On April 28, the Rotary Club released its 2010 "watch list" for the prestigious Lombardi Award.
According to its press release, the qualifications for consideration for the award are, for linemen, setting up no further than 10 yards right or left on either side of the ball, while linebackers must line up no deeper than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
Included on the list of premier qualified players are center Kris O'Dowd, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, and linebacker Chris Galippo of the Trojans.
Interestingly, all of these players have question marks surrounding them as they head into the 2010 college football season.
For Kris O'Dowd, the most significant question is, can he stay healthy?
When O'Dowd is right, there is no doubt that he is one of the very best centers in the entire nation.
However, O'Dowd hasn't shown he can stay healthy for an entire season.
Of particular concern for O'Dowd is his pesky right kneecap, which he has dislocated twice, the last time occurring at the beginning of last season.
If O'Dowd can stay on the field of play for the entire 2010 season, he will merit consideration for the Lombardi, but that is a big if.
Meanwhile, Jurrell Casey, who really came into his own in 2009, will face increased competition for his defensive tackle spot.
Hebron Fangupo, the massive JC transfer who broke his leg in 2009, is back and determined to unseat Casey.
Before he got hurt, Fangupo had been working his way into the Trojan rotation with increasing regularity.
Then there is DaJohn Harris.
Harris, who had been buried on Pete Carroll's depth chart, has been a revelation this spring.
Finding new life under the Lane Kiffin regime, Harris has had a brilliant camp, including returning a turnover (that he caused) for a touchdown.
It now appears that Harris will become part of a potent rotation on the defensive line.
For Casey, the question might be whether or not he can play enough downs to impact a positive nod from the Lombardi people.
Finally, we look at the curious case of linebacker Chris Galippo.
In 2009, Galippo, a five-star prep recruit, finally got his chance at middle linebacker after patiently waiting for Rey Maualuga to take his considerable game to the NFL.
Although Galippo and the Trojans defense started off well, by the end of the season, the beleaguered defense had worn out, and the linebackers were identified as one of the reasons why.
Enter the new Kiffin regime and Lane's father Monte.
Promising that no position was safe from competition, Lane Kiffin opened up every position and said that he would not be afraid to make serious changes.
It now appears that Galippo is one of those changes.
Last year's outside linebacker, Devon Kennard, who had shifted from defensive end, was thrust into a spirited competition with Galippo for his middle linebacker spot.
By the end of spring practice, Galippo was being tried at outside linebacker, the position that Kennard vacated.
Will this position change carry into fall practice and then into the regular season?
Tough to say, but the possibility exists that Galippo might become part of a rotation at outside linebacker rather than firmly entrenched as a regular in the middle.
For these three Trojans nominated for the Lombardi, the honor itself is in that nomination.
Of course, all three will tell you that they would trade in any award for a national championship or a successful season by Trojan standards, which is basically the same thing.
If all three are still under consideration for the Lombardi by the end of the season, it will mean that the Trojans did indeed have a great season, because that will also mean that both sides of the ball did well.
But for right now, the Trojan trio had better just concentrate on holding on to their jobs and staying healthy for the 2010 season.
I would bet that the legendary coach whom the award is named after would say the same thing.