USC Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

Ian BergCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2013

USC Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

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    The USC Trojans were the leading disappointment in college football at the end of the 2012 season falling fall short of expectations when they limped to a 7-6 record and lost in embarrassing fashion to Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

    With only seven wins coming last year and a finish outside the Top 25 a lot of pressure is on this Lane Kiffin staff heading into the spring. There are a number of key position battles that will go down in L.A. as the staff looks for a winning lineup, and as spring unfolds this will be your complete guide to the action for the Trojans.

    The spring game is set for Saturday April 13 at 1:30 p.m. PT, but before it kicks off this will be your guide the news and developments from the land of Troy.

    Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.

Latest News

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    Update: April 12

    USC was already down in numbers thanks to scholarship sanctions this year, but add to it 20 different players (via USC Athletics) that are out with injury and the Trojans are hurting for bodies—badly.

    Depth is so bad that Lane Kiffin played running back during practice yesterday.

    Now it is worse.

    The latest news is that reserve tight end Randall Telfer (h/t College Football Talk) is out four to six weeks following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

    Telfer was expected to take on a bigger role this fall at tight end, and this spring was his proving ground. This is the second major injury to the tight end position for USC with Xavier Grimble falling to injury earlier in spring. 

     

     

    Update: April 5

    USC took a blow to the receiver corps yesterday when news dropped (via ESPN) that George Farmer will be out for the 2013 season with a torn ACL and MCL injury.

    The injury occurred during a non-contact drill according to the report.

    Farmer was expected to be a contributor this fall for the Trojans offense, but this setback will keep him on the bench for at least one more season.

    Another injury that took the team by surprise was the torn meniscus of freshman safety Su’a Cravens. He is set to have surgery and will miss four to six weeks according to the report (h/t ESPN). 

     

     

    Update: April 3

    The Trojans are in the heart of spring practice and yet again injuries are popping up. Receiver George Farmer is the latest in a string of injuries for USC when he fell to a knee injury on Tuesday (h/t L.A. Times) marking his third injury in as many years.

    Farmer was just another injury in what has become an epidemic for the Trojans. On Tuesday, 15 players sat out of practice ( h/t L.A. Times) further hampering the spring production for the Trojans.

    One positive through all of the injuries has been freshman Justin Davis. He has stepped in and shown a lot of flash this spring and should be able to help shore up the backfield for USC this fall. 

     

     

    Update: March 29

    USC has been pushing through spring practice with a number of key injuries mounting along the way. Thursday another blow came to the squad when it was announced that tight end Xavier Grimble will be out for the remainder of practice with a fractured chest (h/t College Football Talk).

    It hasn’t been all bad news as Max Wittek returned to the field (h/t Daily Trojan) this past Tuesday. He returned after spring break and is battling for the starting job with Cody Kessler and freshman Max Browne.

     

    Update: March 18

    Early in spring the USC Trojans took a hit to their star power when Max Wittek and Marqise Lee fell to knee injuries. Both are still out of practice, but Wittek is expected to return to the field when the Trojans return from spring break on March 26 (ESPN.com).

    The Trojans received even worse news on March 16 when Silas Redd was announced to be out for the remainder of spring because of a surgical procedure on his left knee (College Football Talk).

    On Saturday the Trojans scrimmaged and Lane Kiffin had some positive things to say about the developments out of L.A. (ESPN.com).

    On the offensive development:

    Kessler played great today. He just continues to make plays. I thought Buck had a good day, too. He’s had a good camp overall.

    Kiffin on the defense:

    I really thought the front seven on the first-unit defense played well. Hayes Pullard played great at linebacker while George Uko and Leonard Williams were dominant up front. The defense is really picking things up with the new scheme. I can’t imagine being more pleased.

    Check back for more updates throughout spring. 

     

     

    Update: March 11

    USC has completed the first full week of spring practice and there are a lot of movements happening on the field.

    Injuries have limited the production of Max Wittek and Marqise Lee, putting two of the Trojans most well-known offensive skill players on the sideline for this past weekend’s scrimmage (Los Angeles Times).

    Cody Kessler has stepped in for Wittek and had a strong first week according to reports, and the strong showing may put him a few steps ahead Wittek. This competition is far from over, but anytime a player gets extra work and does well, he gets an edge.

    Kessler finished the first spring scrimmage 12-of-15 for 192 yards.

