Spring practice begins tomorrow for USC. Let's examine what we can expect from the 15-practice schedule, going position by position through USC's defense and expectations for each. Alphabetically, we dive into the significant players at each spot.
K: Jake Harfman, Joe Houston
Harfman and Houston competed with former kicker Jordan Congdonfor the kicking spot last year, but both lost out to the uber-accurate former Nebraska kicker. Now that Congdon has graduated, the two will compete once again. Harfman, a senior, kicked off and punted (in 10 games) last year while Houston backed him up. Harfman attempted one 50-yard field goal and missed; Houston attempted one PAT and converted. Harfman has to be the favorite over Houston, also a senior, but the competition will likely stretch all spring long. Said new special teams coordinator John Baxteron the USCRipsIt special teams preview: "Right now, they're literally names on a piece of paper. They don't compete against each other -- they compete against themselves."
P: Jake Harfman, Boomer Roepke
If Houston were to win the kicking job, a big reason would be to not wear out Harfman's leg, since he will likely be punting and kicking off as well. Roepke, a redshirt sophomore, is a former USC swimmer and walk-on cornerback.
SNP: Chris Pousson, Cooper Stepheson
Look for it to be Pousson on field goal and point-after snaps, and Stepheson on punts. Stepheson, a senior who's a tight end by trade, might have the inside track on the holder spot — although Baxter has said he prefers quarterbacks and punters to do the job. Departing punter Billy O'Malley and quarterback Garrett Green fulfilled the holding duties last season.
KR/PR: Brandon Carswell, C.J. Gable, Ronald Johnson, Curtis McNeal, Travon Patterson
All five of these guys are dynamic athletes, but look for Baxter to primarily utilize a player who will not be a key offensive option (i.e., Johnson could stick to offense instead of continuing at kick returner, especially considering his injury history). Patterson, at just 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, reminds some of a speedy returner under Baxter at Fresno State who had great success in college and in the NFL, Clifton Smith. Gable, a senior, and McNeal, a redshirt sophomore, have experience taking back kicks. Carswell, a fourth-year junior, and Patterson, a senior, could return punts.