The Trojans went on the road last week and defeated Hawaii 30-13 in a game that left almost as many questions as answers for the team moving forward. Here’s what we learned:
1. QB battle does not look settled: Lane Kiffin went into the Hawaii game with questions about his starter, and fans took sides with their preferences in heated debates. After the first game, Kiffin now says he knows who his starter will be for the Washington State game, but fans are just as confused as ever, because neither player seemed to have separated from the other in the opener. Both quarterbacks -- Cody Kessler and Max Wittek -- had nice moments, both had not-so-nice moments and both had drops from normally sure-handed receivers that could have added nicely to their stats. Regardless, the uncertainty about a long-term starter will continue for another week until we see how things play out against the Cougars.
2. Even without Redd, Trojans have some backs: Projected starting running back Silas Redd didn’t even make the trip to Hawaii, but that didn’t stop the Trojans from seeing some good production from the backs who were there. Tre Madden got the start, and while many of his runs were tough yards after getting hit early, he also showcased a couple long runs, including a nifty 34-yarder. Justin Davis got most of his work in the second half, and he showed a lot of promise with his energetic running style. Buck Allen even made a case for more playing time when he ran over a Hawaii defender near the goal line. Pay attention to the number of rushes in the game -- 45. That’s a good number for a USC offense that wants to run the ball more in 2013.
3. OL needs time to develop as a group: There is going to be a lot of attention paid to the progress of the O-line this year, a process that is made tougher by the insertion of a redshirt freshman at the key left tackle spot midway through camp. The line had a better day run blocking than pass blocking against Hawaii, as evidenced by three sacks and nine tackles for loss. One of those sacks resulted in a safety. It will be interesting to see how the line continues to jell in the coming weeks, especially if there is a continued commitment to running the football.
4. Devon Kennard is back and in the right position: It was considered a big loss last year when Kennard was out with a pec injury, but who could have known how perfectly he would fit into the new defensive scheme in 2013? For a guy who spent the early part of his USC career clearly out of position at defensive end, Kennard finally has found a spot for his talents as an outside linebacker in the 5-2. His stat line (three tackles, two for loss, 1 sack, two pass break-ups) earned him the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week award and, more importantly, the Trojans might have found an impact player for their defense.
5. Injuries add to issues at corner: Things were tenuous enough at the corner position before the opener, but it definitely added to the concern level to see both starting corners Kevon Seymour and Anthony Brown leave the game with injury. There has been no official word from the university on the status of either player, although the speculation immediately after the game was that Seymour's issue was not serious. Torin Harris and Devian Shelton saw extended time as reserves against Hawaii with mixed results, and you can be sure Washington State coach Mike Leach will be focusing a lot of attention on who will be out there for the Trojans against his wide-open offense on Saturday.