USC: Brian Baucham

Kiffin: Revisiting Colorado

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
11:04
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media in his normal day-after game conference call Sunday night, talking about his team's 50-6 win over Colorado and briefly looking ahead at the remaining five regular-season games.

Here are notes and quotes from the call:

Injury updates

Defensive end Devon Kennard (torn pec) will sit out the rest of the season and redshirt, Kiffin said.
Kennard will be a redshirt senior in 2013. He tore his pec in a July weight-lifting accident and previously said he had hopes of returning in November for a final NFL trial run.

Kiffin also provided updates on two other players, cornerback Brian Baucham and defensive tackle Cody Temple. Both players are out for the 2012 season, Baucham with a unspecified issue and Temple with an ankle injury.

Left tackle Aundrey Walker, who appeared to suffer a neck injury in the third quarter of Saturday's game, was released from the hospital Sunday after spending the night there.

Kiffin said Walker was back in meetings with the team Sunday. "Things seemed to be very positive," Kiffin said. "That's about all I'd be allowed to say."

Special-teams trickery

So the holder wearing No. 35 who took off running on the two-point play after USC's second touchdown in the first quarter?

That wasn't Kyle Negrete, USC's punter, who normally wears No. 35. That was Cody Kessler, third-string quarterback and recent new holder. Kiffin had Kessler sport No. 35 for the first half of Saturday's game -- presumably to run the fake kick -- and then switch back to No. 6 for the second half, when he came in the game in garbage time at quarterback and completed the first throws of his college career.

It's a legal move, but an ethically dubious one. Kessler was listed as the ballcarrier on the play in the postgame statistics, but he was not announced as such in the press box or over the PA.

It also opens the floodgates for many more potential shenanigans. If Kiffin tried that against Colorado, what might he try against Oregon? So much is suddenly in play.

Sunday, Kiffin deflected a question about who was the holder in the first half, saying, "I'd really rather not get into that at this time for certain reasons."

(Read full post)

Kiffin still believes in CB Harris

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
5:43
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Since first stepping on the field for USC in September 2010, cornerback Torin Harris has missed nearly half of the Trojans' games (12 of 27) with an assortment of injuries.

And, when he has been healthy, his performances have been up-and-down at best. The best single play he's produced in a USC uniform -- an impressive game-saving interception in the 2011 season opener against Minnesota -- only needed to happen because he got beaten badly for a Gophers touchdown on the previous drive.

Yet, USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin has steadfastly supported Harris over the last two years. Where does Kiffin's confidence come from? His answer's simple.

"Because we've seen it," Kiffin said Thursday. "I think Torin was playing really, really well at the beginning of last season, and it would be hard to argue that he wasn't playing as well as Nickell (Robey) at the time."

This wasn't the first time Kiffin compared Harris to Robey, arguably the Trojans' top defender.

(Read full post)

How big is the loss of Wiley now?

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
7:50
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin did a good job of passing off Isiah Wiley's academic ineligibility as an expected casualty at the time it was announced last month.

"The blow is not as big, I think, because of the way we went about it," Kiffin said at the time. "We had kind of moved forward, as you can tell, by not having him here in camp."

Unfortunately, it has been difficult to prove those words true in the early going. The second corner spot Wiley occupied in the second half of last season for the USC Trojans has been the team's weakest link this season, with both Hawaii and Syracuse consistently attacking whatever side of the field Nickell Robey is not on.

So far, it's the only position on the field where the Trojans don't have at least a league-average performer. Sophomore Anthony Brown started Week 1 and junior Torin Harris was the primary No. 2 guy in Week 2, but neither player was really effective. Harris was beaten badly on two touchdown plays against the Orange. Freshman Kevon Seymour has had good and bad moments in his first two collegiate games -- more bad than good against Syracuse.

What is the long-term plan, then?

Harris will get another chance this week against Stanford, with Brown, Seymour and senior Brian Baucham rotating in behind him. Kiffin insisted this week that Josh Shaw, the sophomore safety who transferred from Florida last winter, does not figure into his plans for the position, even though USC has plenty of depth at safety and Shaw is only a third-stringer there currently.

Kiffin didn't say it in as many words Saturday, but he attributed Harris' poor play in the Syracuse game largely to rust, since he hadn't played a college game in almost a full year. And there's some validity to that. But Harris has simply not been a consistent solid starter since arriving at USC in the summer of 2009.

