Fall camp position preview: Special teams

To prepare for the start of the 2012 USC campaign, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster all this week. We began Monday with quarterbacks and continued until Sunday with the defensive backs.

Today, with fall camp kicking off this evening, we take a quick look at the special teams.

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.


1. Kyle Negrete, redshirt senior

2. Kris Albarado, redshirt freshman


1. Andre Heidari, sophomore

2. Craig McMahon, redshirt sophomore

Long snapper

1. Peter McBride, redshirt freshman


1. Matt Barkley, senior

2. Cody Kessler, redshirt freshman

Kickoff returner

1. Robert Woods, junior

2a. Curtis McNeal, redshirt senior

2b. Marqise Lee, sophomore

Punt returner

1a. Nickell Robey, junior

1b. Robert Woods

3. Marqise Lee

Negrete and Albarado are listed as co-punter on the depth chart Kiffin released in April, but it'd be highly surprising if Negrete wasn't the Trojans' starting punter from the season opener until the season finale.

His leg strength is average at this level, but he's a masterful directional punter. USC used his specific skills well last year, and he's really the perfect punter for a team that's not going to have to punt too much. He and Heidari give Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter multiple options when the Trojans get stuck around an opponent's 40-yard line.

Heidari really has a rocket leg, and he showed next to no signs of fallibility in his freshman season. He misfired on only two kicks all year, and he was nursing an ankle injury during one of them. There's no reason to think he'll miss more than two or three in 2012.

Albarado is a rarity in college football -- a backup punter on scholarship. There aren't very many of them across the country. But he'll presumably be a three-year starter, beginning next season, before he's done.

This will be McBride's fourth semester at USC already -- he enrolled early in the spring of 2011 -- but he'll see his first game action in the opener. He previously backed up the four-year starter Chris Pousson.

Barkley did all of the holding last season and should continue doing so this year.

The returner spots are interesting. Many programs try to avoid putting their premiere players back to return punts or kicks, but not the Trojans. Their end-of-spring depth chart featured their four best players among the positions returners are traditionally mined from.

Will Woods do so even if he continues to be bothered by his ankle? He split both of the duties last season, so it's possible.

We'll take a further look at camp shortly.