There are six Mondays left until spring practice officially kicks off for USC on March 22. On each of those Mondays, we'll preview one-sixth of the Trojans' depth chart and eye potential risers and fallers during the month-long springtime, beginning today with quarterbacks and running backs.
1. Matt Barkley, junior
2. Jesse Scroggins, redshirt freshman
3a. Cody Kessler, freshman (early enrollee)
3b. Max Wittek, freshman (early enrollee)
5. John Manoogian, redshirt junior
Barkley is the clear-cut starter at the position and will face no competition from the other players for the starting spot. The interesting matchup during spring practice, rather, will be that between Kessler and Wittek, the two California kids who both enrolled last month with quite the high expectations. They'll be battling for the third-string spot this year, sure, but, more importantly, they'll be fighting to make early inroads with Lane Kiffin and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton in the event that Barkley declares for the NFL draft after the 2011 season. If that does indeed end up happening, expect it to be a three-pronged race in the spring of 2012 between Scroggins, Kessler and Wittek. If, by some way, one of the true freshmen could jump in front of Scroggins this spring, that would bode very well for their starting hopes comes next season.
It's a safe bet to assume that either Wittek or Kessler will be asked to redshirt this season, and quite possibly both. If we had to guess, we'd say Wittek is probably a bit more likely to redshirt, if only because of his physical development at this point in time. But that can change quickly, and Manoogian, a capable walk-on, did serve all of last season as the third-stringer behind Barkley and Mitch Mustain.
1. Marc Tyler, redshirt senior
2. Dillon Baxter, sophomore
3a. Curtis McNeal, redshirt junior
3b. D.J. Morgan, redshirt freshman
5a. Javorius Allen, freshman
5b. Amir Carlisle, freshman
Tyler started the majority of last season's games, so it's safe to expect him to at least enter in to spring practice as the starter this year. It looks like Baxter will really control what ends up happening with the distribution of carries this season, though. If he comes out to spring practice with the sort of work ethic he did last season, Tyler will be the starter come September and Baxter will be the backup. But if Baxter comes out to spring practice like he did last spring -- plus the added benefits of a whole year in the system -- Baxter and Tyler could end up sharing carries evenly.
The other intriguing storyline is Morgan's. He sat out last season while recovering from a high-school knee injury, but he was making positive impressions on the coaching staff by mid-October and even earned a favorable comparison to Baxter by Kiffin during Oregon prep week. He very well may be the fastest player on the roster, so seeing how the coaches use him in the spring will be something to watch.
McNeal was academically ineligible last season but is a useful piece when available as a bowling-ball type back. Allen and Carlisle will likely redshirt.
1a. Soma Vainuku, freshman
1b. Simione Vehikite, redshirt sophomore
3. Hunter Simmons, redshirt sophomore
Vainuku and Vehikite will probably be the only two scholarship players at fullback in the spring, but neither player has very much experience at the spot. Well, Vainuku has none in college. Vehikite has a little. Simmons is another capable walk-on and is a good practice player but won't start.
The early favorite is probably Vainuku, an impressive athlete who originally signed with USC as part of its 2010 recruiting class but failed to qualify and enrolled last month. Vehikite ran into some trouble with Kiffin and the staff last season and was suspended from the squad for a time.
Size could be a factor: Vainuku doesn't look the part of a freshman, measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds. Vehikite is listed at 6-foot and 220 pounds.
That's it for this Monday. We'll be back a week today with a look at the receivers and tight ends, factoring in the recent injury to redshirt freshman Kyle Prater.