Against Stanford on Saturday, the Trojans should be all right at corner, because the Cardinal run a lot of two-tight end sets and USC will be able to keep its linebackers on the field more than in the last two games.

(Read full post)

Saturday scrimmage quick hits

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
4:51
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes from Saturday's scrimmage -- or "mock game", as coach Lane Kiffin called it -- that won't make it into our other coverage off the day.

Trojans name captains

USC's players voted to name the team's 2012 captains on Saturday, and they came up with some familiar names.

As expected, Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will be a team captain for the third straight season, setting a school record. Safety T.J. McDonald will also serve in the role for his second season.

The newcomers will be senior center Khaled Holmes and junior cornerback Nickell Robey.

Kiffin said he agreed wholeheartedly with his players' choices.

(Read full post)

Wednesday practice quick hits

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
8:28
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes from Wednesday's no-pads two-hour practice session that won't make it into our other coverage from the day.

Talking about tiers

Coach Lane Kiffin was all about defining the depth chart Wednesday, referring to his players strictly in terms of tiers during his post-practice session with the media.

First-tier players are starters, second-tier guys are key reserves, and third-tier ones might be needed depth. Whether it goes down to a fourth tier is unknown.

But Kiffin spotlighted four so-called second-tier players for their preparation and playbook knowledge this camp: receiver Nelson Agholor, running backs Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan and left tackle Max Tuerk.

None of the four are starters, but all four figure to play this year. And, interestingly, three of the four haven't been with the team before this summer.

The tier-by-tier description is fitting, Kiffin said, because of the varying amount of readiness the Trojans have displayed in fall camp. Some have proved ready for the season opener; some have proved they won't even be ready by the time it comes around.

"We have some guys who could go play today and some guys who aren’t close," Kiffin said. "So you have all different levels. I think they are in the time of dragging because you’re not really in game week yet but you’ve been going against each other for so long.

"So we kinda change things up."

(Read full post)

Monday practice quick hits

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
10:23
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes from Monday's afternoon practice, once again held on Dedeaux Field, that won't make it into our other coverage from the session:

More urgency

Energy was a big issue in the Trojans' Sunday scrimmage at the Coliseum, with the offense appearing sluggish, lackadaisical and flat-out slow pretty much all throughout the action.

It was not an issue 24 hours later on Monday.

"For whatever reason, we had great energy (today)," coach Lane Kiffin said Monday. "I don’t know why, but it was really good to see.

Kiffin said the team came out with a spark in individual drills and carried it all the way through to the overtime session at the end of practice, two hours later.

And, given Monday's events, he said he was happy with the way the scrimmage went, because it energized his team into a full-go session just 12 days before the season opener.

Defensive ends return

J.R. Tavai and Wes Horton, the Trojans' likely defensive end pairing in next month's season opener, both returned to practice on Monday after sitting out several days due to injury. Tavai did just about everything, while Horton mostly sat out of 11-on-11 drills. Neither player's injury has been disclosed.

It was, in total, a good day for the defensive ends, then, as Kiffin praised Horton and spotlighted juco transfer Morgan Breslin as one of the Trojans' better players in Sunday's scrimmage. Kiffin said he felt "better after watching the film" about the play of the ends in the scrimmage.

(Read full post)

Sunday scrimmage quick hits

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
9:55
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are news, notes and stats from Sunday's evening scrimmage session for the Trojans, held at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. We'll have more coverage from the session, including a look into Marqise Lee's personal-foul penalty that got him taken out of the action and a report on the plan to force more turnovers as a defense.

Bad day for the offense

The circumstances weren't exactly great, as many of the first-team Trojans began the scrimmage watching from exercise bikes on the sidelines while Lane Kiffin reserved live-tackling drills for the backups.

But the USC offense just didn't perform well on Sunday. Matt Barkley and the first-team unit didn't, and neither did Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and the second unit. It looked ugly, all-around, from start to finish, with few positive blips in between.

"We struggled today," Lee said. "I think we weren't really focused here and there. That's really about it."

Kiffin said it wasn't any of the quarterbacks' fault, choosing instead to blame it on overall inefficiency from the group. He also found a positive aspect of it.

"There's not just one person to blame or anything," Kiffin said. "We didn't play well in any of our position groups for the most part. But there's always two sides to that. It means we were doing some good things on the other side as well."

