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Projecting the 2011 USC Football Depth Chart

Eric Watkins |
February 22, 2011 | 3:48 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Matt Barkley's ready to take on the competition at quarterback. (Neon Tommy/Shotgun Spratling)
Matt Barkley's ready to take on the competition at quarterback. (Neon Tommy/Shotgun Spratling)
With spring practice looming and the dust from National Signing Day finally settling, let’s take a look at USC’s 2011-12 projected depth chart.

Figuring out who will start and who will have a backup role this fall is pretty cut-and-dry, but many positions – strong safety, second cornerback, offensive guard – will not be won until the week leading up to USC’s first game against Minnesota on Sept. 3.

Nonetheless, let's start with the easiest position of them all.

1.    Matt Barkley (JR, 6-foot-2, 220 lbs)
2.    Jesse Scroggins (RFR, 6-foot-3, 205 lbs)
3.    John Manoogian (RJR, 6-foot, 205 lbs)
4.    Cody Kessler (FR, 6-foot-2, 220 lbs)*
5.    Max Wittek (FR, 6-foot-4, 205 lbs)*

There is no questioning who the captain and leader of the 2011-12 Trojans will be.  Whether that translates into a productive season for Matt Barkley is another story. 

Many believe spring signees Max Wittek and Cody Kessler will compete for the backup quarterback position, but Jesse Scroggins’s redshirt year helped the former sixth-highest ranked quarterback in the nation with his strength and speed.  Scroggins’s familiarity with Lane Kiffin’s playbook will help him win the backup role, but the competition between Wittek, Kessler and Scroggins a year from now will be one of the best quarterback battles in the country; if Barkley decides to forego his senior season, of course.

Look for Kessler and Wittek to both redshirt. 

Running back:
1.    Marc Tyler (RSR, 5-foot-11, 220 lbs)
2.    Dillon Baxter (SO, 6-foot, 195 lbs)
3.    D.J. Morgan (RFR, 6-foot, 185 lbs)
4.    Javorius Allen (FR, 6-foot-1, 205 lbs)
5.    Curtis McNeal (RJR, 5-foot-7, 185 lbs)
6.    Amir Carlisle (FR, 5-foot-10, 180 lbs)*

With the graduations of Allen Bradford and rarely used C.J. Gable, the Trojans replenished with signings from Carlisle and Allen. However, look for Carlisle to redshirt and Allen to have a third down back role -- if he doesn’t redshirt as well.

Tyler is the clear-cut favorite heading into spring ball, but if Baxter ever translates his incredible talent to his on-the-field performance, we could see Baxter push Tyler for the starting spot.

Morgan coming off of injury and McNeal coming off a season in which he was academically ineligible will provide the Trojans backfield change of pace and quality depth.

1.    Soma Vainuku (FR, 6-foot-2, 255 lbs)
2.    Hunter Simmons (RSO, 6-foot-3, 235 lbs)
3.    K.C. Pola (SO, 6-foot, 210 lbs)

With the lack of depth and talent at fullback, look for Kiffin to use a lot more two tight end or spread formations with three or four wide receivers.  Ultimately, Vainuku will win the job and hopefully can fill the role left by Stanley Havili.

Wide receiver:

Flanker -
1.    Robert Woods (SO, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs)
2.    George Farmer (FR, 6-foot-1, 205 lbs)
3.    Brandon Carswell (RSR, 6-foot-1, 190 lbs)
4.    Markeith Ambles (SO, 6-foot-2, 215 lbs)
5.    Marqise Lee (FR, 6-foot, 190 lbs)*

Split end -
1.    Kyle Prater (RFR, 6-foot-5, 215 lbs)
2.    De’Von Flournoy (RSO, 6-foot, 185 lbs)
3.    Markeith Ambles (SO, 6-foot-2, 215 lbs)
4.    Victor Blackwell (FR, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs)*

As Kiffin looks to find a way around the inexperience at fullback, we’ll see him attempt to exploit a lack of depth in the secondary throughout the PAC-12 with his talented receiving corps.  Woods, a Pac-10 First Team All-American, will start opposite Prater, who will likely be unable to participate during spring ball due to a foot fracture suffered earlier this month. 

