USC released its annual end-of-spring depth chart last week, which we posted mostly without comment at the time. Here, now, is our position-by-position analysis of what Lane Kiffin and Co. released, with an eye on what it means for the 2012 Trojans.
This was exactly as expected, with Matt Barkley entrenched and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek continuing to compete behind him. It is noteworthy that Jesse Scroggins is listed a spot behind the two redshirt freshmen and not tied with them, but it'd be a little unfair for him to be anywhere else. He missed most of the spring with hip issues and is still in academic jeopardy.
Where would Tre Madden have been if he wasn't out for the 2012 season? That's the question this portion of the chart begs. Curtis McNeal would still be starting, but Madden could very well be vying with D.J. Morgan for that No. 2 spot. Javorious Allen will be the third-string back unless he gets beat out by an incoming freshman.
Soma Vainuku is locked in as the starter with no pressing competition, but he had himself a nice conclusion to the spring anyway, giving the coaching staff more confidence in him going into the summer. Jahleel Pinner will be somewhat of an unknown.
De'Von Flournoy jumped in front of Victor Blackwell with an impressive spring, and has now put himself into position to challenge George Farmer for third-receiver status in the fall. And if Farmer can't stay healthy (again), then Flournoy's suddenly the favorite to line up with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
This spot, arguably USC's deepest and most talented, didn't play like it this spring. It wasn't 100-percent healthy at any point. But if all goes as as planned the Trojans will have five healthy scholarship ends available in the fall, and there will be a battle between Junior Pomee, Christian Thomas and incoming freshman Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick to be the third tight end.
There were no surprises across the board here, although it was interesting to learn where the coaches have the incoming freshmen projected. Chad Wheeler, who was in the program for the spring but recovering from surgery, is a left tackle. Locals Max Tuerk and Jordan Simmons are guards, and big Washington recruit Zach Banner is a right tackle. And Aundrey Walker and Kevin Graf are each listed where they spent the final month of the spring -- as left and right tackles, respectively.
There were two things revealed here. As of right now, redshirt freshman Greg Townsend Jr. is the third defensive end in Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin's eyes. They liked his play in the spring more than Morgan Breslin or Kevin Greene's, although Townsend Jr. didn't do so well when tried defensive tackle. And J.R. Tavai is still beating out Antwaun Woods for the nose tackle spot, even though Woods has the size advantage over him.
Jabari Ruffin is a middle linebacker? That was the big reveal here. It's surprising because Scott Starr is in the same class as Ruffin and was also put at middle this spring. it also doesn't make sense from a pure balance perspective -- If Ruffin indeed plays there,the Trojans would have five scholarship middle linebackers and only two weaksiders. Former defensive back Tony Burnett seems to have carved out a role as Dion Bailey's backup.
So Torin Harris sits out the last half of the 2011 season and all of the spring, and he's still listed as a co-starter with Isiah Wiley and Brian Baucham? That's interesting. Wiley seemed to have a firm hold on his starting spot in the spring, but the challenges will clearly be there in the fall. Also, will both Devian Shelton and Kevon Seymour redshirt the 2012 season? Six scholarship corners in front of them would seem to foretell that.
Josh Shaw and Gerald Bowman make sense as free and strong safeties, setting it up for both to start in 2013 and, potentially, 2014. That brings up another question: If Bowman, a junior juice transfer, is only going to be a third-stringer this season, does it make sense for him to use up a year of eligibility? Maybe not. With him, it's probably going to be a matter of whether the coaches can find him other playing time in special teams and extra-DB situations.
Putting Kris Albarado and Kyle Negrete as co-starters at punter is special teams coach John Baxter's way of letting Negrete know that more is still expected of him. He was a great directional punter in 2011 but hasn't proven to be a good distance one yet. Albarado seems to have more leg strength. At the returner spots, it's interesting that all of the Trojans' top skill-position players are listed. It hasn't always been like that in past years.