USC Football: 10 Players to Watch in USC Spring Game
USC hosts its spring game on Saturday, and with it comes the culmination of the early work Steve Sarkisian and his new team have put in to preparing for the 2014 season. It also marks the final showing for a handful of Trojans that have been competing for time in the limelight.
While most position battles will reopen again when injured veterans and fresh, new talent are available during fall camp, the impression left in the spring game could go a long way in boosting one's name up the depth chart.
Broken down by head-to-head position battles, here's a preview of 10 Trojans to keep an eye on during Saturday's spring game.
Quarterback: Cody Kessler vs. Max Browne
Max Browne has been trying to dethrone Cody Kessler by outperforming him during spring camp, but through four weeks, Kessler has firmly maintained his advantage. Saturday is the final countdown for Browne; if he has a better outing than Kessler, he could buy himself some more time and earn another shot at competition later this year.
That said, it's pretty unlikely that USC goes into the fall without having named a quarterback.
Two weeks ago, Sark indicated that Kessler had pulled away from Browne and was progressing at a faster rate. During last Thursday's practice, the head coach even ventured to say that the Trojans might have a quarterback named before spring ends. After Saturday's practice, however, he backed off that idea a bit.
Kessler will likely get the majority of the reps in Saturday's spring game, though it will be important to follow what Browne does with his opportunities. Even if Kessler ultimately wins the job, it's important that Browne is ready for his role as backup QB, which will come with some playing time at various points during the season.
Wide Receiver: George Farmer vs. Darreus Rogers
Believe it or not, George Farmer has been participating in spring practices, and he's actually turned a lot of heads. Buried on USC's depth chart after sustaining a series of unfortunate injuries, Farmer had a healthy spring and used the most of his opportunity.
The wide receiver spot opposite Nelson Agholor is open, though Darreus Rogers is the front-runner for the job. The sophomore hauled in 22 catches for 257 yards in 2013, and he made a few head-turning plays. The spot is his to lose, but Rogers has been inconsistent at times.
Farmer, on the other hand, has steadily improved and has shown to be reliable. His biggest hurdle to clear will be playing without the fear of getting injured again, once he is deemed 100 percent ready to go. He hasn't practiced with any contact yet, but in limited showings, he looked like the wide receiver he was pegged to be three years ago.
Both wide receivers will get plenty of looks on Saturday, and with them, they will make a case to keep their names atop the depth chart. Rogers can't really afford to lose his spot, and Farmer can't afford to underwhelm, either. USC's wide receiver corps is dangerously thin right now, but it won't be that way for long.
There's a trio of talented wide receivers coming in the fall—not to mention a still-healing Steve Mitchell—who will be vying for playing time in August.
Defensive End: Claude Pelon vs. Delvon Simmons
USC has a pair of transfers competing to start opposite Leonard Williams at defensive end, and the Trojans really couldn't be luckier. Claude Pelon (from Mesa Community College, Mesa, Ariz.) and Delvon Simmons (from Texas Tech) are seasoned, game-ready athletes, and that's exactly what USC needs to continue fielding a formidable defensive line.
Both have enormous, strong bodies, and this is another battle that could really go either way. Simmons got the spotlight for having a good practice on Saturday, and Sark listed Pelon as a player that he felt "could be close to a break out."
Simmons might have the edge having played for two seasons at a D-I school, and he has something else that Pelon doesn't have: endurance. Both have an initial quickness, but Simmons' motor can last longer, which will gain him points with the coaches.
This is another must-see, toss-up position battle to follow on Saturday.
Sam Linebacker: Jabari Ruffin vs. Quinton Powell
Quinton Powell and Jabari Ruffin are entrenched in a neck-and-neck battle to be USC's starting Sam linebacker, though this duel hasn't received the buzz that others have.
While Powell started the spring getting first-team reps, Ruffin has been getting them more recently. Powell hasn't shown any weaknesses; he's explosive and touts strong football instincts, in addition to having the physique that the coaching staff is looking for in a Sam. That said, Ruffin is incredibly athletic and plays with a toughness that the coaches also love.
This position battle really could go either way, but Powell (the more experienced of the two) has an ever so slight edge going into the spring game. This battle will undoubtedly resume in the fall, but Saturday will provide a thrilling glimpse into what either of these guys can do. Whomever is ultimately chosen, USC will have a real talent on the field.
Cornerback: Kevon Seymour vs. Chris Hawkins
Like a few other position battles, this is one that has a clear front-runner. Playing opposite Josh Shaw next season is Kevon Seymour's spot to lose, and Chris Hawkins is doing everything in his power to see that happen.
Seymour has 11 starts to his name, the latter half of which proved to be very impressive performances for him. He's had a solid spring with no major mistakes, so he likely has this one all locked up.
But Hawkins set out to show the new coaching staff that he's ready to take charge in the secondary, and he's been steadily improving with each practice. He hasn't done enough yet to unseat Seymour, but the gap is certainly closing.
With Josh Shaw out, these two will get nearly all of the reps in the spring game, so keep an eye on who is making more significant plays on the ball.
Like the wide receivers, Seymour and Hawkins want to solidify themselves at the top of the depth chart now, because we can anticipate that incoming freshman Adoree' Jackson, among others, will be looking to cash in on early playing time next fall.