Spring football will raise questions


The grass is green, the birds are chirping and the SoCal temperature is starting to consistently hit 70 degrees, which can only mean one thing: spring is here.

A Sark contrast · New head coach Steve Sarkisian will have to find new ways to create hype around USC football after a tumultuous 2013.   Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

A Sark contrast · New head coach Steve Sarkisian will have to find new ways to create hype around USC football after a tumultuous 2013. Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

As those of us of Iranian descent might know, the beginning of spring is celebrated in Persian culture to ring in the New Year in a 13-day day festival called Nowruz, which celebrates new beginnings.

The holiday not only commemorates the end of winter, but also signifies that I don’t have to watch the atrocious USC men’s basketball team play another game until next fall after a rough first campaign for head coach Andy Enfield.

More importantly, the coming of spring means that spring football is on the horizon — and for USC, the road to the Trojans’ Aug. 30 opener against Fresno State at the Coliseum starts on Tuesday.

When the team takes Howard Jones Field to practice on Tuesday, their cleat indents on the luscious, green grass will not only be the beginning of a long journey, but will also signify a sense of renewal for the Trojans.

And after enduring a season that featured three different head coaches, an embarrassing home loss to Washington State and a pair of defeats to rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, the team can now get the fresh start they have been seeking for quite some time.

It all started with Sarkisian’s Signing Day magic, when he captured the Pac-12’s top recruiting class. Now it’s time to churn that momentum onto the playing field.

Spring marks new beginnings for the team with a new coaching staff, new players and a clean slate featuring questions surrounding the team’s future.

Perhaps the most interesting story going into spring ball is who will be the starting quarterback on the depth chart come April.

Will the chick — redshirt freshman Max Browne — hatch from his egg this spring or will Cody Kessler continue to fly like the phoenix that landed him the starting job over Max Wittek last spring?

Kessler, the incumbent, holds a slight advantage over Browne after throwing for just under 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall. He got the job done last season and brings back experience, though the talent and throwing arm of Browne is continuously praised.

Sarkisian knows what Browne can do, having recruited him out of Skyline High School in Washington, and I’m excited to see how he and Kessler split reps during practice and duel during the spring game.

But a question that arises every spring is which players are going to fill in the team’s holes?

The Trojans return 18 starters: eight on offense, eight on defense and two on special teams, but they lost pretty important players at fairly important positions. Now that wide receiver Marqise Lee is gone, Nelson Agholor will step into his role as the number one receiver and Darreus Rogers will likely complement him on the outside.

As position battles ensue, Sark needs to replace the heart of the offensive line, as center Marcus Martin and tackle Kevin Graf head to the draft. He has a good bunch of talent to choose from, especially with the incoming recruiting class which includes early enrollee Toa Lobendahn.

Lobendahn will be sporting the No. 55 jersey of late Trojan Junior Seau, which makes the prestigious No. 55 a two-way number (LB Lamar Dawson will also wear No. 55) after it historically only went to linebackers. If the coaches didn’t have high expectations for the freshman, they probably wouldn’t let that happen.

What I’m really curious about, however, is how Sarkisian will be able to hype up the team during the spring, which isn’t easy when the season lies so far ahead. Hopefully, he doesn’t come up with a motto like “Don’t talk about it, be about it” on the field, the Lane Kiffin slogan that didn’t really inspire anyone. Maybe he’ll bring the team cookies, In and out or chicken and waffles like Coach O did during his tenure.

Fortunately for Sark, the best part about the spring, a time of freshness, is that he can “be about” anything he wants, start his own traditions and produce his own one-liners to get his team going.

Whether you want to hear Sark’s words of wisdom or just want to catch the team in action this spring, anyone is welcome to get their fix of USC spring ball in person from the deck of Dedeaux Field, which overlooks Howard Jones Field.

With the early success of the Trojans’ baseball team, USC fans can now really get a bang for their buck by experiencing quite the doubleheader beginning with spring football practice followed by a USC baseball game.

Spring cleaning is boring — so I advise you to take a break, put on some shades, and head out to a practice or two. From previous experience, you never know who you will see — Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh showed up to speak to the team last spring.

So take advantage of the opportunity. Oh, and Pro Day is next Wednesday, another event signifying new beginnings for the Trojans’ NFL-bound athletes.

This is why the spring is my favorite season at USC: Unlike the words of Rachel Carson, it’s no “silent spring” here. There’s always something going on.

The only thing better than spring time on campus is when the Trojans get back to the playing field on Saturdays in the fall — and I’m sure that we are all looking forward to that. Until then, enjoy the spring green.

Darian Nourian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Dishin’ Darian,” runs every other Friday. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Darian at dnourian@usc.edu.