What to watch for: USC spring game

We like to talk about the USC Trojans here on Crystal Ball Run. And why wouldn’t we? The Trojans have one of the most entertaining characters coaching on the sidelines in Lane Kiffin. They have one of the top Heisman contenders and charming quarterbacks in the country in Matt Barkley. They have the USC Song Girls. They have one of the top receivers in the nation in Robert Woods. And they have the USC song girls.

They also have one of the teams many believe will make a run to the BCS Championship Game, fresh off a two-year postseason ban handed down by the NCAA. Let’s just say the Trojans have been waiting for this opportunity, and they have what it takes to seize it.

With the USC spring game coming up Saturday, here is a quick look at some of the things you should be paying close attention to.

1. Matt Barkley is great, but what if…

Without question, Matt Barkley is the main guy for USC and their offense. There is a reason he returned for one more season and with him back under center the Trojans have one of the top quarterbacks in college football on their side. But with this being Barkley’s final tour on the college gridiron the time to find the next arm is now. Not only does USC need to know who they can look forward to in 2013, but they need to feel a sense of confidence in a back-up in the event Barkley has to miss any playing time at some point in the season.

For USC the battle for top back-up is between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. USC is already making moves to lock up top talent through recruiting avenues, but that will mean nothing this fall, or on Saturday. Kiffin remains undecided on which will be called upon if needed, so this should be something to keep an eye on on Saturday.

2. What do we make of USC’s running game?

We know that USC is going to be able to throw the football with a top-notch quarterback passing to a top-tier crop of wide receivers, but there will be times when USC will have to use the run. Recently this spring converted linebacker Tre Madden went down with an injury, and he could be done for the 2012 season. The good news is Curtis McNeal is still in the backfield so the Trojans have a proven player to hand off to. The Madden injury should also allow some younger players to get some reps in, such as D.J. Morgan. Kiffin has mentioned that incoming wide receiver Nelson Agholor could be used as well, but look to see what Morgan does in an increased role himself first.

Injuries have been a common theme this spring for USC, which will have a bruised offense for the spring game. Fortunately, aside from Madden, most everybody should be in good shape for the fall.

3. Who steps up at linebacker?

USC has produced some solid linebackers over the years, and they are hoping to see Tony Burnett develop in to one of their next top players at the position. Burnett played safety for USC last fall and brings some solid athleticism to the table.

4. Did we mention USC has some solid wide receivers? Well, they do!

We know who the big names are for USC. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee provide the spark and solid hands and speed needed to compete not only in the Pac 12 against teams like USC and Stanford, but the entire nation. Woods has been banged up this spring but he will be good to go in the fall according to most reports. In the absence of Woods USC has been fortunate to get some younger players some extra reps on the field. Victor Blackwell and De’Von Flourney have been the two players taking the most advantage of the extra snaps this spring.

Once Woods is back on the field with Lee USC’s receiving duo will be in great shape, but building some extra confidence in some younger pyers down on the depth chart is something that should pay off a little further down the road.

5. Most important position battle: Left Tackle

An offensive lineman’s most important job is to protect the quarterback. And when your team has a quarterback as valuable as Matt Barkley, you need to provide the most protection you can, which is why the battle for left tackle is going to be a crucial one to watch Saturday. Left tackle is the one spot on USC’s offensive line that is vacant from 2011, so look to see who can have a more productive performance between Kevin Graf and Aundrey Walker. The two have been tabbed the top two finalists for the open position on the offensive line and enough can not be said about how important the position will be for the Trojans and their high expectations in the fall, and next January. Kiffin seems to like what Walker has to offer and believes he is the better fit, but Walker will have to sell that one more time on Saturday.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and managing editor of Nittany Lion’s Den. Follow Kevin on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.