After a final evaluation, Lane Kiffin released the final post-spring depth chart with a few words of caution.
“Really the only reason it was released is to have something on paper for you guys,” Kiffin told the media Monday morning. “It really doesn’t mean very much.”
In order to put together a complete picture for the fall there are a few things he has to consider. There was a variety of injuries to skill-position players. Though some, like Robert Woods, are proven entities others such as WR George Farmer and RB Buck Allen need more time to fully develop and be evaluated.
He is also waiting on his incoming freshman class to arrive this summer. Freshmen get to compete at USC. That depth chart will be written in dry erase marker, not a sharpie, until the season opener.
Nonetheless, here are a few points Kiffin took away from this year’s spring practice.
It’s too early to grade Heisman candidate Matt Barkley.
“I don’t know that I could do that because of the variables around him. It’s just too hard to grade.”
At one point, all the tight ends, George Farmer and Robert Woods were unavailable to him. Now a devil’s advocate might say that a good quarterback should be able to work with what he has. And that is true. But it is very hard to develop chemistry with any receiver, good or bad, overnight. His personnel was constantly changing and he was often splitting time with Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. He wasn’t in a fall camp scenario so you cannot evaluate him like was.
The development of FB Soma Vainuku was critical this season. At the beginning of the spring, Kiffin said he would have given him a grade of “D/F,” but after his spring game performance he would now give Vainuku an “A/B.” That is something the head coach can work with.
As far as the two newest skill players with the most potential to help out, Farmer and Allen, there is much to be learned. In regards to Farmer, Kiffin thought “He looked like a complete receiver for those couple days.”
Farmer didn’t have any glaring weakness that would have prevented him from becoming an All-Star receiver until a hamstring injury slowed his progress again.
On the other hand, Allen still has a very, very long way to go.
As of now, Aundrey Walker is USC’s new left tackle. Kiffin said that it made sense to leave Kevin Graf at right tackle when he has 12 games as the starter under his belt. Though Walker still has some work to do, his size and build is exactly what Kiffin wants protecting Barkley’s blind side.
Lastly, one of the best things to come out of spring practice is acclimating Kiffin’s three new hires.
“To me one of the greatest story lines of the spring was those three guys working the players and the coaches,” said Kiffin. “I could not be more pleased with all three of them.”
The head coach also added that he felt the back seven were the best they have been during his tenure, and from what everyone saw from the defense on Saturday, no one can really disagree with that statement.
One of Kiffin’s priorities is developing a solid rotation at defensive tackle. George Uko is playing the best out of the lot. J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods put in a lot of work over the spring, but they need to add Cody Temple and Christian Heyward back into the mix once they are healed. From there, the competition will separate the men from the boys.
Another serious, and fairly obvious, concern is the depth at running back. A healthy Buck Allen will help, but with Tre Madden out for the year, Kiffin needs at least one incoming freshman to step up this year.
Though QB Jesse Scroggins isn’t out of the race for the back-up position, he has apparently dug himself a very deep academic hole and only has two weeks left in the regular semester (plus finals) to climb is way out. Kiffin won’t even talk about his chances of earning the position until he knows he is eligible for the fall.
Kiffin now has to keep the players focused on the end goal through three months of offseason workouts and training. His “prep not hype” message is carrying through to fall camp.
“It has nothing to do how we prepare just because some magazine says we are going to be No. 1 or No.2,” said Kiffin. “No team is going to lay down on Saturdays for us…”
Lastly, ESPN and USC has reached a national radio broadcast deal so Trojan lovers and haters alike can listen in to home games no matter where they are. This is only the second deal of its kind in college football, the first belong to Notre Dame and IMG, but it is a definite first for ESPN Radio.
Stephanie Graves is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless stated, all quotes were collected in person.