PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 09: Robert Woods #13 of the USC Trojans runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
A thumbnail sketch of the season ahead...
With limited scholarships available and with a host of new faces in key positions, previewing this years team is a bit of challenge.
In order for Barkley to be most effective, it all starts with the offensive line. LT is locked up with Matt Khalil, same with Khaled Holmes at center. John Martinez will most likely be your starting LG...That leaves RT, Kevin Graf is probably the guy but it will depend on his shoulder and his overall ability to stay injury free. If Graf isn't ready, will David Garness get the call? I also wouldn't put it past Lane Kiffin Kiffin to give freshman Aundrey Walker some playing time.
Kiffin said this about Walker...
Kiffin on the quick feet of 6-foot-6 freshman offensive lineman Aundrey Walker: "At 364 pounds, they don't make many humans like that."
You can guarantee that Walker is going to get some snaps this season.
Running back is another position with a number of questions.
With Marc Tyler out for at least the first game of the season and possibly more who earns the starting job?
Curtis McNeal, D.J. Morgan and Dillon Baxter will be vying to be the #1 option at RB. Baxter is the most game experienced, but it is pretty much wide open at this point. Lane Kiffin told me that all three have different styles in their game and that depending on the game situation he would use each back accordingly. McNeil still has academic issues but his experience within the system could make the transition a little less painful until Tyler gets back in the game.
Replacing Stanley Havili is going to be a tough road to hoe. You never really know what you had until its gone. Havili had some great plays for us and there were times that he was the most consistent player on the field...Fullback is one of the most important positions in Kiffin's offense, so who is the next Stanley Havili?
Charles Burks, Hunter Simmons and Soma Vainuku will all battle for the starting job. All three are of different molds. Vainku is the projected starter but Simmons has some experience in the system as a RS soph. FB is the glue to this offensive scheme being successful so while all three will get some time to prove themselves, one of these guys needs to step up to bring stability to the offense.
Robert Woods is the #1 starter but who is on the opposite side of the field?
Carswell and Butler obviously have the most experience, they will get the best opportunity to earn the #2 spot but they younger guys bring some exceptional talent. One way of looking is simple, if Carswell and Butler were so good why did either one get beat out by Robert Woods? I am not saying that way of thinking is correct but it is out there.
But Butler is making a strong statement to be the #2 guy.
Receiver Brice Butler is running a determined comeback route after drifting away from the USC football team last spring.
Butler, who did not participate in spring practice after announcing he would transfer, is back with the squad and making a positive impression on Coach Lane Kiffin, who said Butler and Kyle Prater are the front-runners to start opposite Robert Woods after the first two days of practice.
Butler came back "completely different than what we saw before," Kiffin said Friday. "Physical, aggressive, going after balls. ... I'm extremely pleased with were he is."
Prater needed a season to let his body adjust, but he has some incredible hands. He could be a real home run threat if he can stay healthy. Ambles also has some tremendous talent but his off field issues are keeping him from being a real threat.
George Farmer is the one to watch. Will lightning strike twice? Farmer is physically ready to go right now, all he needs is some to get comfortable with the playbook. As silly as it sounds, he could be the next Robert Woods.
Defense this season is all about simplicity...
So [Monte] Kiffin, the assistant head coach for defense, made adjustments during spring workouts. And he has continued the trend, keeping things simple through three days of training camp.
"We slowed down the installation," he said Saturday. "We've cut back some. And the players are showing more awareness in the second year in the system."
How that translates when the Trojans open the season Sept. 3 against Minnesota remains to be seen.
USC, with several first-year starters on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary, gave up 400 yards a game in 2010 — 84th among 120 major college teams.
Experience was one issue last season. I think getting the message (read scheme) across was just as big an issue last season. The defense had flashes but when the chips were down they just didn't finish when they had the opportunity to slam the door shut.
Replacing Jurrell Casey will a task, but there is some beef and speed up front in Nick Perry, Devon Kennard and Wes Horton at DE. Christian Tupou, DaJohn Harris are at DT. Obviously, Armond Armstead will battle for a starting job once he is fully cleared to participate and don't forget George Uko...Ed Orgeron has high praise for Uko...
Redshirt freshman George Uko received praise from both his position coach and his head coach. Orgeron noted his work ethic.
"He's probably playing as well as any inside guy for us on defense," said Kiffin.
Keep an eyes on newcomers Greg Townsend and Christian Heyward.
The talent level has dropped off a bit from seasons past. Not surprising, You don't replace a Brian Cushing or a Rey Maualuga very easily. Chris Galippo is your starting MLB.This is Galippo's time to finally put to rest the questions of "is he really all that?"
Galippo knows this is it...
USC's starting middle linebacker, Chris Galippo, is 22, young by most standards, but not by his own.
The fifth-year senior is starting to feel old on the field with the Trojans, or a lot older than the incoming freshmen who are, in some cases, a full five years younger than him. His body has reacted differently to the first two practices of the fall-camp season than their bodies.
"Yesterday after practice, I felt it," Galippo said Friday. "Some of these guys that are 17 or 18 years old, they're jogging off and getting ready to go home and play video games. I'm kinda limping off and getting ready to go in the ice tub and go right to bed.
"It's just different."
Galippo is the anchor this season...he needs to bridge the gap of the most experienced players and young up-and-comers this season.
Shane Horton will be your WLB.
The question is who will be the SLB? Marquis Simmons, Dion Bailey or Ross Cumming are in the hunt. Simmons is itching for his chance now that he is at the top of the pile. Dion Baily moved from safety to LB so he is looking grab the starting job. Cumming is a known fixture on Special Teams. Keep an eye out for both Tre Madden and Lamar Dawson.
All eyes are on Strong Saftey. T.J. McDonald has the FS locked up so everyone else is looking grab the starting spot.
Marshall Jones, Jawanza Starling, Drew McAllister will all to going after the SS job. All three have starting experience, so they have the inside track. But....Demetrius Wright is going to make a big push to be the starter. He has bulked up and is the best all-around athlete. This will be fun to watch.
Nickell Robey is firmly planted at the #1 spot so who is on the other side?
Tony Burnett looks to be the #2 guy but it is early yet. Torin Harris will make a push to be the #2. JC transfer Wiley has speed and physicality. Brian Baucham, Anthony Brown and T.J. Bryant will also challenge for the starting spot.
I don't normally put too much thought into Special teams but one aspect will be a real treat to watch...
Who is going to return kicks?
There are some interesting possibilities. We all know what Robert Woods can do.
But Nickell Robey, George Farmer, Brandon Carswell and possibly Curtis McNeal, the possibilities could be endless...
It should be a fun season!