Matt Barkley is leading a team with little weakness, but there is always room for improvement.
To be fair, the USC Trojans look like a pretty load team coming into 2012. But no team is ever perfect.
Since you're only as strong as your weakest link let's look at some the possible breaks in the chain that might hurt the Trojans.
Some of these positions questions will be answered during fall camp. But if they are not? Look for teams to possibly exploit these five potential weaknesses.
The Trojans only have three scholarship running backs. Only two of those, D.J. Morgan and returning starter Curtis McNeal, were healthy during spring.
Though Buck Allen supposedly has a lot of potential, injuries have prevented his maturation. We would like to say more about him—his strengths, his weakness, a possible role for him—but we don’t know that much about the redshirt freshman. Every time he seems to make some steady progress or show some potential, he finds himself back on the sideline nursing an injury.
If Allen can’t recover and make significant progress during the fall then all the weight will follow on the shoulders of McNeal and Morgan. The only downside to that is that have a very similar style. What USC needs is a bigger, more powerful running back that will compliment McNeal’s and Morgan’s speed and give the Trojans a variety of options.
Soma Vainuku will have to fill the void left by Rhett Ellison (pictured above)
There was a reason Rhett Ellison switched to fullback after three years at tight end. The Trojans only true scholarship fullback, Soma Vainuku, was not quite ready to start last year. This season he is the Trojans only option.
Lane Kiffin told the press that at the beginning of the spring he would have given Vainuku a “D/F grade” on the basis of a few blown assignments. But he made tremendous progress and had a strong showing at the spring game which prompted the head coach to give him an “A/B” for his final grade.
If he can keep that progress going, he might prove to be a valuable asset to the Trojans, but as of now, he is unproven entity as a full-time starter. The good news is that he has plenty of potential.
Sophomore Aundrey Walker
It’s not that Aundrey Walker isn’t the right size, or that he isn’t a good football player. But he isn’t Matt Kalil.
And he is new.
The adjustment for offensive lineman always takes a little longer. Yes, he has a year underneath of significant time under his belt (as well as a few pounds off of it too), but he hasn’t started a full year at one of the line’s most important positions.
He spent a majority of the spring working at the position so there is no reason why he shouldn’t be prepared come fall camp. Of course in Kiffin’s world, though he is No. 1 on the depth chart now, that doesn’t mean he will be in September.
Shoring up the interior of the defensive line is an ongoing project at USC still.
Though George Uko took a lead and has grabbed a starting spot for himself, the other is still up for grabs. During the spring, J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods competed for significant reps. However, Christian Heyward and Cody Temple set out recovering from injury.
When fall hits, there will be a four-way battle for the other spot. Ideally, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will come with an effective rotation that gives all the young bucks experience while making all the Pac-12 quarterbacks shake in their cleats.
Who is going to step up just in case Matt Barkley suffers an injury with a game on the line?
There are options. And there are good options.
But none of those options have thrown a pass in a real game yet. Cody Kessler and Max Wittek most certainly have the potential to be great leaders, but heaven forbid Matt Barkley went out with an injury with the game on the line. Do we know for sure how either young man would react?
They probably would handle it quite well, but 90,000 screaming fans can get to anyone.