2015 season preview: USC Trojans

Previewing the USC Trojans' 2015 season:

2014 record: 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12)

Final grade for 2014: B

Key losses: DL Leonard Williams, WR Nelson Agholor, RB Buck Allen, LB Hayes Pullard, CB Josh Shaw, TE Randall Telfer

Key returnees: QB Cody Kessler, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Adoree’ Jackson, LB Su'a Cravens, OG Viane Talamaivao, OT Chad Wheeler, OG Toa Lobendahn, C Max Tuerk

Most important player: Jackson. There’s clearly a strong case for Kessler, but Jackson is a rarity in college football for the number of ways he can change a game. Whether it’s on defense, offense or special teams, there’s always the potential to see something special from him.

Impact newcomer: WR Isaac Whitney. A transfer from Riverside Community College, Whitney drew rave reviews during spring ball and should make an immediate impact as part of a talented group of receivers.

Best-case scenario for 2015: 15-0, national champions. That’s the goal, and USC won’t hide from it. The talent is there and the experience is there at the right spots for this to be a plausible conclusion to the season.

Worst-case scenario for 2015: 7-6. If we’re going to continue to make the case for the Pac-12 as the nation’s top conference, then we had better acknowledge there aren’t many gimmes.

Class of 2015 signee to watch: Cornerback Iman Marshall appears to be the next freshman standout for the Trojans, following in the footsteps of Jackson and Cravens. With the coaches looking to get Jackson more involved on offense, the opportunity could be there for Marshall to step into a prominent role in the cornerback rotation from the first snap of the season. -- Erik McKinney

Class of 2016 storyline: USC is off to another fast start on the recruiting trail, but the Trojans will need to hold on to the commitments of a few prospects who will look around and take visits this fall. The Trojans have been terrific out of state early on, so finishing the job in the Golden State will likely be a priority between now and signing day. Tight end Devin Asiasi, wide receivers Tyler Vaughns, Dylan Crawford and Javon McKinley, linebacker Caleb Kelly and athlete Jackie Jones are just a few of the California prospects still on the board. --Erik McKinney

Biggest remaining question mark: Depth. The scholarship numbers are moving in the right direction, but the Trojans are not quite back to full strength.

Breakout player: WR Steven Mitchell. After catching seven passes for 82 yards last year, Mitchell figures to be a significant piece of the offense as a sophomore.

Most important game: UCLA, Nov. 28. Even if the Trojans run off an 11-0 start, it won’t mean much if they don’t end a three-year losing streak to their crosstown rival. Could this game serve as a play-in for the Pac-12 title game?

Upset watch: Washington, Oct. 8. No doubt many of the Huskies will be fired up to play former coach Steve Sarkisian.

Projected 2015 finish: 12-2, Pac-12 South champions