There is no question that heading into spring practice, USC, under new head coach Lane Kiffin, will be forced to replace some key starters from last season's 9-win team. One of the biggest needs for the Trojans is to find suitable replacements at cornerback and safety, as they lose all four starters from a year ago in Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard Kevin Thomas, and Will Harris. But not only will 'SC be looking to shore up any concerns regarding inexperience, it not must face some injury issues. From the Orange County Register:
USC has confirmed that junior safety Drew McAllister - who was expected to compete for a starting spot - is likely to miss spring football because of hip surgery.
USCFootball.com first reported the surgery.
McAllister has displayed impressive ball skills in limited duty but has struggled to stay healthy. He missed three games last season because of a strained hip and a portion of last year's spring practice because of a pulled hamstring.
Safety is something of a free-for-all with McAllister out and Taylor Mays and Will Harris gone. SophomoreT.J. McDonald is a strong favorite to start at one spot; the other is wide open.
Candidates include sophomore Jawanza Starling, who's also playing baseball this spring; senior Marshall Jones, who switched to cornerback last season and missed the final nine games because of a sprained neck; and freshman Patrick Hall, who's joining the team in spring after failing to qualify academically in fall (but spent just enough time on the practice field to tear an ACL).
So yeah, safety is not exactly looking like a team strength right now.
Even with four departing starters from 2009, the secondary could be more than adequate in 2010. For one, the Trojans will have some experience with redshirt senior Shareece Wright taking over at one corner position. Say what you want about Wright's off the field issues and academic difficulties, but he's one of the hardest hitters on the team and seems to always have his nose around the ball. If he gets his head screwed on straight, he could have a big season because the talent is most certainly there.
At this point in time, it looks as if T.J. Bryant, who I believed started the Emerald Bowl in replace of Pinkard, will get the nod opposite Wright. As with a lot of guys on the roster heading into this season, he's young and inexperienced but incredibly talented and skilled.
But it's the safety spot that I'm most concerned about. McAllister's injury really leaves the position wide open and an even bigger question mark than it was before Spring Practice was set to begin in three weeks. There is nobody that has the game experience that McAllister has, which isn't even all that much to begin with.
So can guys like Starling, Jones, and Hall, make some sort of impact without McAllister sidelined? Based on his track record, it's not unforeseeable that he misses chunks of the season with injuries as well. Somebody needs to step up. The question now is: who is that going to be.