USC Football: 4 Recruits Most Likely to Start as Freshmen
After an abysmal 7-6 record in 2012, many changes are afoot for the 2013 USC Trojans football team.
In addition to starting spots opened up due to graduations and players leaving early for the NFL, Lane Kiffin and his staff will be scrutinizing the roster to ascertain which players will help the Trojans turn around their fortunes in the upcoming year.
Fans of the program hope the magnifying glass is turned on the coaching staff but that is another story.
For immediate help, the Trojans will look to an incredibly talented incoming recruiting class that is considered one of the finest in the nation.
Still, as true freshmen, these former prep stars are raw, and most will need experience in order to contribute in 2013 while others will use the year to redshirt as they mature physically and mentally.
Of those left, who could possibly start for USC this year?
This slideshow will look at four players who have what it takes to garner a starting spot for the Trojans in 2013.
Though these players will have a tough road ahead to find themselves atop the depth chart, these are the players most likely to do so.
This list was compiled based on a variety of factors including talent level, maturity, and depth chart needs.
No. 4: Max Browne (Quarterback)
If this slideshow had been written a month ago, Max Browne would not have been included in this list.
However, after redshirt quarterback Max Wittek's disappointing performance in the Sun Bowl, it is likely that competition at this position will be wide open entering spring practice.
Already possessing an NFL frame at 6'5", 214 lbs, Browne is a consummate pocket passer whose grasp of the game lies far beyond his young age.
Still, it isn't likely that Browne can climb over both Wittek and his backup Cody Kessler on the depth chart at such a crucial position, but if anyone can, it is Max Browne.
No. 3: Jalen Ramsey (Cornerback)
Labeled a "soft verbal," Scout.com 4-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey has everything one looks for in a prospective college cornerback.
Already possessing a college body at 6'0", 190 pounds, Ramsey also has the kind of instincts that makes him a natural at the position.
Combine that with a fluid technique that is defined by his back pedal ability and those necessary "swivel hips," and it is easy to envision him starting in his first year with the Trojans.
Perhaps as important, USC has one corner spot wide open and the other in flux with the possible defection to the NFL of starter Nickell Robey.
No. 2: Kenny Bigelow (Defensive Tackle)
There are a lot of mitigating factors that will need to play out before Scout.com 5-star defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow can claim a starting spot in 2013.
Not the least is what kind of defensive scheme USC will employ as the yet-to-be-announced defensive coordinator will determine.
If that individual sticks with the current 4-3 configuration, there will be an extra spot open to competition, and this bodes well for the talented 6'3", 295 pound Bigelow.
However, if the new guy goes to a 3-4 scheme, that will make things more dicey for the tackles, who will see one of their starting spots eliminated (or at least compromised).
Also, Bigelow will have some stiff competition ahead of him as true sophomore Leonard Williams (who can play tackle or end), George Uko and Antwaun Woods are just a few of the talented players on the Trojan defense.
Having said that, if anyone can crack the starting lineup as a true freshman, it is Kenny Bigelow, who has been a beast at the high school level.
No. 1: Su'a Cravens (Safety)
Of all of the roster spots most likely to be claimed by a true freshman, safety is that position.
With the graduation of starters T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling, both the free and strong safety positions are just waiting to be claimed by the proverbial "next in line."
There is no incoming freshman more capable of doing just that than Scout.com 5-star safety Su'a Cravens.
Cravens already has a college-ready body at 6'1", 205 pounds, but it is his athletic ability that sets him apart.
With his uncanny knack of making a game-changing play at any time, Cravens is fundamentally sound already. By the time the fall depth chart is announced, don't be surprised if he is listed at No.1 at either the free or strong safety position.
Of course, trying to determine a fall depth chart in January is an inexact science at best.
Also muddying the picture is trying to ascertain how 18-year-old kids will mature into college athletes.
Of those recruits not featured in this slideshow, other players such as Khaliel Rodgers, a mammoth offensive lineman, might find themselves getting a long look, especially in a unit that might experience flux due to graduation and ineffective play.
Other players to keep an eye on include cornerback Chris Hawkins who might make noise in a depleted defensive backfield and wide receiver Steven Mitchell, a player who has the talent to take it to the house on any given play.
And there may some surprise signings come February that might threaten starting spots as well.
What is certain is that the opportunities will be there for those youngsters who prove worthy.
Unfortunately for the men of Troy, that is what happens when a team disappoints the way USC did in 2012.