Monday, March 21, 2011
Looking at the spring depth chart: Special teams
By Pedro Moura
There is just one Monday left -- tomorrow -- until spring practice officially kicks off for USC on Tuesday, March 22. On each of those Mondays, we've been previewing one-sixth of the Trojans' depth chart and eyeing potential risers and fallers during the monthlong springtime. We began five weeks ago with quarterbacks and running backs and continued four weeks ago with receivers and tight ends, three weeks ago with offensive linemen, two weeks ago with defensive linemen and last week with linebackers and defensive backs. This week, we close up shop with a quick look at the special-teams units before our full spring practice preview tomorrow:
1. Andre Heidari, freshman
2. Craig McMahon, redshirt freshman
Heidari is a great kicking prospect, one with a leg already capable of hitting field goals from 50-plus yards out. He, like many young kickers, needs to work on some consistency issues, but it's very likely he'll win the job over the walk-on McMahon straight away in spring as an early enrollee out of Bakersfield Stockdale High.
McMahon's a quality backup, too, though. At times last fall his kicking looked comparable to that of Joe Houston and Jacob Harfman, the two seniors who were competing throughout the season for opportunities to kick.
1. Kris Albarado, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
2. Kyle Negrete, redshirt junior
Albarado's not enrolling early like his fellow kicking-recruit-mate Heidari, but he's still the projected starter at his position come the fall. In turn, Negrete, a walk-on who transferred from the University of San Diego, will probably do a lot of the punting in spring practice.
Albarado is another strong-legged type, although associate head coach John Baxter was apparently quite enamored with the hang time on his punts in high school.
Kick returner/Punt returner
1. Robert Woods, sophomore
2. Nickell Robey, sophomore
3. D.J. Morgan, redshirt freshman
First, to be fair: this position's chart is a straight guess and could be completely opposite from the what the coaches choose to do, with the return spots often exhibiting a lot of turnover from year to year in a program. But these three players make plenty of sense as returners: Woods returned kicks last season and did so with considerable success -- although not quite the same amount of success as he experienced at the receiver position in his Freshman All-American season. The only question with him as far as returning goes is whether the USC coaching staff wants to add extra snaps and hitting onto his weekly workload during the season.
The same is true for another return candidate and a player who impressed coaches with his return skills last fall camp -- Robey. He'll be USC's top corner and one of two tried-and-true playmakers in the back seven for the Trojans, along with safety T.J. McDonald. He's also small, and, while tough, probably not the most durable player on the team simply because of his 5-8, 165-pound frame.
Morgan's another option and one of the fastest players on the team. Other possible candidates include receivers Brandon Carswell and De'Von Flournoy and running back Curtis McNeal.
1. Chris Pousson, senior
2. Peter McBride, freshman
Pousson has done three years of snapping for the Trojans and will be entering into his fourth year in 2011. He had handled only short snapping prior to 2010 but took on both duties last season, picking up for the departed Cooper Stephenson in that area.
McBride was one of the top long-snapping recruits in the nation this year and is already enrolled in school, giving USC a quality backup at this spot and a snapper-in-training for 2012.
That's it for the for the position-by-position outlook leading into spring practice. Check back tomorrow for five questions that USC hopes spring practice will answer.