Position battles galore for Trojans
August, 13, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
What specific positions will coach Lane Kiffin be focusing on in Sunday's scrimmage at the Coliseum, the Trojans' second of the fall?
Better question: Which positions won't he be focusing on?
Asked the first of those questions after Saturday's two-hour no-pads practice, Kiffin put together a long list's worth of position battles he's going to keep his eye on Sunday.
“The receivers after Robert [Woods]," he began, bracing himself. "The young tight ends, both guard spots, all tailbacks, linebackers, the other safety and the other corner."
The receivers include at least three guys seriously contending for the job in Brandon Carswell, Brice Butler and George Farmer, and maybe more. The young tight ends are three more: Xavier Grimble, Christian Thomas and Randall Telfer. Four or five players are competing for the guard spots, including Martin Coleman and Aundrey Walker.
All tailbacks and linebackers include roughly 10 guys, four runners and six tacklers, if not more tacklers. At least three healthy players are competing for the other safety spot -- Jawanza Starling, Drew McAllister and Marshall Jones -- and two more players are fighting to start across from Nickell Robey.
In total, that's about 25 players -- at a conservative estimate -- that Kiffin is going to be paying specific attention to on Sunday. So, yes, he'll have his hands full -- as will his assistants.
And what does Kiffin want at each spot?
He spoke on a few of them Saturday. At receiver he wants dependability more than anything, it seems. That's why Carswell leads over the inconsistent Prater and Butler, who missed the spring. At corner, he wants a player who can tackle more than anything else, as evidenced by, he said, Tony Burnett's finishing spring as the No. 2 guy. He's not great in coverage, partially because of his size, but he can bring down players, Kiffin said. And the same for safety, where Starling is leading the other two healthy players because of his improved tackling this fall.
"We're early still," Kiffin said Saturday, when told his initial list was quite long. "I think we still have 21 or 22 more practices."
Only 16 are on the docket distributed to the media, actually. But the point stands. The Trojans still have some time before the tough decisions need to be made.