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Friday, May 8, 2009
USC spring wrap-up

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC Trojans
2008 overall record: 12-1

2008 conference record: 8-1

Returning starters

Offense 9, defense 3, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

WR Damian Williams, C Kristofer O'Dowd, OT Charles Brown, OG Jeff Byers, TB Stafon Johnson, TB Joe McKnight, FS Taylor Mays, CB Josh Pinkard, DE Everson Griffen.

Key losses

QB Mark Sanchez, LB Rey Maualuga, LB Brian Cushing, DE Clay Matthews, DT Fili Moala, SS Kevin Ellison.

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Stafon Johnson* (705)
Passing: Mark Sanchez (3,207)
Receiving: Damian Williams (869)
Tackles: Rey Maualuga (79)
Sacks: Kyle Moore (5)
Interceptions: Cary Harris, Drew McAllister*, Kevin Thomas* (3)

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 San Jose State
Sep. 12 at Ohio State
Sep. 19 at Washington
Sep. 26 Washington State
Oct. 3 at California
Oct. 17 at Notre Dame
Oct. 24 Oregon State
Oct. 31 at Oregon
Nov. 7 at Arizona State
Nov. 14 Stanford
Nov. 28 UCLA
Dec. 5 Arizona

Spring answers

1. Reload at LB: Sure, the Trojans lost three first-day NFL draft picks at linebacker, but it's hard to find anyone around the program worried about the position. With Chris Galippo in the middle, and Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith flanking him, this unit will be faster than last year. That said, incoming freshmen Frankie Telford and Jarvis Jones may be able to work their way into the rotation.

2. Griffen steps up: Defensive end Everson Griffen has always been a spectacular talent, but his focus and work ethic haven't been consistent. Until this spring, at least, when Griffen joined Smith as the defense's standout player. He leads a young defensive line that flashed brilliance at times this spring.

3. If the QBs come through ...: With nine starters back and depth at every position, the Trojans' offense doesn't appear to have any weaknesses. Of course, the guy who's going to distribute the ball -- either Aaron Corp or Matt Barkley -- will be making his second career start at Ohio State, which gets a qualified, "Yikes!"

Fall questions

1. Is Barkley really in this? While coach Pete Carroll has long shown no fear starting -- or at least playing -- true freshmen, he has yet to do that at quarterback, where a pattern of sitting for three years and learning the system has been established. Corp emerged from spring the clear leader at the position, but Barkley flashed passing talent that's hard to ignore. Can Barkley really beat out Corp, and if he doesn't will he be the backup and burn his redshirt in 2009?

2. How will the tailback rotation go? With Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler making statements this spring -- particularly McNeal -- it appears that the Trojans are again a six-headed monster at tailback. There's just one ball, but there's Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable, with Gable presently the favorite to get his carries cut due to fumbling issues. Or will McKnight's inability to stay healthy -- at least during practices -- suddenly be recognized as a problem?

3. Who's the kicker? Joe Houston seemed to emerge with a small lead over Jordan Congdon at kicker, but touted JC transfer Jacob Harfman arrives in the fall, and Harfman could end up kicking and punting.