LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin did a good job of passing off Isiah Wiley's academic ineligibility as an expected casualty at the time it was announced last month.
"The blow is not as big, I think, because of the way we went about it," Kiffin said at the time. "We had kind of moved forward, as you can tell, by not having him here in camp."
Unfortunately, it has been difficult to prove those words true in the early going. The second corner spot Wiley occupied in the second half of last season for the USC Trojans has been the team's weakest link this season, with both Hawaii and Syracuse consistently attacking whatever side of the field Nickell Robey is not on.
So far, it's the only position on the field where the Trojans don't have at least a league-average performer. Sophomore Anthony Brown started Week 1 and junior Torin Harris was the primary No. 2 guy in Week 2, but neither player was really effective. Harris was beaten badly on two touchdown plays against the Orange. Freshman Kevon Seymour has had good and bad moments in his first two collegiate games -- more bad than good against Syracuse.
What is the long-term plan, then?
Harris will get another chance this week against Stanford, with Brown, Seymour and senior Brian Baucham rotating in behind him. Kiffin insisted this week that Josh Shaw, the sophomore safety who transferred from Florida last winter, does not figure into his plans for the position, even though USC has plenty of depth at safety and Shaw is only a third-stringer there currently.
Kiffin didn't say it in as many words Saturday, but he attributed Harris' poor play in the Syracuse game largely to rust, since he hadn't played a college game in almost a full year. And there's some validity to that. But Harris has simply not been a consistent solid starter since arriving at USC in the summer of 2009.
Against Stanford on Saturday, the Trojans should be all right at corner, because the Cardinal run a lot of two-tight end sets and USC will be able to keep its linebackers on the field more than in the last two games.
But what happens when Cal's emerging pair of freshmen receivers, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, go one-on-one with Harris or Brown? Worse, what happens if the Bears are able to get star Keenan Allen matched up with someone other than Robey for several snaps?
Those are the questions the Trojans will soon have to answer. And they'll only get more difficult as the opposing receivers get tougher -- unless, of course, Harris and/or Brown finally straighten out their issues or someone else is given a real opportunity.
It's certainly something to follow this season.