USC head football coach Lane Kiffin released a post-spring game depth chart on Monday and there weren't a lot of surprises.
The two-deep depth chart:
Left tackle: AUNDREY WALKER^, Nathan Guertler, (Nico Falah)
Left guard: MAX TUERK^, Giovanni Di Paolo, Erick Jepsen, (Khaliel Rodgers)
Center: MARCUS MARTIN, Cyrus Hobbi
Right Guard: JOHN MARTINEZ, Jordan Simmons, David Garness
Right tackle: KEVIN GRAF or Chad Wheeler*, Zach Banner
Tight end: XAVIER GRIMBLE^* or RANDALL TELFER^*, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
Quarterback: Max Wittek or Cody Kessler or Max Browne, Conner Sullivan#
Fullback: Soma Vainuku or Jahleel Pinner, Simione Vehikite
Tailback: Silas Redd or Justin Davis or Tre Madden, D.J. Morgan or Javorius Allen, John Akiba# or Taylor Ross# or Alec Jaffe#, (Ty Isaac)
Wide receiver: MARQISE LEE, Darreus Rogers*, Victor Blackwell, Robby Kolanz, George Farmer*
Wide receiver: NELSON AGHOLOR, De'Von Flournoy, George Katrib*, Cody Skene or Christian Tober, (Steven Mitchell)
Outside Linebacker: Devon Kennard, Jabari Ruffin, Marquis Simmons
Outside linebacker: MORGAN BRESLIN, Kevin Greene, (Quinton Powell)
Defensive end: LEONARD WILLIAMS, J.R. Tavai, Michael Arakelian, Jeff Miller#
Defensive end: GEORGE UKO, Charles Burks, Greg Townsend Jr.#
Nose tackle: Antwaun Woods or Cody Temple, Kenny Bigelow, Yonatan Aviv
Middle linebacker: HAYES PULLARD, Will Andrew, Julian Coleman, (Michael Hutchings)
Weak side linebacker: LAMAR DAWSON or Anthony Sarao, Kyle Yatabe, Nick Schlossberg, Scott Starr#
Cornerback: Anthony Brown, Devian Shelton or Chris Hawkins
Cornerback: Torin Harris or Kevon Seymour, Ryan Henderson or Ryan Dillard
Free safety: Demetrius Wright or Leon McQuay III, John Auran, Gerald Bowman
Strong safety: JOSH SHAW or Su'a Cravens*, Rob Dooley, Dion Bailey#
Punter: Kris Albarado, Joey Krassenstein
Placekicker: ANDRE HEIDARI (PAT and FG), Alex Wood (PAT and FG) and Craig McMahon (kickoff)
Snapper: Peter McBride
Holder: CODY KESSLER^, Kris Albarado, Max Wittek
Kickoff returner: MARQISE LEE and NELSON AGHOLOR
Punt returner: Anthony Brown, Marqise Lee
boldface =projected 2013 starters
( ) = Fall 2013 enrollees
# = coaches unable to evaluate depth chart standing due to missing all of spring drills
* = missed significant part of spring drills
^ = co-starter in 2012
ALL CAPS = returning 2012 starter
Players connected with "or" are considered equal
Kiffin also held a teleconference call with the media on Monday afternoon to answer any questions on the released depth chart, but started off the call by offering his "thoughts and prayers to everyone involved" in the Boston Marathon explosions.
Kiffin also said none of his players or their families had been affected by the tragedy "that we know of yet," but he also noted he hadn't heard back from every player since many were still in class.
He talked briefly about the Trojans' spring game last Saturday and his decision to make it a non-tackle scrimmage. His decision was based on the sheer lack of numbers suited up to play. "[We had] forty-two scholarshipped offensive and defensive players available...which made [tackling] impossible," Kiffin said.
On to the depth chart.
"[The released depth chart] does not mean a whole lot," Kiffin prefaced the media before taking questions.
"You see a lot of "ors" on there...we're not playing a game this week, so there will still be plenty of competition and a lot of jobs open."
The offensive depth chart didn't hold a lot of surprises, especially at quarterback. Kiffin will not make a decision on the starting quarterback until fall camp. "Cody (Kessler) has now I believe gone five scrimmages in the Coliseum without an interception," Kiffin noted.
The quarterbacks were not listed alphabetically—which could be a clue where he is leaning—but the fact that Max Wittek, Cody Kessler or Max Browne have that "or" between them on the depth chart implies they are all on equal standing.
"All three of them are really good college quarterbacks," Kiffin said. "That's a great problem to have. I don't think many people have that problem."
Kiffin seems pretty solid on Marcus Martin at starting center. "Marcus Martin [capped] off a very good spring after that late move of moving him to center there after the first week," Kiffin said. "[He] really responded well."
Kiffin said four guys stood out on the defense: Leonard Williams (DE),Devon Kennard (OLB), Morgan Breslin (OLB) and Lamar Dawson (WLB), who Kiffin called "probably if not the, one of the most improved players on our team this spring."
Dion Bailey moving back to safety appears to be a bit of a surprise.
"We have made the decision...with the production of Lamar (Dawson) and Anthony at the WILL linebacker position, [it] has allowed us to move Dion back to safety," Kiffin explained. "That's the direction that we're heading in camp."
Kiffin also said that because Bailey has safety experience, the change shouldn't be too disruptive.
On the offense, Kevin Graf or Chad Wheeler will be the starting right tackle. Kiffin noted that because Graf had "an up and down spring" and Wheeler was injured, it's too soon to name a starter. "We're going to let those guys battle it out," Kiffin said.
Kiffin also addressed the razor thin depth at left tackle.
"Not that Aundrey (Walker) had the greatest spring ever, but really there's only a walk player behind him...there's not a scholarshipped player over there, obviously we'd like to have more numbers," he said.
"We feel that Zach Banner is a right tackle only, he's not a left tackle. And he has a ways to go to progress for us."
Left tackle could be a problem if Walker gets injured. Of all the positions showing the most vulnerability, this is the big one. Left tackle Nico Falah will join the Trojans for fall camp, but he'll do so as a true freshman.
Kiffin also said the offensive line's progress stood out after spring camp. The good news here is that the O-line is comprised of all returning centers. This is a unit with experience, albeit the depth is particularly thin at center and tackle.
Either Silas Redd, Justin Davis or Tre Madden is projected to start at tailback. Redd missed most of spring drills (knee) and Davis appeared to have taken advantage of that by impressing the coaching staff. If Davis continues to impress, we could see a shake-up on the depth chart come fall.
Receiver Victor Blackwell is also surprisingly listed behind Darreus Rogers—Blackwell was the leader in reception yards at the spring game with seven catches, 155 yards and one touchdown. Kiffin explained the current position depth chart by describing Rogers as a player who "is showing some things to have a really big upside there."
"Victor has made some plays for us...he did Saturday," Kiffin continued. "But also we want Victor to be extremely consistent in everything that he does and continue to grow in our program and mature. Victor is well aware of that."
I asked Kiffin how many scholarship players are projected to be on the team—assuming the injured projected to return for fall successfully rehab—when USC kicks off at Hawai'i on August 29.
"I think that would be sixty-nine," Kiffin replied.
"I think George maybe dropped us from seventy to sixty-nine...with his ACL. That's not saying we couldn't sign somebody prior to fall camp—that's happened before, but I think it's headed towards something like sixty-nine."
USC's first fall practice is tentatively scheduled for August 3 and it's quite possible that the scholarship roster will be up to 75 by then.
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