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USC Now mailbag: Expectations, uniforms and depth chart

USC Now mailbag: Expectations, uniforms and depth chart
The Trojans' offensive line goes head to head with the Bruins' defensive line during the second quarter of a game at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Summer is over.

Football is back.

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And I can't wait to read your comments and questions about USC's 2015 season.

If you want to join the mailbag, email LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet @LindseyThiry.

Let the fun begin.

I personally would like to see my Trojans brimming over with confidence. I believe their talents are better applied with that sort of mindset. Don't like to see a lot of caution expressed cause I believe that ultimately that can hold their performance back.

— Roger Arnold

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian, quarterback Cody Kessler and linebacker Su'a Cravens spoke with a hint of caution in regard to preseason expectations (USC is ranked 10th in the national coaches poll and was picked to win the Pac-12 championship in a media poll) because this team has seen what happens when you let hype overcome you.

In 2012, USC was ranked No. 1 in multiple preseason polls and stumbled to a 7-6 finish.

Kessler was a redshirt freshman, Cravens was a high school senior committed to play at USC and Sarkisian watched from Washington, where he was the coach.

Coaches and players must strike a balance between having confidence and knowing that preseason predictions are just that.

This team knows they can win, but they can't get too far ahead of themselves.

Otherwise, it could be back to El Paso.

Obviously, the new coach Steve Sarkisian has no understanding of tradition!!!!! Since his arrival at USC, he has decided NOT to wear the colors of the university! The only colors he knows are gray and black. No other coach since John McKay has failed to wear the Cardinal and Gold the majority of the time and most certainly on game days! Even Lane Kiffin wore the white coaches polo with gold and cardinal trim. Sarkisian is a fool for not understanding tradition and what it means to players and alumni. My position is, if you as the head coach refuse to wear the colors of the University of Southern California, which are, by the way, Cardinal and Gold, then quit your job. You're no leader,  just a jerk. I know it's probably a statement against coach Ed Orgeron because HE DID PROUDLY WEAR THE COLORS!!!!! Please coach, start looking for another university to work at ... like Oregon!

— Art R.

Art, I can feel the passion with which you typed this email.

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Maybe white just isn't Sarkisian's color.

He often wore a charcoal gray or cardinal pullover during games, with a USC logo on the corner of his chest.

As for what the tradition means to players and alumni, it seems to matter more to alumni, who often fill my inbox or Twitter feed with rants about keeping to the ever-so-slightly tweaked cardinal-and-gold uniforms.

In multiple conversations about jerseys with players, they have expressed the desire to wear an alternate uniform combination. They do not seem to want to stray to a hundred combinations, but — similar to the NFL — they would like one alternate to wear for a designated game.

That seems reasonable, given the climate of college football and how many teams have a plethora of uniform options.

Sarkisian must strike a balance between keeping alumni — often boosters — and players happy. But he also needs to continue to recruit top talent, many of whom want an alternate uniform.

And I already hear your next argument: that USC should recruit players who care only about football, not a fashion show.

Different times, different generations. The whole package — football and off-the-field amenities — matter to these players and recruits.

What's the weakest part of this team? Tight end depth or coaching competence?

— Johnny Morton, @johnnymortonsup

These coaches are competent.

Whether they can carry out a game plan that leads to enough victories to satisfy the USC fan base remains a question.

So, let's go with tight ends.

Fourth-year junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick is the only experienced tight end on the roster, and Sarkisian said at media days last week that Cope-Fitzpatrick's eligibility remains uncertain. He was sidelined last season because he was academically ineligible.

USC announced last spring that sophomore Bryce Dixon, who played in 12 games in 2014, no longer was enrolled in the university.

The Trojans might need to depend on several inexperienced players.

Freshman Tyler Petite will join the team in training camp.

Graduate transfer Taylor McNamara also is expected to join the team, as is Florida transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe, though it's unlikely he will be eligible this season.

Walk-on Connor Spears made the most of his opportunity during spring practice, when he was the only tight end available. He could earn time this fall.

And walk-on Caleb Wilson worked out with the team during player-run practices this summer and could provide depth.

Will coach Sark & staff play to win or play to not embarrass their opponents? Too often we shut things down way too early.

— Eric Garcia, @FightOn_n_GA

USC's record was 9-4 last season, but the Trojans possibly could have finished 12-1, if it weren't for a disastrous collapse at Boston College and last-minute gaffes against Arizona State and Utah.

Those losses sting because instead of Sarkisian's first season being considered a resounding success, it's remembered, by some, as a breath-holding, chaotic mess.

Sarkisian must learn from those mistakes, otherwise, the 2015 season could turn unpleasant rather quickly.

Who will be calling plays on Offense?

— Josh, @Jizzzo_

Sarkisian, with assistance from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton, according to the USC media guide.

How is the defensive depth chart looking? Are we gonna be gassed every 4th quarter this season? Who have we added to solve that?

— Michael Quiroz, @Geekrocker

USC adds a bulk of freshmen to the defense this season.

Defensive linemen: Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Jacob Daniel, Christian Rector and Kevin Scott.

Linebackers: John Houston, Jr., Porter Gustin, Cameron Smith and Osa Masina.

Defensive backs: Iman Marshall, Marvell Tell III, Ykili Ross and Isaiah Langley.

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Defensive linemen Kenny Bigelow and linebacker Jabari Ruffin both return after they were sidelined last season because of injuries.

Sophomore linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who was not enrolled at USC in the spring, also returns to the team.

As for fourth-quarter issues, we won't know whether those have been solved until we watch a few fourth quarters.

USC opens the season Sept. 5 against Arkansas State.

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