UNLV.
3. Battling it Out on the Line
When you have a young and unproven quarterback under center, which will be the case no matter who wins the starting job, you need to have a skilled O-Line to protect them. This is why the offensive line is yet another position where battles will be fun to watch.
Most notably, you can expect to see some battles at the ever-important Left Tackle position, since last year's starter Toa Lobendahn going back to his natural position of center. As of right now, the entire offensive line is extremely athletic, and all accounts indicate that they've had an intense strength, conditioning and recovery regimen throughout the offseason.
Since so much of this year's team's success is riding on the effort and progression of the offensive line, conditioning was a primary focus. This will be key during the offensive line battles, as players will be tested not just on their performance in position battles, but their ability to make it through four quarters throughout a long season.
The talent at offensive line is deep this year, so there will also be plenty of opportunities for guys to get into a consistent rotation.
4. The Team Must Name a Kick Returner
Both the punt and kick return positions are open, and there will be some serious battles to see who emerges as a threat. This was a big area of disappointment and concern last season, so the team won't want to go into this season without shoring up this issue.
There are a variety of players vying for this spot that have lights out speed, but it's a matter of putting in all together with vision and maximizing on field position. Taylor-Stuart might get a serious look since he's been a returner before and runs a blazing fast 4.32 40-yard dash time.
As camp progresses, you can expect to see special teams to get a lot of time and effort so that the team can get its house in order in this regard.
5. Look For the Linebackers to Be Tough
Linebacker has long been a great tradition at USC, and it appears that this tradition will continue with this year's linebacker corps. This year's linebackers are incredibly athletic and will pose some pass rushing threats. There is lots of depth at all linebacker positions and plenty of reason for USC fans to be excited about what they will get to watch going into camp.
The linebackers will be a huge plus going into the season, which will also be helpful in allowing the young defensive back corps to progress. These linbackers will be the most vital position on this side of the ball because they'll also be helping out a weakned line that lost some stars last season. Expect to see a line of stunts and blitzes any time that teams are lining up against USC's defense.
There's a lot of time left in camp, but these five points are the main ones to consider moving forward at the moment.
For college football fans, we are most definitely entering the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you subscribe to the Pac 12 network or just want to catch a USC game here and there on ESPN or ABC, you'll want to stay tuned to storylines involving the team as they develop. It all begins in camp, and we're finally able to see where this team is headed, as position battles are waged that could have ramifications on the remainder of the season.
Consider the points laid out above so that you have the opportunity to know what you are looking for, and to keep your eyes out on certain players as they grow and develop. This way, once the team is playing for a bowl game or championship, you can say you were informed every step of the way.