Monday, August 1, 2011
Questions for camp, No. 8: Joining Robey?
By Pedro Moura
Only three days remain until fall camp begins for the Trojans on Thursday, Aug. 4. We've been previewing the biggest questions that USC hopes to answer in the monthlong period between camp and the season opener in a series since last week. Read the first seventh questions-and-answers here.
The eighth is this: with sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey expected to start -- and shine -- in 2011, who will be the second cornerback for the Trojans?
The three players with a real chance to win the job: juco transfer Isiah Wiley, track-jumper-turned-football-player Tony Burnett and redshirt sophomore Torin Harris.
Wiley, who was originally headed to Alabama out of high school before failing to qualify, has the size and speed to start right away. The issue with him will be picking up Monte Kiffin's Cover-2 defense, although he's been scouted as a good tackler. Remember that one of the main reasons cited by the Kiffin's for last year's defensive struggles -- especially in the secondary -- were players taking time to pick up the schemes and new things they were being asked to do.
That'll essentially be repeated with Wiley, who didn't get a chance to enroll at USC in January, as the coaching staff had originally planned. If he had, he'd probably be the natural favorite. Of all the players there for the spring and competing for the spot, Burnett played the best, earning intermittent praise from Lane Kiffin and a number of his teammates.
He has no game experience at corner, having spent the 2010 season at safety. But his instincts are good, and so is his size, at 6-1 and close to 200 pounds. He would be a good contrast to Robey in that regard, allowing USC to suit up one small corner and one big one.
Harris is a natural ballhawk who has struggled both with injuries and consistency. He missed spring practice while recovering from a shoulder injury. The best play he's made as a Trojan provides a good example of what Harris offers: he made the game-winning two-point conversion return in a 34-33 win over Arizona State in November but picked up a penalty when he dove into the end zone, giving the Sun Devils an easy kickoff from the 45-yard line on the ensuing play.
Kiffin made it known he wasn't at all pleased with that.
Other darkhorse candidates to win the job include senior T.J. Bryant, redshirt freshman Anthony Brown and redshirt junior Brian Baucham. Patrick Hall, a redshirt freshman, would have been placed on that list had he not torn his ACL in an unofficial throwing session in June.
Remember, though, that when deciding on the second corner the coaches will also be determining -- or beginning to determine, at least -- the third and fourth corners. With h0w much Pac-12 teams will be throwing against the Trojans this season, the defense will more often than not be set up in a three-corner set.
For that reason, it's almost a guarantee that Burnett will be seeing the field regularly in some spot, as he's the biggest and best tackler of the bunch.
That's it for today. Tuesday we question how much the Trojans learned from 2010, specifically in regards to self-motivation without the possibility of a bowl game.