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Monday, July 18, 2011
The fallout of the Marc Tyler suspension

By Pedro Moura

USC's Monday suspension of Marc Tyler for the season opener against Minnesota -- and potentially longer -- has an immediate and fairly wide-ranging effect on the team.

There's a chance it could change the coaches' plans to redshirt their two incoming running backs, Amir Carlisle and Javorious 'Buck' Allen. It could very well change the framework of USC's offense as Kennedy Pola and Lane Kiffin move more toward a pass-based offense. And it almost certainly changes the fall camp depth chart, as Dillon Baxter, D.J. Morgan and Curtis McNeal now begin what is essentially a three-way race to start the season as the No. 1 running back.

Tyler, who was suspended after a TMZ video showed him clearly intoxicated and cracking wise about USC players getting paid and Kim Kardashian, has already been involved in two publicized alcohol-related incidents over the last few months. He is currently under review with USC's Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards board, facing potential punishment there as well.

For a fifth-year senior who will turn 23 less than a month into the 2011 season, those actions are, as athletic director Pat Haden said Monday, "way out of line." Kiffin made similar statements to his team in a brief 3 p.m. meeting Monday.

But that's in the past now. Another mess-up for Tyler could cut short his future at USC and in the NFL. Now, he must prove to Haden and Kiffin -- once again -- that he has matured and is ready to be the team's No. 1 back.

But Baxter, McNeal and Morgan will get that same chance while Tyler is suspended from team activities for the foreseeable future, which, if it cuts into camp, could seriously affect his status on the depth chart.

All three backs are talented, but Baxter and McNeal come with baggage as well. Until this offseason, Baxter was the running back most likely to find himself mired in off-the-field trouble. McNeal missed the 2010 season while academically ineligible. And Morgan, while mild-mannered, has never played a regular-season snap after redshirting last season while recovering from a knee injury he suffered in high school.

Another issue: Tyler played at 230 pounds in the spring and 217 in 2010 as USC's prototypical big back. Baxter, McNeal and Morgan all weigh under 200 pounds, with Baxter, at 5-11 and 195, the biggest of the three. He's nowhere near a big-back type, much more of a natural slasher.

How will USC mix-and-match backs during camp, if Tyler indeed misses parts or all of it, and in the opener against Minnesota and potentially beyond?

Maybe Allen is the answer. The 6-1, 210-pounder, a Tallahassee Lincoln product, is big enough to fulfill those duties. Carlisle, a small but speedy scat back, is probably more ready for college-level play, but Allen makes more sense as a contributor if Tyler is out for any extended period of time.

Again, the issue with Tyler, at this stage, is not gigantic. He'll miss one game and probably a few weeks of team activities. But, as he waits to hear back from the school on his original transgressions, any more punishment and/or backlash and USC could be looking at a new long-term running back