Devon Kennard seized the middle linebacker job from incumbent Chris Galippo last fall after months of back-and-forth between the two players in spring and fall practices, the Trojan coaching staff deciding in August that Kennard, then a true sophomore, was better suited for the position in the long term than the more experienced Galippo.
That experiment didn't go all that well, though, with Kennard giving way to Galippo late in the year in a decision caused partly by injury and partly by ineffectiveness. Galippo, who was a reserve for the first six games of the year and started two games at the weakside spot in place of the injured Malcolm Smith, started the final five games of the season at middle. Kennard
Here comes part two of the experiment.
Galippo, who sat out of Tuesday's spring practice opener with what he termed minor back spasms, said Kennard, also out for the spring while recovering from hip surgery, will be entering the 2011 season as the starting middle linebacker.
"I'll be playing will linebacker," the redshirt senior said Tuesday. "I'm cool playing whatever position. I started two or three games last year playing will linebacker, so, wherever they need me I'll be there."
The issue will likely be largely tabled until the fall, with both players out or limited for the spring, but it appears the spot won't be an open competition like it was a year ago.
As for the injuries both players are currently nursing, Kennard is expected to miss the whole 15-practice spring after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip in December. Galippo has recently been experiencing back spasms and lower back pain and will sit out at least for the rest of this week. His rehab exercises, he said, include doing nerve gliding to attempt to get out some of the swelling.
He said the back pain isn't directly related to the herniated disk injury that forced him to redshirt his freshman season in 2007 and miss the first three games of 2008.
And spring practice, he hinted, isn't his first priority at this point in his college career.
"Not that we know of yet, but I'm sure it's got something to do with that," Galippo said. " I've always had trouble with my back. But for now I'm more concerned about playing on Saturdays and in the fall rather than being a spring practice All-American."