Farmer will be a dynamic slot receiver, wreaking havoc on slower safeties, and Prater will do the same with smaller cornerbacks. Look for Carswell, Ambles and Flournoy to compete for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots.

Freshmen Blackwell and Marqise Lee will redshirt. Lee should switch to the defensive side of the ball after his redshirt year, but we will see what Kiffin has in store for the gifted Lee this summer.

It’ll be interesting to see how Kiffin uses the bevy of talent at wide receiver and tailback to cover up the weaknesses and lack of experience found on the offensive line.

Offensive Line:

Left tackle -
1.    Matt Kalil (RJR, 6-foot-7, 295 lbs)
2.    David Garness (JR, 6-foot-5, 290 lbs)
3.    Kevin Graf (RSO, 6-foot-6, 300 lbs)

Left guard -

1.    Giovanni Di Poalo (RFR, 6-foot-6, 295 lbs)
2.    John Martinz (RSO, 6-foot-2, 290 lbs)
3.    Jeremy Galten (JR, 6-foot-4, 285 lbs)

Center -
1.    Khaled Holmes (RJR, 6-foot-4, 300 lbs)
2.    Abe Markowitz (RJR, 6-foot-1, 280 lbs)
3.    Cody Temple (FR, 6-foot-2, 280 lbs)*

Right guard -
1.    Cyrus Hobbi (FR, 6-foot-3, 275 lbs)
2.    John Martinez (RSO, 6-foot-2, 290 lbs)
3.    Aundrew Walker (FR, 6-foot-6, 375 lbs)*
4.    Jeremy Galten (JR, 6-foot-4, 285 lbs)

Right tackle -
1.    Kevin Graf: (RSO, 6-foot-6, 300 lbs)
2.    Martin Coleman (RSR, 6-foot-5, 335 lbs)
3.    David Garness (JR, 6-foot-5, 290 lbs)

The offensive line returns two starters: Kalil, a future NFL first round draft pick, and Holmes who will slide over this year and play center. 

Competition for both guard positions will be heated.  Look for Di Poalo as a sleeper to start at left guard as he and Martinez compete throughout the summer. Hobbi is the most polished incoming offensive lineman and, realistically, one of the guard spots is his to lose.

If Walker, a freshman, comes into summer camp in shape, he could compete for the right tackle or left guard spot. Assuming he doesn't, Walker would greatly benefit from a redshirt year.

Defensive Line:

Left defensive end -
1.    Wes Horton (RJR, 6-foot-5, 260 lbs)
2.    Armond Armstead (SR, 6-foot-5, 295 lbs)
3.    Kevin Greene (RSO, 6-foot-3, 250 lbs)
4.    Greg Townsend Jr. (FR, 6-foot-3, 275 lbs)*

Three-technique defensive tackle -
1.    Armond Armstead (SR, 6-foot-5, 295 lbs)
2.    George Uko (RFR, 6-foot-4, 300 lbs)
3.    DaJohn Harris (RSR, 6-foot-4, 305 lbs)
4.    Christian Heyward (FR, 6-foot-2 275 lbs)*

Nose tackle/Defensive tackle -
1.    Christian Tupou (RSR, 6-foot-2, 290 lbs)
2.    George Uko (RFR, 6-foot-4, 300 lbs)
3.    DaJohn Harris (RSR, 6-foot-4, 305 lbs)
4.    Antwaun Woods (FR, 6-foot-1, 325 lbs)*

Right defensive end -
1.    Nick Perry (RJR, 6-foot-3, 250 lbs)
2.    Christian Thomas (SO, 6-foot-2, 240 lbs)
3.    James Boyd (RSO, 6-foot-4, 245 lbs)
4.    Wes Horton (RJR, 6-foot-5, 260 lbs)
5.    DeVante Wilson (FR, 6-foot-4, 235 lbs)*

It’s all about options when looking for depth, and the defensive line of USC won't disappoint.  It is the most exciting position when we think about the different fronts defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will devise.

