With the start of the 2012 USC football season drawing near, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster all this week, beginning today with quarterbacks, continuing Tuesday with running backs and ending a week from today with special teams on the morning of the fall camp kick-off.
For each position, we'll start with the current depth chart, going off the end-of-spring depth chart as released by Lane Kiffin, analyze it and discuss what needs to be resolved by Sept. 1.
1. Matt Barkley, senior
2. Cody Kessler, redshirt freshman
2b. Max Wittek, redshirt freshman
4. John Manoogian, redshirt senior
This one looked a little different three months ago, with Jesse Scroggins then still occupying an unspecified spot on the depth chart.
Now, the redshirt sophomore's gone to El Camino College, and it's an all-out competition between Kessler and Wittek for the right to back up Barkley this season. And the guy who wins the job will have a significant, worth-mentioning advantage over the guy who loses when it comes time to compete for the No. 1 job next spring.
Why? Because Barkley's not going to play all 60 minutes of every game, especially early on. So the No. 2 quarterback could get 30 or 40 in-game throwing attempts under his belt by the end of the season.
For his part, Barkley appears ready to discard an average spring and get going into his final collegiate season. Reports have pegged his arm as significantly stronger this summer; while that may or may not be true, his arm has definitely looked a little sharper and a little fresher in summer throwing sessions than it did in the spring.
He can handle the increased expectations and notoriety, no doubt. But can he handle it if USC doesn't get Penn State's Silas Redd and the school's only established running back, Curtis McNeal, gets hurt for a game or two? It's not hard to project a scenario where Barkley averages 40+ throws a game this season.
More on the running backs tomorrow, but a question to ponder in the meantime: How much will Barkley's success this year depend on his backfield mates?
The competition between Kessler and Wittek may be the most intriguing position battle of all of camp, even though the two won't be fighting for a starting job. They're logical competitors, contrasting each other in various ways but possessing equal amounts of self-confidence.
It'll also be interesting to observe Kiffin's methodology in naming a backup as he attempts to minimize the chance that one of the second-year players will bolt upon learning he has lost the job.
Will he ever even name an official No. 2? It's very possible he won't, to keep the competition ongoing and to keep both players hopeful.
We'll know in about a month.