Barkley-to-Woods critical to success

The Trojans wrapped up the 2011 Fall Camp practices on Sunday with a scrimmage at the Coliseum followed by the annual Salute to Troy event on campus.

This fall camp featured a return to live tackling in practice, something the Trojans did not do last year, and coach Lane Kiffin commented several times during camp about the resulting increased level of physical play he saw from his team.

The offense showed signs of explosive play at times with a particularly deep group of receivers, but there wasn't the level of consistency that Kiffin desired. This is common during camp sessions as the team gets ready to start the season. The defense looks to be clearly improved, thanks to more depth on the line and in the secondary. On special teams the Trojans are breaking in a new place-kicker and punter, and there certainly is no shortage of quality options available in the return game.

Here is an in-depth look at USC Fall Camp 2011:

Most Indispensable

Matt Barkley to Robert Woods

When assessing the Trojans offense Lane Kiffin consistently has said, "We've got a really good quarterback and a really good receiver; that's a good place to start." There's no question that when the two of them are on the field together they form one of the most dangerous passing duos in the country. The problem this fall, however, was a lingering ankle issue for Woods that has caused him to miss several days of practice. While we saw how good the offense can be with the two of them, particularly in the Coliseum scrimmage on Sunday in which they had three TD connections, we also saw how the offense can suffer if one of them is on the sideline.

Matt Kalil

So much has been made about the inexperience along the offensive line; but don't take for granted the left tackle who could be as good as any in the country. With his size and technique, Kalil has the potential to someday be added to the conversation about the top tackles in USC history, a list that is headed by names such as Ron Yary, Anthony Munoz and Tony Boselli.

Nickell Robey

Robey might have grown more in the last year than any other player. Maybe not literally -- he's still on the short side for ideal corner size -- but there isn't a more complete example of a dynamic and hard-working player on the Trojans roster. He has been one of the real standouts of camp not only as a corner. It looks like he will end up returning punts, too.

T.J. McDonald

McDonald is looking to be the next great Trojans safety, and he certainly looks like he has what it takes to join his dad, Tim, on that impressive list. He's just so physically imposing for the position, it will be a welcome sight for Trojans fans to have No. 7 as the last line of defense in the secondary.

Defensive Ends

There might not be a bigger key to an improved Trojans defense than to see more of a pass rush. The good news is that the defensive end spot should feature a terrific rotation to help keep players fresh and able to apply consistent pressure. Nick Perry and Wes Horton are experienced veterans playing at a high level, and the position is bolstered by the presence of Devon Kennard returning to his original spot.

Top Position Battles

Strong Safety

The Trojans are loaded at SS, with four players who could have the opportunity to contribute. Jawanza Starling had a very physical camp and stood out with some strong tackling performances in the scrimmages. Marshall Jones is a savvy veteran, but he sat out the last week of camp with a sore knee. Demetrius Wright was making a huge impression before sitting out a week with a hip pointer; this is a guy with a really bright future. Drew McAllister is rounding back into shape after recent surgeries and is doing some good things. It's still too close to call right now for the starting spot; Wright and McAllister could also get some time as a backup to McDonald.


One of the biggest stories coming into camp was the suspension of Marc Tyler, but, to be honest, there really hasn't been any notable drop in performance at the tailback spot. All the backs have played well, and no clear leader has emerged for the starting position. At one point Lane Kiffin said Curtis McNeal was a step ahead of the others based upon his strong play, but McNeal then hurt his knee in the second scrimmage and missed some time. Dillon Baxter has been the most consistent back; coaches have praised both his attitude and improved play. D.J. Morgan has been a speedy playmaker when healthy, but he also has missed time with a sore knee. Don't forget freshman Amir Carlisle; he has shown enough that he could play a role sooner rather than later.

Right Guard

It took a few practices for the coaches to juggle spots on the line and figure out who looked best where, but since they settled on John Martinez and Aundrey Walker at RG, the position has become quite a competitive battle. Martinez has been around for a few years, waiting for his chance. He has played well, but not well enough to close the door yet on the big freshman, Walker.

Weakside Linebacker

This might be the closest competition in camp. Shane Horton is a smart senior, a former safety with good pursuit ability, while Hayes Pullard brings a little more physicality and a real nose for the ball. Rather than worrying about who will start, just appreciate the fact the Trojans have two quality options at this spot.

Backup Quarterback

Jesse Scroggins seemed to be in the lead for the backup job to Barkley after a good spring, but a thumb injury and subsequent surgery after a fall camp scrimmage has opened the door for two true freshmen, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Both have taken advantage of the extended reps in Scroggins' absence to put themselves in the mix, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see any of the three in the backup role once the season gets under way.

Best Position Switches

DL Devon Kennard

Kennard is back where he belongs. When he comes off the edge with such force it's easy to wonder why he was ever moved to linebacker in the first place.

FB Rhett Ellison

This was a terrific move by the coaches. They took a senior tight end with a lot of experience in the backfield and inserted him at fullback. His presence as a leader for the young backs has been praised, and his skill set seems to fit at his new spot.

DB Dion Bailey

Bailey struggled last spring with the notion of moving from safety to OLB, but that transition seems to be complete as his playmaking skills were notable in fall camp.

Impact Freshmen

WR Marqise Lee

You have to give Lee credit. When so many experts were touting his potential as a DB he stuck to his goal of wanting to be a receiver. He has clearly been the top freshman in camp, with Kiffin comparing him at one point to Tennessee Titans WR Damian Williams.

OL Aundrey Walker

This guy could be a fixture on the Trojans' offensive line for a while. Walker is a big man. Kiffin said he can be physically dominant at times, but he also added that Walker has a long way to go in learning the mental aspect of the college game. As that knowledge level increases, look for his playing time to increase right along with it.

LB Lamar Dawson

After watching Dawson in camp, it seems the coaches made a wise selection in giving him No. 55. At USC that number means a lot, and Dawson wears it well as a physically gifted linebacker who has impressed coaches and teammates with his attitude and work ethic. He manned the first-unit MLB spot for two weeks after Chris Galippo suffered an injury, and didn't look overwhelmed at all.

Stock Up

OL Kevin Graf
RB Dillon Baxter
OL Abe Markowitz
DL DaJohn Harris
DB Demetrius Wright

Stock Down

WR Kyle Prater
OL Martin Coleman
CB Brian Baucham
CB T.J. Bryant

M*A*S*H Unit

DL Armond Armstead
LB Chris Galippo
RB D.J. Morgan

Stars of the Future

CB Anthony Brown
DE Greg Townsend
RB Amir Carlisle

Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 1997. He can be reached at garry@wearesc.com.