    One move to watch is at center as journeyman offensive lineman Max Tuerk battles for the job. He has played every position along the line during his Trojans career.

    Su’a Cravens is turning heads at safety and is expected to be a playmaker this fall.

    Look for Wittek to return to the field this week and battle back into the quarterback competition. 

     

     

    Update: March 8

    The Trojans had their second day of spring practice on Thursday and there was a lot of high praise for three early enrollees. During an interview with the media (USCTrojans.com) Lane Kiffin laid out the progress that he had witnessed so far through two practices.

    He mentioned early enrollees Justin Davis, Su’a Cravens and Chris Hawkins as early standouts.

    Kiffin also appeared happy with the development on offense. Silas Redd had a long run for the offense and should be a star heading into the new year.

    Josh Shaw has made the transition to safety this spring and he told the media "I embrace it.  I love it back here playing safety.  It's kind of like you are a general.  You have to know so much."

    He seems ready to take his new role on and guide the defense heading into the fall.

    Nelson Agholor has also been a topic of conversation and when asked about how he can help teams from keying on Marqise Lee he said "Myself and the rest of the receiving corps, we want to rise to the occasion and play at the level he is playing at. He's going to make us better."

    He went on to tell the media Thursday that "I'm not getting satisfied. At first I wanted to contribute, now I just want to continue to grow."

    One thing that was interesting that came from Lane Kiffin’s interview with the media was his response to possible NCAA regulations regarding extra staff members and recruiting, and whether or not he would hire more staff at USC.

    After mentioning the advantages extra staff will bring to big schools, he went on to say that “We kind of had laid out a plan if it was going to go that direction of what we’d do. Like anything, we are going to want to stay up at the top of it, and not let anyone else have an advantage.”

    It looks like more staff is on the way to USC. 

     

    Update: March 7

    The Trojans opened spring camp on Tuesday with a lot of expectations taking the field with them.

    In an interview with ESPNLA.com, head coach Lane Kiffin said that "It's all about winning. Winning makes people forget a lot of things."

    He knows what it will take to get the Trojans faithful back in his court, and he understands the stakes that he is facing. He also told Mark Saxon as they walked to the USC complex and he entered his security combo at the door "Today is a good day. My code still works."

    Kiffin sees what will happen with another 7-6 season. He has to win fast. It starts this spring.

    Updates will follow throughout spring practice.

    Spring practice schedule (USCFootball.com):

    March 5 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    March 7 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    March 9 - Practice 2:00 p.m.

    March 12 - Practice 9:00 a.m.

    March 14 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    March 16 - Practice 9:00 a.m.

    March 26 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    March 27 - USC Pro Day 11:15 a.m.

    March 28 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    March 30 - Practice 11:00 a.m.

    April 2 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    April 4 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    April 6 - Practice 11:00 a.m.

    April 9 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    April 11 - Practice 4:00 p.m.

    April 13 - Trojan Huddle 1:30 p.m.

Key Offensive Battles to Watch

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    Center

    Cyrus Hobbi (So.) vs. John Martinez (Sr.) vs. Marcus Martin (Jr.)

    The center position for the Trojans is up for grabs after the departure of Khaled Holmes.

    It is the only position along the line that is a tossup, but Cyrus Hobbi appears to have the edge heading into the spring. This is a very vital position for the line and will make a major difference in the offense if the position isn’t settled coming out of spring.

    Marcus Martin is also a name to watch in the battle. 

    Projected Starter: Cyrus Hobbi

    Actual Starter: TBD

    Quarterback

    Max Wittek (So.) vs. Cody Kessler (So.) vs. Max Browne (Fr.)

    Max Wittek took over the starting quarterback position for the last two games of the season in 2012 and produced mixed results.

    Wittek played very well against Notre Dame, but he looked like a high schooler in the bowl game loss to Georgia Tech.

    Junior Cody Kessler has been patiently waiting his turn for a shot, and incoming freshman Max Browne will also be in the mix this spring.

    This competition may not end this spring, but it should be whittled down to two guys before the summer.

    Projected Starter: Max Wittek

    Actual Starter: TBD

Key Defensive Battles to Watch

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    Safety

    Dion Bailey (Jr.) vs. Su’a Cravens (Fr.)

