Spring practice proves crucial

Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is almost over. Spring football practice is now in session.

Undoubtedly, this offseason leading up to the Sept. 1 opener at the Coliseum is the most anticipated since the Trojan’s run for consecutive national championships in 2003 and 2004.

Since it was announced that the pair of superb sevens, junior quarterback Matt Barkley and junior safety T.J. McDonald, would be staying for their senior seasons, Trojans cannot help but be excited for what lies ahead in 2012.

During the 2011 season, significant improvement was made from the previous year. Last year’s performance indicated that the USC program under Kiffin has much to prove and great potential for the upcoming seasons. As USC begins preparations for 2012, the Trojans need to capitalize on this off-season and the opportunities of spring and fall practices.

Learning from last year:

In 2011, USC was plagued with two issues that, at times, hindered performance. USC had young and inexperienced players that were forced into crucial situations. Players that were just becoming acquainted with the offensive and defensive schemes were thrown into big game situations.

At the beginning of the season, it was evident that the close games were because of a lack of confidence rather than a lack of talent. Hence, the lack of confidence became an Achilles’ heel.

During the second half of the season, the Trojans were plagued with injuries, often forcing players to stray from the game strategy that had been ingrained into them at the beginning of the season.

Finishing the season with 10 wins and two losses, including a triple-overtime against Stanford, it is undeniable that USC has its confidence back. Most importantly, USC needs to carry the momentum from last season into spring practices.

Don’t get caught up in the hype:

Early predictions anticipate USC will be playing in, and possibly winning, the national championship. Most agree that it is a dream come true to have championship hopes after a two-year bowl ban.

The team, however, needs to stay grounded. Setting expectations too high might lead to complacency and a notion of entitlement.

Yes, USC has finally been released from its prison sentence, allowing the Trojans to potentially compete for the national championship, but don’t expect a trip to Miami just yet.

Considering what is known about the 2012 roster, it is easy to assume that the Trojans will be “bowling” in January.

But don’t put too much pressure on the team by ranking them No. 1 or 2 so soon Remember the saying, “It’s not about how you start, but how you finish,” — that is exactly how the Bowl Championship Series operates.

Learning from the best:

During spring and fall practices, USC needs to take advantage of having veteran leaders on roster.

Players like Barkley and McDonald know what works and what is best for the team on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Last season, several players noted that they developed their own skills by learning from older and wiser players.

This is the time to work on skills and perfecting strategy. By cultivating this mentor relationship, players will be set for this upcoming season and everyone will be ready to accept any challenge thrown at them.

The roster has taken a huge cut because of scholarship reductions.

Using the talents of each player to the fullest extent will be the biggest asset for USC, especially in dire situations.

Great opportunity lies ahead for the Trojans in 2012. Returning talent and few departures have placed USC in a great position to regain its dominance within the college football arena.

Only time will tell if the fate of the USC football program. Without a doubt, proper preparations need to be made now to prime the Trojans for “bowling” in the New Year.


“Armchair Quarterback” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, email Andie at ahagemann@usc.edu or visit DailyTrojan.com