Injury report

Among the players who sat out of the scrimmage due to injury were right tackle Kevin Graf, defensive ends Wes Horton, J.R. Tavai and Greg Townsend Jr, linebackers Dion Bailey and Lamar Dawson (calf) and cornerbacks Torin Harris (hamstring) and Brian Baucham.

Woods, Lee, Curtis McNeal, Nickell Robey and T.J. McDonald all began their days on exercise bikes on the sidelines before participating in the lighter portion of the session. Barkley and Khaled Holmes also logged a limited amount of snaps during the live-tackling part of practice.

(Read full post)

Fall camp practice No. 3 notes

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
2:10
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are more notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice coverage, which included stories on Curtis McNeal, George Farmer and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.

Injury updates

Left tackle Aundrey Walker and middle linebacker Lamar Dawson missed most of practice with unspecified injuries. Walk-on Nathan Guertler filled in for Walker and freshman Scott Starr replaced Dawson.

Kiffin indicated that weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard would move to the middle spot and redshirt freshman Anthony Sarao would step in for Pullard before Starr would replace Dawson in a game situation. He was unclear on the contingency plan at left tackle, saying Guertler would be the backup "as of right now."

Center Khaled Holmes and receiver Robert Woods (ankle) continued to be very limited in practice, and cornerback Brian Baucham continued to sit out. Receivers Victor Blackwell and Farmer both sat out all of practice.

Cornerback Isiah Wiley and linebacker Marquis Simmons are expected to be out another week while they await their summer-school grades and find out about their eligibility for the coming season.

Flournoy ahead of everybody else

With Blackwell and Farmer on the sideline and freshman Nelson Agholor still adjusting to the speed of the game, coach Lane Kiffin said fourth-year junior De'Von Flournoy is "way ahead" of his competition in the race to be the No. 3 receiver behind Woods and Marqise Lee.

"Nelson has worked hard but he's still just trying to learn it," Kiffin said. "Just like spring, Flournoy is doing really well and very consistent."

Wright standing out

Kiffin said junior safety Demetrius Wright has been the best non-starter on the defense through three practices.

"He's made a ton of plays and had a phenomenal attitude and great approach to the game," Kiffin said. "He's a guy going into his third year who seems to have turned the corner."

Wright is competing with senior Jawanza Starling for the opportunity to start at strong safety next to T.J. McDonald.

Ideally, Kiffin said, Wright and Starling would rotate on defense and on special teams this season to keep both players fresh. And even McDonald would do the same thing with Drew McAllister and/or Josh Shaw.

Final notes: Freshmen Max Tuerk and Leonard Williams earned praise from coach Lane Kiffin for their play thus far in camp. Kiffin said Tuerk has made "very few mental mistakes." ... Freshmen cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton, who have run some with the second-team defense, were also credited by Kiffin. ... Players had indicated earlier this week that practices would be shorter this camp than in past years, but Wednesday's session checked in at roughly three hours long. ... The Trojans will scrimmage at the Coliseum on Friday afternoon. Kiffin said he was unsure whether or not they would tackle during it.

Fall camp practice No. 1 notes

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
10:48
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC opened its 2012 fall camp under the lights last night at Howard Jones Field. We had video of Lane Kiffin's post-practice press conference last night, as well as stories on Silas Redd's USC debut and what his new teammates thought of it.

