Some notes from Lane Kiffin's afternoon meeting with reporters, held inside Heritage Hall. Spring practice begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. on Howard Jones Field. Kiffin discussed former Trojans Sammy Knight and Keary Colbert, who he said were well on their way to being hired as graduate assistants by USC, outfielder/safety Jawanza Starling, who alternates between practicing with baseball and football this spring, and quite a few other topics:
At quarterback, Kiffin insisted that Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain will start off as equals, despite the fact that Barkley has 352 pass attempts with the Trojans compared with Mustain's 16. "That’s open," Kiffin said. "Both guys will have exactly equal reps tomorrow."
Linebacker Jarvis Jones, a key recruit in the class of 2009 who played significant time as a reserve last year before missing the final five games with a neck injury, could very well keep him on the sidelines this season — and possibly for the rest of his career. “I’m not very positive about the possibilities of him playing here, at all," Kiffin said. "I don’t know how to describe it from a medical perspective. There’s a serious concern that hits or a number of hits could lead to permanent damage. Obviously, Jarvis’ safety is the No. 1 issue.”
More on the injury front: Kiffin said a full report regarding the team's many injuries would be available after Tuesday's initial practice. “We have a lot of injury concerns,” Kiffin said in the meantime. “We’re surprisingly very injured at this point. I don’t really know what to credit that to. But there’ll be a number of guys that are either out or limited tomorrow.”
In competition news, Devon Kennard will get a shot to unseat Chris Galippo at middle linebacker. Kennard started his freshman season in 2009 as a defensive end but switched to strongside linebacker midway through the season when Michael Morgan faltered. Said Kiffin of the sophomore Kennard: "This is potentially a really special player." Linebacker as a whole, Kiffin said, was the position group most in need of improvement. "That position is so critical for us," he said.
Kiffin also said he wouldn't shy away from using early enrollee athlete Dillon Baxter in the wildcat formation, as some have predicted. Baxter will play running back, Kiffin said, and “go out to receiver at times.” Kiffin said he felt it would be easier to play Baxter primarily at running back and rotate him in at receiver than the other way around.
Asked if he thought USC had enough talent to measure up to past seasons, Kiffin said: "I don’t know enough yet. I don’t even know if I could answer that towards the end of the spring." He added, "I don't think it's any secret we don't have a bunch of proven players coming back."
The QB race might be open, but from the looks of things, practices will be less open under the Kiffin regime. Said Kiffin on Monday of the idea that former Pete Carroll allowed just about anyone into practices: "I think that's a misconception that practices have been open to the public, because they haven't been. There was a system in place here before of how people got into practice, and we will have a statement I anticipate will be released within the next 24 hours on that. Our practices will not be open to the public, but they weren't before either."