After yesterday's practice, coach Lane Kiffin announced that while linebacker Marquis Simmons and defensive back Brian Baucham are academically eligible for 2012, starting cornerback Isiah Wiley is not. This is a solid blow to the defense, but not a tremendous one. Here's what lies ahead for the team.
1. The prominence of Josh Shaw
The team practiced assuming Wiley would not be eligible, which means Josh Shaw received more reps. Remember how some writer thought Wiley would be able to stave off Shaw through the season? Well, Wiley won't even have that opportunity. Oops. Shaw has been good in camp. But it may take a month to determine whether Shaw can play across from Nickell Robey. Let's evaluate his status after Cal.
2. Scholarship players are set
When Silas Redd joined USC last month, the team was at 76 scholarship players. They needed to cut one. Rumors swirled about the possibility of pulling a former walk-on's scholarship to free a spot for Redd. But Kiffin told media that he and his staff believed that one player would not be academically eligible. As unfortunate it is for Wiley to lose his scholarship, at least it did not come at the expense of Kyle Negrete, Tony Burnett or Will Andrew, walk-ons who earned scholarships and have kept the grades.
3. Depth is kept at linebacker and (kind of) defensive back
Yeah, Wiley is gone. But Spring Ball standout Brian Baucham is still around, lessening the hit caused by Wiley's departure in the defensive backfield. Simmons, who was hurt most of last season, reinforces an already stacked linebacking corps. But special teams could always use more bodies. Since he's on the lower end of the depth chart, it would not be a surprise to see Simmons on kick coverage. But he has yet to begin hitting. Coming off a neck injury, Kiffin and Co. will take their time getting Simmons back in the fold.