A year ago, USC was the preseason toast of college football, a program with the sport's most experienced quarterback and expectations of winning a national title.

It's a different scenario heading into Saturday's first training camp practice.

Embattled Coach Lane Kiffin and his players are eager to put behind them seven months spent answering questions about the Trojans' fall from preseason No. 1 to a 7-6 record in 2012.

Matt Barkley, a four-year starter at quarterback, is now a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles, trying to win a starting job under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

So Kiffin must turn to either third-year sophomores Max Wittek or Cody Kessler or freshman Max Browne to run the offense.

USC still has a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate in receiver Marqise Lee. The junior is among 16 returning starters and co-starters.

The most intriguing newcomer might be defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who replaced Kiffin's father, Monte.

Because of NCAA sanctions, USC can have only 75 scholarship players — 10 fewer than the standard annual limit. Kiffin has said the Trojans would probably carry 70.

USC is ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Sports coaches poll.

Here are six questions the Trojans face going into the season.

Is Lane Kiffin coaching for his job?

Athletic Director Pat Haden, anticipating a barrage of questions about the topic, released a video last week saying Kiffin was not on the "hot seat" and that he was behind his coach "100%."

That might temporarily staunch queries from reporters and fans, but it won't quell the notion that Kiffin's job is on the line.

Kiffin is 25-13 in three seasons. With a schedule that does not include regular-season games against Oregon or Washington, he could add substantially to that win total.

But Kiffin cannot afford embarrassing incidents such as last season's jersey-switching and ball-deflating fiascoes.

Who will start at quarterback?

Wittek's performance last season against Notre Dame appeared to put him in line to succeed Barkley. But he opened the door for Kessler by struggling mightily in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Kessler took advantage during spring workouts, avoiding turnovers and displaying leadership.

Now, with the opener less than a month away, it's a real competition.

Browne enrolled last January and performed very well for a player with no college experience. But he probably is on track to redshirt.