Seems like just a minute ago that UCLA’s and USC’s football teams were finishing their season on rather bad notes, the Bruins playing with only half of their offensive line being healthy and performing accordingly in their loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl while the Trojans completely embarrassed their proud community in losing to a 6-7 Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl, the first time that a team has ever lost to one with a losing record in the post-season.
Not that it has overshadowed the Dodgers and Angels opening the baseball season or the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Ducks pushing for the playoffs in the NBA and the NHL, respectively, but, Jim Mora’s and Lane Kiffin’s teams have officially started anew as spring practices have commenced at UCLA and USC.
The Trojans started their spring football sessions on March 3rd, a main focus being who will replace Matt Barkley at quarterback as sophomores Max Wittek – who would have probably earned the job if it wasn’t for his poor play in the Sun Bowl, throwing three interceptions – Cody Kessler and true freshman Max Browne, the nation’s top recruit who enrolled early, are taking snaps and showing Kiffin and his staff what they’ve got.
Nothing has been decided as of yet, but it would not be a surprise if Browne were named the starter this fall.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time the Trojans had a true freshman start at quarterback as Barkley earned the job fresh out of Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei High in 2009.
The biggest news so far coming out of ‘SC’s practices is that wide receiver George Farmer tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee on Tuesday and is out for the season, which is part of their biggest question outside of who will be under center for the Trojans; who will line up opposite Marqise Lee this fall and take the pressure off of him?
The Trojans’ spring game will be on April 13th at the Coliseum. More information is available on www.USCTrojans.com.
Meanwhile in Westwood, UCLA’s Bruins began their spring practices this week with one advantage over their USC counterparts at the start – they know who their quarterback will be as Brett Hundley is pretty much etched in stone as the man at that position.
Jim Mora’s three biggest concerns is who will take over the reins at running back and who will step up and be contributors on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary, the two weaknesses that the Bruins suffered from last year.
Johnathan Franklin and his over 1,700 rushing yards are gone; Malcolm Jones – who returned to the team following a one-year leave of absence – Steven Manfro, and Jordon James will be getting much of the looks as to who will take Franklin’s place, though I think Damien Thigpen will be the favorite if he recovers from his torn ACL in the summer.
The defensive backfield will likewise look completely different, particularly since safety Tevin McDonald was recently kicked off the team for violating program policy. Young players like Ishmael Adams and Marcus Rios will be trying to take over from Andrew Abbott, Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester. Randall Goforth will be in the mix as well, and Dietrich Riley is expected back after suffering an injury.
As for the offensive line, only Xavier Sua-Filo is a virtual lock to start next fall as Jim Mora has let the other returnees know that the incoming linemen recruits will be after their jobs.
That means that guys like Torian White and Simon Goines will have to step up in a major way if they want to stay on the field as Scott Quessenberry, who figures to be the new center, Christian Morris, and Poesi Moala are part of a top-notch group of interiors that will challenge the veterans.
Like it has been said, if you don’t have a good line, you don’t have a good football team, and UCLA has done much to rectify that.
The Bruins will be practicing throughout April, with their spring game scheduled for April 27th at the Rose Bowl.
For further information, go to www.UCLABruins.com