USC's football team learned to walk the line in its first spring under new Coach Paul Hackett.
But everyone knows it won't matter unless the Trojans improve between the lines next season.
There have been 6 a.m. workouts and repercussions for missing classes. Harder-hitting practices and more fundamental coaching.
Typical stuff of a new regime, some of it.
But some of it looks like real change for a program that won only six games in each of the last two seasons under John Robinson and didn't go to a bowl game either year.
"I think discipline can make a big difference," said sophomore Mike Van Raaphorst, who established himself as the No. 1 quarterback during spring drills, which end today. "We had a lot of penalties last year, and any time you have to move the ball back five yards because of a stupid mistake, that's something we could avoid."
"We needed discipline," said senior safety Grant Pearsall, who has come back after sitting out last season because of knee surgery and is battling David Gibson for a starting position. "I like the way it is, and I liked the way it was, but I guess we needed a change."
Resistance to some of Hackett's ways has worn down, and any question of whether he would follow through with punishment was answered when star receiver R. Jay Soward was suspended this week for the rest of spring practice and the first game next season because of academic shortcomings.
"I think it caught a lot of people off guard," cornerback Daylon McCutcheon said. "Since I've been here, people have gotten away with some things and the consequences weren't as harsh. Now Coach Hackett has come in, and if you don't do what you're asked. . . . Maybe people didn't believe it when he came, but now people realize he wasn't messing around."
Hackett insists there is a correlation between discipline off the field and performance on it.
"Sometimes the reason you jump offsides is the same reason you say, 'I'm too tired to go to class today,' " he said. "You get tired in the fourth quarter too."
USC has some eye-catching players in Soward, tailback Chad Morton, McCutcheon and linebacker Chris Claiborne, but there is trouble in the trenches.
"The [overall] talent is not quite what I thought it would be," Hackett said. "I think when I took the public stance that we had middle-of-the-road talent, I was really hoping for somewhat more than that. The talent level, I'm a little disappointed."
USC faces inexperience and lack of depth in the offensive and defensive lines.
"We need to do a better job recruiting linemen," Hackett said. "We'll address that as our No. 1 focus for recruiting as soon as we go out again May 1."
The summer emphasis will be on more demanding workouts, and Hackett called conditioning "a major, major issue."
"We are not in very good shape," he said.
On Aug. 8, when the full team reports for a three-week camp at UC Irvine in preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Purdue at the Coliseum, the focus will be on improving an offense that averaged only 21 points last season.
Van Raaphorst looks as if he will hold onto the quarterback job. Despite promises that freshmen Carson Palmer and Jason Thomas will get a chance to compete, Hackett admits it's unlikely a freshman could learn the offense quickly enough to unseat a quarterback who already knows it.
And John Fox, who started nine games last season, apparently has fallen to third on the depth chart, behind Quincy Woods.
"I think Mike has taken control of the position," Hackett said. "He really ran with it. But Quincy and John have shown a lot of character."
Tailback could be a committee position, with Morton susceptible to injuries because of his 5-foot-8 frame, and Malaefou MacKenzie still inexperienced after starting two games last season. Sultan McCullough is among the freshmen who could make an impact.
The receiving corps includes Soward--providing he is academically eligible--Billy Miller, Mike Bastianelli and two players who sat out last season because of injuries, Larry Parker, who had foot surgery, and Rod Perry Jr., who had reconstructive knee surgery and missed spring drills while playing baseball for USC.
The real worries are in the line, where Hackett said only guard Travis Claridge and surprising sophomore tackle Brent McCaffrey look like locks at their positions.
Defensively, USC is changing its scheme slightly to a true 4-3, with Mark Cusano, Claiborne, and a surprise, redshirt freshman Darryl Knight, at linebacker.
The proof of all the talk about changes, though, will be in the won-lost record.
"I think, as a team, we're already better, because of Coach Hackett's ideas and the discipline we have," Claridge said. "I think we'll improve. I don't know how much we'll improve.
"Our record last year would have been better if we'd executed better. They're giving us the blueprint. We have to build it. You can have the best coaching in the world, but we've got to play."