10 questions for fall camp, No. 4: Which defensive freshmen will play?

July, 26, 2011
7/26/11
1:26
PM PT
Only seven 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, a look at the potential second receiver and Brice Butler's chances of earning the spot. The third question post, published Monday, involved offensive freshmen.

The fourth is this: Which incoming freshman on the defensive side of the ball stands the best chance of immediately contributing this fall?

Notice the question said which incoming freshman, not which newcomer. That throws cornerback Isiah Wiley, a junior-college transfer from Arizona Western, out of the picture and leaves only two or three real candidates for the title in question.

The two? Linebackers Lamar Dawson and Anthony Sarao. Defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. would be the third.

Townsend Jr. makes some sense because he appears college-ready (or close to it) in terms of his physical development, and he plays a position with only three experienced players in Devon Kennard, Wes Horton and Nick Perry. There will be solid chances to rotate in at various points throughout the season; the question for him is whether he provides enough of an immediate advantage over a guy like Kevin Greene to justify using up a year of his eligibility.

But both Dawson and Sarao will surely get a chance to compete for a starting spot at linebacker beginning next week in camp. For one, USC has just one starting linebacker returning in 2011, and that one, Chris Galippo, didn't even start off 2010 as a starter. For another, Dawson's already 6-3 and 235 pounds and reportedly already quite cerebral, in football and in academics. He's this team's middle linebacker of the future and a fine candidate to battle the various returnees -- Dion Bailey, Hayes Pullard and Shane Horton included -- at the strong or weak sides this fall.

And, sure, Kennard's move to end, which will be examined in a later question, makes sense solely on its own, without considering any other factors. But it definitely didn't hurt that it opened up a potential spot for Dawson and/or Sarao. Look at it like this: depth is an issue for the Trojans this season. Freshmen will probably have to play, in some cases. Which freshmen would Lane Kiffin and Co. rather have play?

The linebackers, which helped make Kennard's move easier. And help us proclaim Dawson, with Sarao close behind, as the most likely incoming freshman on the defensive side of the ball to challenge for playing time in fall camp and see game action in the fall.

That's it for today. Wednesday we question whether or not Nick Perry will be able to reach his previously-stated lofty goals for 2011:

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