A lot to do to spring an upset on USC
By Ferd Lewis
After running back Chizzy Dimude produced the second score, a touchdown, of Friday night's Warrior Bowl football scrimmage, public address announcer Bobby Curran proclaimed it: "Hawai'i 10, USC 0."
It was a light-hearted reminder that for all the labors and frivolity of the spring, the real thing is just around the corner and closing as fast as, well, a Trojan linebacker.
It is only 123 days until the season opener against Southern California at Aloha Stadium, the challenging beginning to an ambitious September for the Warriors. And for all the feel-good optimism that emerged from the spring, there remains much to be addressed and done before the Warriors step in front of a national TV audience on Sept. 2.
Job One figures to be sorting out exiled quarterback Bryant Moniz's return to the team after a hasty departure a third of the way into the spring for what was described as "personal leave."
Moniz, the most experienced returnee and projected 2010 starter, wasn't on the field for Friday's controlled scrimmage and his absence hangs over the team heading into the summer, when he is expected to get the go-ahead from head coach Greg McMackin to return.
Key will be how teammates accept Moniz, how quickly the issues that divided some of them can be overcome and how able he is to accelerate progress from where he left off in a remarkable 2009 campaign.
The Warriors are blessed with a talented array of receivers and some promising running backs as the spring served to underline, but with a rebuilding offensive line, performance — and stability — at quarterback will be critical to moving the ball.
Otherwise, even with all the work given the top tier of backups, Shane Austin, David Graves and Brent Rausch, in the spring the Warriors will be hard-pressed to improve upon the 22.7 points per game they averaged last year.
Defensively, the Warriors set about trying to do more than just solidify a lineup in the spring. With seven returning starters, they also sought to introduce and reinforce a hard-hitting, big-play personality. And they certainly had their "katoosh" and turnover-producing moments in the scrimmage despite missing three leading cornerbacks.
Representatives from the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl were among the 1,000 or so on fans on hand at the Warrior Bowl, no doubt looking forward to the opportunity to invite the Warriors to the Christmas Eve game after a year's absence.
But it all starts with USC and how the Warriors take the urgency and lessons from the spring and apply them over the next three months will say a lot about how they answer the bell in September.