2012 OUTLOOK: USC will settle for nothing less than a national championship after serving its two-year bowl ban levied as part of NCAA sanctions. The Trojans return Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Barkley, a senior. After throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns, Barkley contemplated a jump to the NFL, but an opportunity to contend for a national title enticed him more. The Trojans also have a favorable schedule with Notre Dame as the lone nonconference threat. They also play the Pac-12's defending champion, Oregon, at home.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
Although the Trojans have to replace offensive tackle Matt Kalil -- who is headed for the NFL -- four starters return on the offensive line. Also, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods headline one of the nation's top receiving corps, which is bad news for opponents with All-America quarterback Matt Barkley throwing them the ball. Senior TB Curtis McNeal returns for his senior season after rushing for a team-best 1,005 yards on 145 carries. Overall, however, the backfield lacks depth and experience. USC was forced to convert linebacker Tre Madden to tailback this spring.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
The defense made strides in its second year under coordinator Monte Kiffin, and the linebackers and defensive backs will remain intact. Replacing DE Nick Perry and DTs Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris will be the biggest question marks entering the 2012 season.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
The Trojans have returning starters at kicker and punter in Andre Heidari and Kyle Negrete, respectively. Heidari, who made 15 of 17 field-goal attempts and all 50 PATs as a freshman last season, is one of the best placekickers in the country. Negrete was efficient, downing putting roughly half his punts inside the 20-yard line and hitting zero touchbacks the entire year.
WR Nelson Agholor (Berkeley Prep, Tampa, Fla.) -- The five-star recruit was rated the third-best receiver in the country by Rivals.com, but he was mostly used offensively at running back last year, rushing 212 times for 1,983 yards. As a USC freshman, he could be the third man in the rotation behind the best duo in the country -- Robert Woods and Marqise Lee -- and also help out in a pinch in the backfield, coach Lane Kiffin said.
DE Leonard Williams (Mainland High, Daytona Beach, Fla.) -- Rated the No. 5 defensive end in the country by Rivals.com, Williams could join the rotation with Devon Kennard and Wes Horton at end as a true freshman. Coach Lane Kiffin said he's a "strong candidate" to play in 2012.
OL Zach Banner -- The son of Washington Huskies legend Lincoln Kennedy, Banner earned multiple first-team high school All-America honors and was rated the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com. He's a massive 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds, and he plays in an area of critical need for the Trojans.
--DT Cody Temple underwent ankle surgery, forcing him to miss the last half of spring football practice.
--S Josh Shaw was out with an unspecified rib injury and had not practiced through March 28. Shaw was waiting for the NCAA to decide if he will be immediately eligible after transferring from Florida in December.
--WR Robert Woods will not participate in any of spring practice after an MRI revealed inflammation in his surgically repaired right ankle. Woods played last season at less than 100 percent because of the chronically sprained ankle. Woods will take a month off with the hope of being fully recovering before the season. Fellow WR George Farmer was also out due to a strained hamstring.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.