USC Football: 3 Trojans Who Will Disappoint in 2012
The USC Trojans enter 2012 as one of the nation's hottest teams, but a new year brings new starters—and these five players are bound to disappoint.
After finishing 10-2 overall, 2011 proved to be more than just a warm-up year for the Trojans as they prepare for their first season of eligibility after their NCAA sanction years.
Quarterback Matt Barkley made a strong push at the Heisman and his return to USC this year makes him a leading candidate. T.J. McDonald also made the decision to return and his performance in 2011 put him in the running for the Thorpe award.
The emergence of Curtis McNeal, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods is another added plus going into next season but there are big holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Among the key losses to the roster were offensive tackle Matt Kalil, running back Marc Tyler, tight end Rhett Ellison and defensive end Nick Perry.
Replacing those starters will be no walk in the park, and the players next in line for those spots will struggle to produce similar results. Likewise, some experienced players will struggle to adjust to more playing time.
3. Kevin Graf
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Junior tackle Kevin Graf started all 12 games at right tackle for USC in 2011 but he's been working to make the move to left tackle now that Kalil is headed to the NFL.
The pressure to replace a guy who was highly regarded as the best offensive lineman in the nation could get to Graf and potentially expose his weaknesses on the line.
Protecting Barkley's blind side will be a huge test for the fourth-year player as he attempts to make the transition to the left side, and sophomore Aundrey Walker will be close behind him competing for the position as well.
2. D.J. Morgan
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D.J. Morgan will be splitting carries with McNeal this season but if his counterpart has the type of season he did in 2011, then he could be left out of the picture.
Morgan started the season last year before losing his carries to McNeal and Tyler, but with so few tailbacks this season it seems he'll get his chance at more playing time. McNeal rushed for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 and his coaches feel he can build on his success.
Chances are Morgan will be a third-down back and get limited carries, thus making the once-considered feature back an alternative option.
1. Devon Kennard
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You would figure that the exit of Perry to the NFL would create an opening for a new pass-rusher to own the spotlight, but senior defensive end Devon Kennard won't be that guy.
Two seasons ago, Kennard looked like he would develop into a marquee pass-rusher in the USC defense when he finished 2010 with 72 total tackles, two sacks and an interception—but he failed to find his rhythm the following season.
In 2011 Kennard had just 29 total tackles and two sacks alongside Perry. The huge drop in his numbers doesn't bode well for Kennard as the expected replacement to Perry.