Now, we look at other news that emerged from the camp opener, including injury updates and other personnel changes. Later today, we'll have more from last night's session before resuming coverage after tonight's 7:30 p.m. PT practice.
  • Receiver Robert Woods proclaimed himself "100 percent" healed from the right ankle injury that has caused him problems for 16 months now, but he did not participate in the team portions of practice. Kiffin said his handling of Woods could change daily. We'll have more on this shortly.
  • Freshman Nelson Agholor practiced at receiver and will be there "permanently." That's his natural position, but Kiffin made a bit of a stir at Pac-12 media day by saying that Agholor was going to play running back unless the Trojans developed more depth there. Redd alleviated that need. We'll have more on this later this week, including details on Agholor's early performance, which included a few drops in team drills Monday.
  • Sophomore receiver George Farmer left practice early because of a hamstring strain, an injury that bothered him for most of the spring. We'll have more on this later today.
  • Defensive ends Wes Horton and DeVante Wilson left practice early with cramp issues as a result of dehydration. Center Khaled Holmes exited for unknown reasons, and cornerback Brian Baucham sat out with what Kiffin termed a "health issue." Abe Markowitz replaced Holmes at center.
  • Cornerback Isiah Wiley and linebacker Marquis Simmons did not practice while USC waits to receive notification of their summer-school grades. Also on the academic front, incoming receiver Darreus Rogers has not yet qualified to enroll at USC but was at practice on Monday in street clothes.
  • There were three interesting position changes made official Monday night -- or one position change and one position switch involving two players. Defensive end Charles Burks moved from defensive end to fullback, and freshman Leonard Williams debuted at defensive tackle and sophomore J.R. Tavai at defensive end. Williams and Tavai were supposed to be at opposite spots, but Kiffin and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron evidently decided that the 6-5, 270-pound Williams is better suited for three-technique tackle than end.
  • Final notes: Redd wore No. 25, which was originally supposed to be safety Gerald Bowman's. Bowman wore No. 27 instead . . . Freshman linebacker Jabari Ruffin practiced at weakside linebacker. He was listed as a middle linebacker on the Trojans' end-of-spring depth chart . . . Hayes Pullard picked off walk-on John Manoogian and Jawanza Starling intercepted Matt Barkley . . . Anthony Brown got most of the first-team reps at corner opposite Nickell Robey.

Fall camp position preview: Defensive backs

August, 5, 2012
8/05/12
11:03
AM PT
To prepare for the start of the 2012 USC campaign, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster. We began Monday with quarterbacks and continued Tuesday with running backs, Wednesday with receivers and tight ends, Thursday with offensive linemen, Friday with defensive linemen and Saturday with linebackers.

Today, we look at the defensive backs.

For each position, we’re starting with a projected current depth chart, going off the end-of-spring depth chart as released by Lane Kiffin, and discussing what needs to be resolved by Sept. 1.

Cornerback

1. Nickell Robey, junior
2. Anthony Brown, redshirt sophomore
3. Ryan Henderson, redshirt freshman
4. Kevon Seymour, freshman

Free safety
1. T.J. McDonald, senior
2. Drew McAllister, redshirt senior
3. Josh Shaw, redshirt sophomore

Strong safety

1a. Jawanza Starling, senior
1b. Demetrius Wright, junior
3. Gerald Bowman, junior

Cornerback

1a. Isiah Wiley, senior
1b. Brian Baucham, redshirt senior
1c. Torin Harris, redshirt junior
4. Devian Shelton, freshman

This is USC's most stacked position group. And it's only to get deeper in the coming years.

But, for 2012, new defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders is going to have some interesting decisions to make in the next month. He has multiple guys vying for one strong safety slot and another four fighting for the No. 2 and No. 3 corner jobs.

Robey and McDonald are locked in. Everything else is up for grabs, and it's hard to even name a favorite at one of them.

At corner, Wiley finished off last season as the starter and got better each week. But Harris had held Wiley off before, until he got hurt, and is now healthy. Then Brown took over before he fractured his ankle, so all three of those guys can lay claim to the starting job.

Baucham had a nice spring and Henderson has elite, useful speed that could make him a factor. The top three could be any combination of Robey, Wiley, Harris, Brown, Baucham and Henderson.

At safety, Starling would appear to have a jump on Wright by virtue of his experience -- Starling's USC bio does say he "will start for his third season at strong safety as a senior in 2012" -- but he didn't comfortably emerge over Wright in the spring. And Bowman is an athletic, instinctive and intriguing prospect who could become major-college ready in a couple of months, which could mix everything up.

McAllister's listed as McDonald's backup, which would block him in some, but it's likely he'll play noteworthy snaps on defense this season -- if he's healthy. He's still the best playmaker of any Trojan defender.

Shaw, technically the third-string free safety for now, played as a true freshman for Florida before he got hurt and was a valuable reserve for the Gators last season. It's hard to see where exactly he'll get time in this packed secondary, but it'd still be a surprise if he wasn't a contributor by midseason.

We'll conclude tomorrow with special teams.

Analyzing the 2012 depth chart

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
9:24
PM PT
USC released its annual end-of-spring depth chart last week, which we posted mostly without comment at the time. Here, now, is our position-by-position analysis of what Lane Kiffin and Co. released, with an eye on what it means for the 2012 Trojans.