Look for Armstead to move to the three-technique – his natural position – as Horton solidifies the bookend opposite of Perry. Tupou, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, will win the job at the other defensive tackle. 

The defensive line will be an interchangeable position this year, assuming everyone remains healthy. Uko and Harris will get lots of playing time and look for Kiffin to redshirt as many incoming defensive linemen as possible.

Wilson and Woods are certain redshirts, while Townsend and Heyward could see some playing time.


Weak-side linebacker -
1.    Hayes Pullard (RFR, 6-foot-2, 225 lbs)
2.    Shane Horton (RSR, 6-foot, 220 lbs)
3.    Tre Madden (FR, 6-foot, 220 lbs)*
4.    Marquis Simmons (RSO, 6-foot-1, 215 lbs)

Middle linebacker -
1.    Chris Galippo (RSR, 6-foot-2, 250 lbs)
2.    Devon Kennard (JR, 6-foot-3, 250 lbs)
3.    Dallas Kelley (JR, 6-foot, 230 lbs)
4.    Anthony Sarao (FR, 6-foot, 210 lbs)*

Strong-side linebacker -
1.    Devon Kennard (JR, 6-foot-3, 250 lbs)
2.    Lamar Dawson (FR, 6-foot-2, 235 lbs)
3.    Ross Cumming (SR, 6-foot-1, 230 lbs)
4.    Charles Burks (FR, 6-foot-1, 220 lbs)*

The way I see it, Galippo and Kennard are clear starters – figuring out what position they will play is the hard part.  Ultimately, I think Kennard will move to the strong side, where you could see him put his hand down from time to time.

Pullard seems to be a surprising pick on the weak-side, but look for incoming freshman Madden to push Horton and Pullard for the starting spot.

Dawson, a steal when it comes to this recruiting class, could compete for both middle and strong side spots if Gallipo falters once again or if Kennard doesn’t come back 100 percent after off-season hip surgery.

Sarao and Burks are both likely to redshirt.

Defensive backs:

Right cornerback -
1.    T.J. Bryant (SR, 6-foot, 180 lbs)
2.    Isiah Wiley (JR, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs)
3.    Brian Baucham (RJR, 5-foot-11, 180 lbs)
4.    Anthony Brown (RFR, 6-foot, 185 lbs)

Left cornerback -
1.    Nickell Robey (SO, 5-foot-8, 165 lbs)
2.    Isiah Wiley (JR, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs)
3.    Torin Harris (RSO, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs)
4.    Patrick Hall (RFR, 6-foot, 190 lbs)
5.    Ryan Henderson (FR, 5-foot-10, 170 lbs)*

Free safety -
1.    T.J. McDonald (JR, 6-foot-2, 205 lbs)
2.    Marshall Jones (RSR, 5-foot-11, 185 lbs)
3.    Dion Bailey (RFR, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs)
4.    Tony Burnett (JR, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs)

Strong safety -
1.    Jawanza Starling (JR, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs)
2.    Drew McAllister (RJR, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs)
3.    Marshall Jones (RSR, 5-foot-11, 185 lbs)
4.    Demetrius Wright (SO, 6-foot-1, 205 lbs)

McDonald, a future early round draft pick in the NFL, will lead a very young defensive secondary. Robey hopes to improve coming off of an inconsistent year and will likely do so after a second year in Monte Kiffin’s system. 

I see both Wiley and Bryant battling it out during the summer for the cornerback spot opposite Robey. If Brown or Hall performs well this spring, we could see an exciting competition for the fourth and fifth cornerback spots.

I believe Starling will win the position battle at strong safety, but look for McAllister, who is coming off a hip injury last season, to push Starling well into the summer.  Jones is a versatile defensive back who could see some playing time if either Starling or McAllister fails to impress.  Bailey is my sleeper pick.
It’s impressive how Kiffin and Co. were able to replenish a depleted secondary and linebacker corps, in addition to stockpiling talent at all skill positions. 

The depth chart is bound to change through spring and summer practices but at least we were able to find one lost key to the Return of Troy… depth.

*Likely to redshirt during the 2011-12 season


To reach Eric Watkins, click here. Follow Eric on Twitter @ericswatkins.



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