    Dion Bailey has been a linebacker over the past few seasons for the Trojans and has done well for the defense, despite his lighter 6’1”, 210 lbs frame for the position.

    Heading into the new year USC is transitioning the defense into a 3-4 and is looking to shift Bailey to safety. The position is already light, and the stiffest competition is expected to come from incoming early enrollee Su’a Cravens.

    Look for Cravens to earn some time eventually, but Bailey has the leg up heading into the spring.

    Projected Starter: Su’a Cravens

    Actual Starter: TBD

    Cornerback

    Kevon Seymour (So.) vs. Ryan Henderson (So.)

    The Trojans are replacing Nickell Robey at the corner position this spring and two sophomores are leading the charge for playing time.

    Kevon Seymour and Ryan Henderson are in a battle for the position opposite of Torin Harris. Harris was a solid contributor in 2012, and is expected to be the leader in the secondary for 2013.

    At this point it is a tossup, but Henderson is my pick to start spring.

    Projected Starter: Ryan Henderson

    Actual Starter: TBD

Early Enrollees Report Card

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    Su’a Cravens, S, 6’1”, 205 lbs—5-star

    Su’a Cravens is battling for the starting safety position in spring and is expected to earn quality snaps this fall. Cravens is a solid talent that is athletic enough to fit well into the roles needed in the 3-4 scheme.

    He may not start the year at No. 1, but he will see the field often this fall.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

    Kenny Bigelow, DT, 6’3”, 297 lbs—5-star

    Kenny Bigelow is a player that could have walked into a number of programs and earned a starting spot as a freshman. Instead Bigelow ended up at USC, and he is now heading for a possible redshirt.

    The Trojans are light at a number of positions, but the defensive line is not one of them. Bigelow is talented, but it would be a stretch to see him hit the field.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

    Max Browne, QB, 6’5”, 210 lbs—5-star

    Max Browne is an elite quarterback in the 2013 class that is heading into spring as a challenger to Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Browne has the skills to start immediately, but he will be a ways behind the other two in offensive knowledge.

    Wittek finished the year as the starter, but his season-ending finish didn’t give a warm and fuzzy to this coaching staff. Browne will get a solid look, but this season may be a redshirt year for this talented signal-caller.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

    Leon McQuay III, S, 6’2”, 184 lbs—5-star

    McQuay III is a talented safety that has the intangibles to make an impact immediately for this lighter secondary.

    Whether he gets time this season or not will be determined this spring, but most projections have him deep on the depth chart at safety. 

    That's where corner comes in. McQuay is a skilled cover guy, so he could make the shift to corner and earn some early playing time. 

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

    Chris Hawkins, CB, 6’0”, 175 lbs—4-star

    Chris Hawkins is a talented corner but the position group is stocked with talent. He could make an impact early where Jalen Ramsey was expected to challenge for time before he flipped to Florida State.

    Keep a sharp eye on this defender this spring.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

    Justin Davis, RB, 6’1”, 195 lbs—4-star

    Justin Davis is stepping into a deep position group at USC with Silas Redd leading a group of talented backs. Davis is a Redd type runner and that may provide for some playing time this fall despite that surrounding depth.

    Davis has to make a major leap this spring to get a look for playing time, but it is possible to be a spot back this fall.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

Sleepers to Watch

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    Cody Kessler, Quarterback

    Cody Kessler is not expected to earn the starting nod in the quarterback competition in L.A. with his name rarely being mentioned with Max Wittek and Max Browne.

    Kessler is a solid player and has all the skills to be a leader for USC. Wittek showed a lot of issues last fall when he couldn’t finish the year with a win, and Kessler is set up to come from nowhere and steal the position.

    All it takes is a solid spring.

    Javorius Allen, Running Back

    The USC backfield is loaded with talent and Allen is one of the many backs that could be starters for a number of squads. He is currently listed third on the depth chart, but he has the talent to breakout this spring.

    With 15 practices to show his value, Allen has a lot of time to harness playing time heading into the summer.

    De’Von Flournoy, Receiver

    The talk surrounding the Trojans was the talent that was being lost, not the talent that is still around.

    At receiver De’Von Flournoy is a player that deserves a solid look as the Trojans head into spring.

    He is a rising senior and sits behind Nelson Agholor on the depth chart. A solid spring will get this senior where he wants to be. Watch his stock rise over the spring and summer as he tries to close his Trojans career with a flash.