Quarterback

This was exactly as expected, with Matt Barkley entrenched and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek continuing to compete behind him. It is noteworthy that Jesse Scroggins is listed a spot behind the two redshirt freshmen and not tied with them, but it'd be a little unfair for him to be anywhere else. He missed most of the spring with hip issues and is still in academic jeopardy.

Running back

Where would Tre Madden have been if he wasn't out for the 2012 season? That's the question this portion of the chart begs. Curtis McNeal would still be starting, but Madden could very well be vying with D.J. Morgan for that No. 2 spot. Javorious Allen will be the third-string back unless he gets beat out by an incoming freshman.

Fullback

Soma Vainuku is locked in as the starter with no pressing competition, but he had himself a nice conclusion to the spring anyway, giving the coaching staff more confidence in him going into the summer. Jahleel Pinner will be somewhat of an unknown.

Receiver

De'Von Flournoy jumped in front of Victor Blackwell with an impressive spring, and has now put himself into position to challenge George Farmer for third-receiver status in the fall. And if Farmer can't stay healthy (again), then Flournoy's suddenly the favorite to line up with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

(Read full post)

What Shaw's eligibility means for the Trojans

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
11:43
PM PT
Josh Shaw can play for the USC Trojans in 2012, the NCAA ruled on Thursday.

Actually, more appropriately: Josh Shaw will play for the USC Trojans in 2012.

He's that good. If he's healthy, which he hasn't been this spring, the Florida transfer will likely challenge for a starting spot with this year's squad and will be a virtual lock to get significant playing time in the secondary.

It's conceivable he could succeed Jawanza Starling as the starting strong safety, where he'd also have to fend off junior Demetrius Wright. It's also possible he could beat out Isiah Wiley for the second cornerback spot or slot in right behind him as the nickel back.

Regardless of where exactly he fits in, Shaw, who has been bothered by back and rib injuries in the spring and has not practiced, is going to provide a good amount of defensive back depth. With him, Wright, incoming junior-college signee Gerald Bowman and the four incumbent starters, USC is going to have seven playmaker-caliber upperclassmen in the secondary -- enough to pretty much play every snap if everyone stays healthy.

Add in talented-but-injury-prone players like Anthony Brown, Brian Baucham, Torin Harris and Drew McAllister, and the Trojans actually have a lot of people there. There shouldn't be any situations like last year, when USC was literally down to two corners at times and struggling to play the packages it wanted.

Then there's Shaw's experience level. He played for Florida for a full season last year, not starting but participating as a key backup. It has been a while since the Trojans have brought in someone with legitimate SEC experience onto their squad.

Coach Lane Kiffin was asked after Thursday's practice if Shaw could come in and start right away for USC -- or at least play significant snaps in a rotation.

"Sure he could," Kiffin said. "He's somebody that already played down in the SEC and has all the right tools.

"We've seen him run around and move around before he got hurt and so it'll be great. Not just on defense but obviously special teams."

He'll be a player to watch over the summer and in fall camp beginning in August.

Spring practice No. 14 notes

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
9:02
PM PT
Here are notes from Thursday's practice that won't make it into our other coverage from the session, the last official practice until August for the Trojans. Of course, USC scrimmages on Saturday at the Coliseum in the annual spring game, which starts at 1:30 p.m.
  • Running back Buck Allen took the most snaps out of the backfield he has taken all spring and showed improvement as he returns from a strained right hamstring that bothered him for nearly a month. He, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan are again the Trojans' only three scholarship running backs with Tre Madden now out for the year.
  • Cornerback Brian Baucham continued his strong play toward the end of the spring with an interception on a tipped pass off a Max Wittek-to-Junior Pomee throw. Baucham has put himself into the competition for the third corner spot.
  • Injury report: Receiver Victor Blackwell (foot) did not participate in practice but could return for Saturday's scrimmage, Lane Kiffin said. Kiffin also said cornerback Ryan Henderson could play Saturday. Receiver George Farmer (hamstring) did only individual work, as has been the case since the first week of the spring. It seems unlikely he will participate in the scrimmage portion of Saturday's session. Officially out for Saturday are tight end Randall Telfer (hamstring) and linebackers Dallas Kelley and Marquis Simmons.
  • Among the recruits at practice were high-profile 2013 defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow, the first player to commit to the Trojans' next class, and 2015 quarterback David Sills, who was also there Tuesday. Signee Jabari Ruffin was also in attendance and spent some time with linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton after practice.
  • Final notes: USC will not tackle in Saturday's scrimmage to preserve players' health over the offseason, Kiffin said. We'll have more on that on Friday. ... Tight end Christian Thomas underwent surgery this week on his ailing hip and is expected to be ready for fall camp. ...Defensive back Josh Shaw had his hardship waiver claim granted by the NCAA on Thursday and will be eligible to play for the Trojans in 2012. We'll have more on what that means for USC later.

