Spring practice begins next Tuesday for USC. Let's examine what we can expect from the 15-practice schedule, going position by position through USC'sdefense and expectations for each. Alphabetically, we dive into the significant players at each spot. We'll do special teams briefly tomorrow.
DE: Armond Armstead, James Boyd, Kevin Greene, Wes Horton, Malik Jackson, Nick Perry,
All six of these guys could see the field this season, with Armstead, Horton, Jackson and Perry all logging significant time. There are no seniors in the group — and Armstead and Jackson will be the only juniors. Perry surprised many in 2009 with a breakout season that included 24 tackles and eight sacks, but he tailed off toward the end of the year. Horton started the first half of the year whie Armstead was out with a broken foot, playing opposite former USC end Everson Griffen. Jackson's twin brother Marquis, also an end, is still slated to join the team come fall from junior college but has yet to sign a letter of intent.
DT: Jurrell Casey, Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, Da'John Harris, Derek Simmons, Christian Tupou
Tupouand Casey are the starters, with the other trio fighting to live up to expectations in a USC uniform. Harris and Fangupo, both juniors, combined for 16 tackles in 2009. Casey, also a junior, had 59. Simmons and Harris are each listed at under 300 pounds; Fangupo's listed at a hefty 330. Tupou enters his third year as a mainstay on the defensive line. Said Kiffin in the Spring Prospectus: “We have a lot of returning players at the inside spots and that should create some healthy competition there."
LB: Jordan Campbell, Chris Galippo, Shane Horton, Jarvis Jones, Devon Kennard, Michael Morgan, Marquis Simmons, Malcolm Smith, Simione Vehikite
Kennard, Galippo and Smith finished the season as USC's starters at linebackers, but the 2010 group could easily change in spring practice. Morgan, a senior to-be, led the Trojans in tackles for a loss last year (with 13) and made nine starts, so he'll present obvious competition for the sophomore Kennard. The juniors Campbell and Horton have made a total of four starts in reserve roles for the Trojans. Jones, who will be a sophomore, is not yet cleared for spring practice because of a neck injury suffered last season. Simmons and Vehikite each redshirted their freshmen seasons a year ago. Critics playing the linebacking corps for many of USC's troubles last year. This year, the new regime is trying to change that. Said Kiffin: "Across the board, this position must improve."
CB: Brian Baucham, T.J. Bryant, Torin Harris, Shareece Wright
Corner might be USC's weakest position on the field. Wright, a senior to-be, was the only player of the four to start a game last season — and he only had one start, in the Emerald Bowl in December, after missing the first 12 games due to academic ineligiblity. Bryant and Bauchamwere part of the same recruiting class. Bryant, a junior to-be, had 22 tackles and three deflections last season; Baucham, who will be a redshirt sophomore, had three tackles and one deflection. Rounding out the corners are Harris, a redshirt freshman, and four walk-ons. One of Baucham, Bryant and Harris will be a starter at corner after spring practice, but any one of incoming freshman Anthony Brown, Demetrius Wright and Nickell Robey could steal that spot away come fall camp. In the meantime, the Trojans need Wright to be the cornerback mainstay. Said Kiffin: "We're looking for Wright to have a dynamic senior year."
S: Patrick Hall, Marshall Jones, Drew McAllister, T.J. McDonald, Byron Moore, Jawanza Starling
Both starters, Taylor Mays and Will Harris, are gone to the draft, but USC has plenty of talent remaining at the safety spots. Six scholarship players — plus incoming freshman Dion Bailey, who'll arrive in fall — are currently fighting for two starting spots. McAllister, a junior to-be, is a considerable favorite to start at free safety; the other spot is up for grabs among Jones, McDonald, Moore and Starling. McDonald, a sophomore, may be the slight favorite, having made seven tackles while serving as a reserve strong safety. But Jones, a redshirt junior who suffered a serious neck injury last season and second-year players Moore and Starling also have shots at the job.
The thing is, USC will be very shorthanded in the spring at these spots. McAllister had surgery on his hip and will likely miss all of spring practice, Starling is currently playing on the Trojan baseball team, with games until May 30, McDonald just underwent ankle surgery and Hall, a true freshman, tore his ACL last year. That means that a strong spring performance from any of the healthy players could put them in a position to win the job.