USC might be a popular pick to make the College Football Playoff, but that does not mean the Trojans are issue-free as training camp opens Saturday.
In order to satisfy the expectations of the fans and oddsmakers, some key positions must improve for USC to be a legitimate national championship contender. Here are the five most-pressing problems facing the Trojans:
1. Will the wide receivers emerge?
USC has one go-to wide receiver, Rose Bowl star Deontay Burnett. And even he was not considered a big-time receiver before the Rose Bowl, when he caught 13 passes, including three touchdowns.
Senior Steven Mitchell returns from knee surgery, sophomore Michael Pittman is tall and full of promise and then there is a group of unproven redshirt freshmen (Tyler Vaughns, Velus Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe, Trevon Sidney) who have yet to wow anyone with their practice performances. Not to mention a couple even more unproven true freshmen (Joseph Lewis, Randal Grimes).
2. Can USC find another nose tackle?
The Trojans lucked out last season when Utah’s Stevie Tu’ikolovatu transferred in and eventually earned Rose Bowl defensive most valuable player honors. So who replaces him? The early answer is true freshman Marlon Tuipulotu, who was impressive during spring practice, when he shared time with Josh Fatu.
Two more freshmen arrived in the summer: Brandon Pili and Jay Tufele.
But the wild card is Kenny Bigelow, who has played in just 13 college games the past four seasons after two major knee operations. Bigelow is supposed to be healthy and his experience would be vital at a youthful position.
3. Will the offensive tackles be dependable?
You can make the case that quarterback Sam Darnold’s mobility and poise mean an average offensive lineman is good enough to protect him. But can the Trojans be a national-title contender without excellent tackle play?
The left tackle is expected to be Chuma Edoga, most famous last season for shoving a referee and being ejected from a game….