There are five Mondays left until spring practice officially kicks off for USC on March 22. On each of those Mondays, we'll preview one-sixth of the Trojans' depth chart and eye potential risers and fallers during the month-long springtime. We began last week with quarterbacks and running backs; this week, receivers and tight ends.
1. Robert Woods, sophomore
2. De'Von Flournoy, redshirt sophomore
3. Victor Blackwell, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
Woods is the clear starter here and a bona fide All-Conference player heading into his sophomore season in 2011. He'll be asked to lead a not-so-deep pack of receivers in spring practice as the Trojans attempt to compensate for an injury to redshirt freshman Kyle Prater and redshirt junior Brice Butler's decision to transfer at the end of the semester.
Prater could be back midway through the spring and, at that point, would probably be in competition with Carswell for the starting spot across from Woods. Flournoy is a bit of an odd case -- he played sparingly as a true freshman and then redshirted as a sophomore, sitting out last season. When healthy, he's an interesting player and a good option to be Woods' backup as the two share similar measurables. The difference between the two, at this point, is Woods' route-running and hands, which are each the best on the roster.
1. Brandon Carswell, redshirt senior
2a. Markeith Ambles, sophomore
2b. George Farmer, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
4. Marqise Lee, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
Prater may indeed end up slated on top of these four when he returns to the field, but for the time being we'll operate as if Carswell has a legitimate chance to win that starting spot -- and it appears he does, as a serviceable pass-catcher who does many of the little things well. Coach Lane Kiffin begged Carswell to stay when he was set on transferring to Cincinnati last summer, so placing him in a starting role would make for a nice story.
The battle between Ambles and Farmer could be interesting, although it won't kick off until the fall. Both players obviously have the talent to start here in the future, but there are other factors at play with Ambles -- discipline, namely. He didn't finish out the 2010 season with the Trojans after leaving the team in November. Farmer's character and attitude reminds many of Woods' at this point last year, so it's not too hard to conjure up a situation where he beats out Prater, Carswell and Ambles to start the season opener against Minnesota in September.
1. Rhett Ellison, senior
2. Christian Thomas, sophomore
3a. Xavier Grimble, redshirt freshman
3b. Randall Telfer, redshirt freshman
5. Junior Pomee, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
Ellison's the clear-cut starter, and a perfect example of a two- or three-star recruit developing into an important piece for the Trojans. He's been switched between fullback and tight end some while at USC, but he's a pretty good bet to stay here for the rest of his career.
In our eyes, Thomas has a leg up on the two other tight ends he came in with in Grimble and Telfer because of his special-teams experience as a true freshman, but that could change quickly. All three players are impressive physical specimen, and it's fairly likely at least one of three will get a look at another position -- defensive end for Thomas, offensive line for Grimble -- at some point in the spring. Grimble, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound prospect who is only growing, may soon outgrow tight end.
Pomee's a likely redshirt candidate.
That's it for this Monday. We'll be back a week from today with a look at the offensive and defensive linemen.