The Steve Sarkisian era in Los Angeles is about to begin and, at least personally, the biggest questions about the program during the spring will be how well the Trojans adopt the hurry-up offense that he implanted at Washington in 2013 and if he will stick with junior Cody Kessler at quarterback.
The hurry-up has infected almost the entire country, with USC being one of the final hold outs, but that should change starting this spring. The tempo has swept the entire nation, but has been primarily adopted by programs that are on the outside of elite status, so it will be interesting (and potentially frightening for opponents) to see a team with the talent reservoirs of USC instill the system.
The two keys for Sarkisian and the Trojans starting in the spring will be how quickly they can get the system humming and how well the brand new Sarkisian can get his roster to buy into the demanding nature of it. He was able to institute the system successfully at Washington in a spring and fall camp in 2013, but that was with a program filled entirely with players that he had recruited and groomed, so the Trojan bunch might be a little harder to get to buy in. Starting the highly-demanding system can be hard for new coaches at first, for example, Chip Kelly really battled with getting it off the ground at Oregon in 2009 and with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013.
The biggest hang-up to the Trojans executing the hurry-up may hinge heavily on that second intriguing development that will take place this spring in the quasi quarterback competition that will at least somewhat take place. Kessler firmly grabbed hold of the reigns of the starting job towards the end of 2013 and his main competitor Max Wittek transferred out of the program, but with a new coach, and a new system, many are speculating that he will have to fight off redshirt freshman Max Browne for the starting job in 2014.
Browne was the top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2013 and redshirted after failing to truly compete with Kessler and Wittek for the starting job in 2013, but many speculate that after a year of practice, he might be ready to compete with Kessler now. Interestingly enough, both quarterbacks were recruited heavily by Sarkisian while he was at Washington, so neither would have an advantage on that level.
I personally think Kessler will hang onto the job, but regardless, both players present a bit of a problem as they are both traditional pro-style passers with limited running abilities and, generally, dual threat quarterbacks are ideal in the system. Mobility isn't an absolute essential (think about Nic Foles in Philadelphia), but it is a big advantage and you have to wonder how the offense will look with a guy like Kessler or Browne at the helm.
With that in mind, one final thing to keep an eye on at USC this spring will the performance of true freshman and early enrollee quarterback Jalen Greene. Greene is only a mid-level prospect, but will be the only dual-threat option in Sarkisian's cupboard, and he has some serious wheels, so it will be interesting to see how competitive he is in the battle to be the Trojans' quarterback in 2014.