What are the top three things you are watching for during Saturday's scrimmage?
1) The M&M boys: Tailback starter Curtis McNeal will get his share of reps, but it will be very interesting to see how D.J. Morgan and Tre Madden do in a reserve role behind him. Both backups are intriguing, but for different reasons. Morgan is eager to show that he can be counted on as a game-breaker, while Madden wants to impress in his new role as a big back on offense.
2) Pass rush: It’s an old adage that the defense is usually ahead of the offense at this early point in spring, so it stands to reason that the USC defensive line should be able to get some pressure. The outside seniors, Wes Horton and Devon Kennard, are at the top of their games, but George Uko and Greg Townsend will need to have success from the defensive tackle spot for the unit to really shine.
3) Lamar Dawson: It would be a nice bonus for the defense if Dawson is ready to start playing like a true No. 55-style USC linebacker. Dawson had a nice freshman season to ease into the starting lineup and now he’s clearly the one in charge and calling the shots.
1) Madden at tailback: Since it's the most recent move and one of the easiest positions to watch, Tre Madden's performance at tailback will be very intriguing. The USC coaches struck gold when they moved Dion Bailey from safety to strongside linebacker. Can they do it again moving Madden away from the same linebacker spot?
2) Backup quarterbacks: It's never easy on the quarterbacks during practice, but things will go up another notch on Saturday. Lane Kiffin has been consistent in saying that Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are at similar places in their battle to back up Matt Barkley, but at some point, the assumption is that one will begin to separate himself. That could happen a year from now, or it could begin to happen Saturday.
3) Offensive tackles: There was nothing wrong with the way the tackles were operating with Kevin Graf on the left side and Aundrey Walker on the right side. But it makes sense to take a look at every available option this early in spring ball. Saturday should offer a chance to see Walker at left tackle and Graf at right and we could begin to see which way works as the better combination.
1) Backup quarterbacks: The obvious thing will be viewing the performances of quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Kessler has impressed me the most thus far, but that isn’t to say that Wittek won’t be up for the challenge.
2) Offensive tackles: The production of the new offensive tackle tandem of Kevin Graf and Aundrey Walker, and their efficiency playing both the left and right tackle positions. A by-product will be how the inexperienced interior defensive line fares against the interior of the Trojans veteran offensive line.
3) Tre Madden: While we don’t expect him to get that many carries on Saturday, it should be intriguing to watch Tre Madden in his new tailback position, both running and catching the football.