Spring practice No. 4 notes

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
9:42
PM PT
A few notes from Tuesday's practice that won't make it into our other posts from the session:
  • Offensive tackles Kevin Graf and Aundrey Walker switched sides, with Walker working on the left and Graf working on the right for the first time this spring. For the first week, Graf stayed on the left and Walker stayed on the right, but Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said he felt it was time to try out the other way. We'll have more on this move Wednesday.
  • Injury updates: Center Khaled Holmes (calf), tight end Xavier Grimble (toe), running back Buck Allen (hamstring) and receiver George Farmer again missed practice after all missing the Saturday session before the break. We'll have more on Farmer later Tuesday.
  • Defensive back Josh Shaw (rib), a transfer from Florida, has not yet practiced this spring as he awaits word from the NCAA on his request for a hardship waiver to play this season, but Kiffin said the reason he's staying off the field is the rib injury, not his status with the NCAA.
  • Two players also went down with injuries during practice and were due to undergo tests afterward: safety Drew McAllister and linebacker Marquis Simmons. Simmons, who has had neck issues in the past, stood on the sideline with ice on shoulder for the second half of practice; McAllister hurt his hand and did not return.
  • Players who impressed Kiffin over the first week of practice after he re-watched the film over the break: defensive tackle George Uko, receivers Marqise Lee and Farmer, linebacker Hayes Pullard and cornerbacks Isiah Wiley and Brian Baucham.
  • Final notes: Kiffin said the Trojans had no off-field issues over the spring break, as far as he knew. The team took a week off before returning to meetings and conditioning on Monday...Tight end Junior Pomee missed practice because of a death in the family, Kiffin said...Lee and cornerbacks Nickell Robey and Tony Burnett are expected to participate in USC's Trojan Invitational track meet on Saturday morning before going to the Coliseum for the Trojans' 11 a.m. scrimmage.

Spring position preview: CBs

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
7:27
PM PT
We’re doing position previews in the weeks leading up to spring practice, breaking down one group’s depth chart each day, paying special attention to things that can change in the spring.

We’ve looked at the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen and linebackers so far. Today, we analyze the cornerbacks.

Here's an honest truth: USC didn't have a real cornerbacks coach last season.

Once secondary coach Willie Mack Garza resigned just before the start of the regular season last September, graduate assistant Sammy Knight took over for him and did a commendable job, according to Lane Kiffin and his players. But Knight was a college and NFL safety and a true safeties' specialist, and he had very little experience coaching corners, if any at all.

That ended up hurting the Trojans significantly. Torin Harris and Tony Burnett both struggled last season and showed little week-to-week improvement. Junior-college transfer Isiah Wiley took longer to develop than USC envisioned.

Both of those things can be directly traced to the absence of a true cornerbacks coach. That, however, will no longer be an issue in 2012, not with new defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders now in the fold.

Sanders has a reputation as an elite corners coach. He's had a number of his players at that position drafted high over the years, including Prince Amukamara last year and Alfonzo Dennard this year.

What kind of impact can he make on USC's cornerback group?

There's certainly a lot of talent. This spring alone, he'll be able to work with two-year starter Nickell Robey, Wiley, Burnett and senior Brian Baucham -- plus redshirt freshman Ryan Henderson, one of the most athletic prospects across the country in the Class of 2011.

Burnett will be splitting his time with track, but Sanders could also have Florida transfer Josh Shaw, who will play either safety or corner. And Harris and Anthony Brown are expected back from season-ending surgeries at some point soon.

It isn't as necessary to find the second starting corner over the next month and a half as much as it's necessary to find a top four of sorts. Wiley will be in that mix and Brown probably will be too when he's healthy, but who else can Sanders and the Trojans count on as a reliable nickel-corner type to defend the passing offenses of the Pac-12?

Check back Friday for the safeties and Monday as we conclude our series with the special-teamers.

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