10 questions for fall camp, No. 2: Could Butler start?

July, 22, 2011
7/22/11
12:46
PM PT
Nine weekdays remain until the start of fall camp on Aug. 4. Each of those remaining days, we're taking a somewhat-quick look at one question facing the Trojans entering the camp season. They won't necessarily be gigantic questions, but they'll be questions all the same -- and we'll do our best to preview what answers we might receive during camp. During this time, we'll also finish up our first, first look series with previews of the final three 2011 opponents and cover Pac-12 media day in all of its glory.

First on the list of 10 questions involved picking a backup for Matt Barkley. Second is this: How far into Lane Kiffin's doghouse did Brice Butler go when he left the Trojans for the spring while contemplating a transfer, and could he still get out of it?


Butler, a redshirt junior, made a surprising announcement in January when he decided to transfer away from USC, presumably to an FCS school so he could play right away in 2011. He was not atop a potential list of transfers in the offseason -- nowhere near the top, really.

But he said he wanted to make it to the NFL and didn't think he could do it with the Trojans. His dad, former Atlanta Falcon cornerback Bobby Butler, indicated it was because of a lack of support from Kiffin.

Whatever the reason, Butler stayed around for the spring semester, attempting to finish off his public policy degree. Then, in March, he spoke to reporters at USC's Pro Day and intimated he might actually end up staying, if he and Kiffin ever got around to talking and working out their differences.

Would he approach Kiffin? No, he said.

Would Kiffin approach Butler, the coach was asked later that week at practice? No, he said.

Well, somebody approached somebody. In May, USC announced Butler was staying. He said over the summer during unofficial team throwing sessions that he and Kiffin were back on functional working terms and had no lingering animosity between them.

We'll see if that's true on both ends in a couple weeks. Regardless, Butler significantly hurt his chances to start by missing out on a month's worth of practices in the spring. In his potential place emerged senior Brandon Carswell, maybe the favorite at this point in the process to start across from Robert Woods.

Kyle Prater never got fully healthy during the spring after fracturing his foot during offseason workouts. Because of that, it's probably a true four-man race to accompany Woods on the line of scrimmage: Carswell, Butler, Prater and incoming freshman George Farmer. There's also Markeith Ambles and De'Von Flournoy.

Carswell looks like the most dependable but doesn't have much of a flair for the big play. Interestingly, he may have been even closer than Butler to transferring when he appeared set on going to Cincinnati last summer, but Kiffin begged him to stay. Butler's the combination of experience and talent. Prater is ridiculously tall and ridiculously athletic but inexperienced and injury-prone. Farmer is an unknown.

If Butler does indeed earn the starting nod, it'll mean at least two things and potentially many more: (1) He did a mighty fine job in fall camp proving his worth and proving his dedication, and (2) Kiffin is forgiving of his players' mistakes.

For those reasons, it's a storyline to follow.

That's it for today. Monday we question which incoming freshman on the offensive side of the ball is most likely to make an immediate impact this August.

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