Spring position preview: LBs

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
3:20
PM PT
We’re doing position previews in the weeks leading up to spring practice, breaking down one group's depth chart each day, paying special attention to things that can change in the spring.

We’ve looked at the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen and defensive linemen so far. Today, we analyze the linebackers.

Three spots, three returning starting sophomores.

It doesn't get much more convenient than that for USC's new linebackers coach, Scottie Hazelton.

Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson and Hayes Pullard will be his starters, from strong side to weak side. Very little time will be spent this spring trying to determine who's going to start.

That time will instead be spent transitioning to a new regime of sorts with the linebacking corps and helping develop the younger players at the position.

Thus, the two most intriguing players this spring are Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao, two talented guys who haven't logged any time on the field. This is Starr's first semester at USC after he enrolled early last month; Sarao redshirted last season as a Class of 2011 signee.

What makes them interesting prospects? Well, one of them has to be the backup to Dawson at middle linebacker this season, and there haven't been too many hints as to who it will be. We know Starr is going to start the spring at the Mike spot, but will Sarao, too?

Sarao played some of it last year on the scout team -- portraying Vontaze Burfict during ASU week -- and has received positive reviews from teammates and coaches about his on-field awareness. Starr is incredibly well developed for a kid who should be a high-school senior and has quickly caught on to the defensive schemes, judging from the winter workouts.

Dawson was bothered by injuries last season, so he could easily be the second-straight freshman to man the middle for a stint if he wins the No. 2 slot for this season.

On another note, will there be a way to get sophomore to-be Tre Madden on the field this year? He was a valuable special-teamer last season and can do the same in 2012, but he also proved capable of playing on defense in his one start at Colorado.

And what will happen to Marquis Simmons and Simione Vehikite, two players entering their fourth year in the program who have yet to contribute in big ways?

Those are questions the 15-session spring can help answer.

Check back Thursday for the cornerbacks.

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