On Monday, we noted that USC will be missing 12 starters and/or key contributors this spring, including three from the critically thin offensive line.
ESPN.com's Ryan McGee went searching for this year's "Cam Newton" -- minus the, er, baggage, I suspect -- and he included two new Trojans.
Trojan offensive linemen!
Here's what he wrote:
... Perhaps the biggest issue for his Trojans this year will be finding help to protect quarterback Matt Barkley. That help is likely going to have to come from Walker and Hobbi, true freshmen who ditched hometown schools Ohio State and Arizona State Sun Devils (Hobbi chose USC in part because he wants to be an actor when he grows up ... seriously). Both are listed as guards, but here's betting that Hobbi will come out of two-a-days as the Trojans' starting center.
Perhaps. An immediate problem, though, is both Walker and Hobbi don't arrive until August, and it's difficult -- and rare -- for true freshmen to start on the offensive line. Most coaches will tell you it's not ideal, even if a player is physically ready.
Of course, the first question for the Trojans is center, and the guy who must be replaced -- Kristofer O'Dowd -- was good enough to start as a true freshman, so there's certainly no hard and fast rule. That said: O'Dowd was the Trojans first true freshman to start at center as well as only the third Trojan true freshman to start a post-World War II opener on the offensive line. So said rule is fairly hard and fast.
It also appears that Hobbi will start off as a guard, and redshirt freshman Giovanni Di Poalo will get a look at center this spring. Michael Lev of the Orange County Register previous speculated that Khaled Holmes would move inside to center after starting at guard last season -- reasonably because Lane Kiffin told him as much -- but Holmes is still listed as a guard in the spring prospectus and figures to be limited this spring because of a shoulder injury. Junior Abe Markowitz, another candidate at center, will miss spring with a foot injury.
So, based on injuries and August arrivals, the first-team USC offensive line when spring practices begin March 22 might look like this: left tackle Matt Kalil, guard Jeremy Galten, center Di Poalo, guard John Martinez, and right tackle David Garness.
That's four players with little to no experience -- Galten and Garness are both junior college transfers -- so you can see why this is an area of concern for Kiffin this spring.
If you are trying to attach a silver lining to this, the coaches figure to get a good look at their depth before the veterans return and the newcomers arrive in August.