Friday is always the best time to bury bad news, and USC took full advantage of last Friday when its spring football prospectus had four omissions. From the Orange County Register:
Gone from the program, for undisclosed reasons, are defensive linemen Christian Heyward and DeVante Wilson and tight end Christian Thomas. Heyward appeared in five games last season and made three tackles, while Thomas did not have a catch and Wilson missed the entire season as he recovered from knee surgery.
Also, tight end Junior Pomee is not on the spring roster, as expected. Pomee faces felony charges related to the alleged theft of electronics and is suspended from all team activities.
To recap, USC has lost two tight ends and two defensive linemen. Is it time to panic?
Panic, no, but be concerned, yes.
Wilson is not listed on the recently updated 3-4/4-3 depth charts, but Heyward is in the third spot at nose tackle in the 4-3 defense. The two tight ends, Pomee and Thomas, are also not listed on the depth charts.
So while it's good news that USC hasn't lost any starters, let's ask a serious question: Who's going to be on the scout team squaring off against the 1's, 2's and 3's in practice?
As of now, USC is not even using up its 75 scholarships, only signing 12 for the class of 2013. The quality of the freshmen/incoming freshmen is such that head coach Lane Kiffin might not want to risk injury by having these guys play the role of punching bag against the other veteran starters on the team.
Walk-ons are surely a viable option, and USC actually got a good bunch last year, but this year USC is going to have to tackle more in practice despite the inherent risks involved. That might not be a selling point to a walk-on who wants to make it off the field alive. On the other hand, it might actually produce a walk-on who is deserving of a scholarship.
One final question: Could this just be an annual cleaning up of the roster?
These guys weren't just walk-ons. Heyward was a 4-star defensive tackle ranked No. 20 in his position in the class of 2011. Wilson was a 3-star defensive end who grayshirted in the fall of 2010 due to torn knee ligaments. Thomas was a 4-star tight end who was ranked No. 8 by position in the class of 2010.
All three of these guys were in their third or fourth year at USC, so either this was a major roster cleaning or these guys just weren't making enough of an impact on the team to warrant another year's scholarship.
In any case, it's not time to panic, but spring practice is going to get very interesting. Either Kiffin has some bodies in mind to replace the departures—remember, unless a prospect has enrolled in class he's not officially a student-athlete at that school—or he's losing players.
One unidentified player has already said that Kiffin lost the locker room after the Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech—if more players leave then it's time to panic, because USC cannot afford to lose any players right now, starters or not.
But as of now, it's status quo. The Trojans' first practice starts today.
For a downloadable version of the 60-plus page spring media guide, click here.