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Is Defensive Line Depth a Concern Against Washington State?

Both Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods have missed practice this week.

Shotgun Spratling/Conquest Chronicles

Should USC fans be worried about the defensive line depth this Saturday when the Trojans travel to Pullman, Washington to take on the Washington State Cougars?

The Trojans were already without rush end J.R. Tavai, who will miss a significant portion of time with a knee injury. Then USC head coach Steve Sarkisian announced after Thursday's practice that starting nose tackle Antwaun Woods was still out. Woods was missing from practice Tuesday and did not participate on Wednesday.

"What he had was an ear infection," Sarkisian said. "It just takes a few days to get that back. He's on medication obviously. I expect he'll be ready to play, but we'll monitor that closely."

But Woods isn't the only defensive lineman to miss practice. All-American defender Leonard Williams has also missed time this week. He did not suit up on Tuesday or Wednesday, but did participate in some drills. Williams continues to deal with lingering shoulder injuries.

"It's sore. That's football," Steve Sarkisian said after Wednesday's practice. "We want to try to build him back up as best we can for game day, so that he feels really good on game day again. He obviously plays his tail off every time he takes the field for us."

Last season, Leonard Williams played through a torn labrum and though he has missed some practices to give his shoulders a rest, he continues to excel when the lights are shining on Saturdays.

Where would the Trojans turn if either of the W boys on the defensive line were unable to go? The first option would be the rotating ends on the opposite side of the defensive line from Williams. Both Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons have played extensively this season with Pelon really coming on recently.

Simmons has played some defensive tackle before while at Texas Tech before he transferred to USC. He could be an option in the middle if defensive line coach Chris Wilson wants to go with a smaller, quicker line against a pass-happy Washington State offense.

The other primary option behind Antwaun Woods would be promoting Cody Temple to the first team. Temple has seen his reps increase in the last couple weeks as the Trojans have tried to rotate more and keep guys fresh for the second half of ball games.

Behind Temple on the depth chart are redshirt sophomore Jeff Miller and junior Joey Augello. Miller has never seen a snap of game action for USC while Augello has played in four games over the last two years in mop-up duty.

If Leonard Williams were to have to leave the game on Saturday, another option at defensive end is Greg Townsend Jr., who has made a pair of tackles in each of the last two games, including a sack against Colorado. Townsend's play has really picked up now that he is back 100 percent after missing three games earlier this season when he contracted the chicken pox.

Claude Pelon has also played better recently, earning some praise from Steve Sarkisian this week. He recorded sacks at Arizona and against Colorado and had what turned out to be a crucial blocked field goal at Arizona. The listed third string defensive ends on the depth chart are true freshmen Don Hill and Malik Dorton, who are not expected to play this season so they can redshirt.

While the Trojans have a couple of defensive line options, there are definitely none as good as having Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams play.