Skill positions 'look like they used to'

The answer, one of the more meaningful Lane Kiffin's provided in his first year and a half at USC, came in response to an innocuous question on the likelihood that freshman phenom George Farmer would be able to get on the field at receiver right away in 2011.

"That position's starting to get really deep," Kiffin said by way of explaining why Farmer may not be able to do what some expect of him. "I think our young skilled guys on offense are starting to look like what they used to here.

"Now we've gotta continue to do that for two more years and that's when you get back to what you saw before."

Those are big, powerful words from the Trojans' second-year coach, making reference to guys like Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams. In the past, he typically used big, powerful words only when discussing a dire issue with USC's depth or some other negative-sounding matter.

Not anymore. He's more positive now. But it's fairly easy to be positive when you add five receivers into the mix in the fall, all of whom weren't able to participate in spring practice.

In pass-catchers Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, George Farmer, Marqise Lee and Victor Blackwell, Kiffin has just that -- an infusion of young talent across the board on offense. Butler missed the spring while contemplating a transfer; Prater was recovering from a broken foot. The other three, incoming freshmen, just arrived on campus over the summer.

Said Kiffin: "That’s like adding three rookies and two free agents that already know our system."

There's also running back Amir Carlisle, a 5-10, 180-pound freshman who has been the surprise of camp thus far, darting through the defense on a number of occasions both Thursday and Friday. He's had his not-so-good moments, too, running laps for fumbling and whatnot, but, in general, he's been very impressive.

"Amir Carlisle flashed again today," Kiffin said Friday. "That’s great to see. It’s a position that you always want depth at and he’s a great kid, a 4.0 student very serious about being a student-athlete.

"We’re excited to have him and excited to see his approach to the game too."

Other young skill position players include freshmen quarterbacks Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. All three have been in the program for at least a semester now, Scroggins for two. Tallahassee, Fla. running back Javorious 'Buck' Allen is also expected to arrive on campus soon, at which point he could take some carries away from Carlisle.

But the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are indeed a positive at this point, with the young players restocking units that had been low on depth earlier in the Kiffin regime. There are still similar issues at other positions on the field, but, at arguably the most important spots on the field (0r the most exciting, at least), USC shouldn't have many problems.

And Kiffin is, well, happy about it.

"You feel better, because there were so many times in the spring where, as much as you tried to stay positive, it was discouraging," he said Friday.