USC has a very young and inexperienced but talented football team in 2011.
Due to smaller recruiting classes during the Pete Carroll years and NCAA sanctions (unprecedented “free-agency” transfer rule), the Trojans have only 13 seniors and 18 juniors.
Almost half the team are redshirts or true freshmen. Of the 80 scholarship players, only 39 have played any Division I college football.
The two biggest challenges facing the USC coaching staff are the inexperience and rebuilding the offensive line.
However, this season will be considered a disappointment if the Trojans do not win at least nine games with a tough Pac-12 schedule and Notre Dame.
The others have been arriving this summer including those who arrived early to attend summer classes, and they attended summer throwing sessions.
However, fall camp has been the best opportunity to evaluate the new freshmen, and many have had significant opportunities due to injuries or lack of depth at some positions.
There are other freshmen who have played well, but there is a need to redshirt as many freshmen as possible due to the NCAA mandated 10 reduced scholarships for each of the next three years.
For example, Amir Carlisle is a RB who has played much better than a freshman. However, there are four talented RBs in senior Marc Tyler, junior Curtis McNeal, sophomore Dillon Baxter and RS freshman D.J. Morgan. As long as they stay healthy it would be better to redshirt him.
Here are the most likely true freshmen who will start (at least one game) for the Trojans during the 2011 season.
P.S. Several readers have asked me to write about the Paul Dee hypocrisy in light of the latest alleged Miami scandal while he was AD, his recent statements and what he did to USC as the NCAA appointed chair of the COI. I haven’t done this because nothing has really changed.
Paul Dee was both a hypocrite and corrupt when the NCAA put him in charge of the COI, and USC fans have complained about that since receiving the unfair and harsh NCAA sanctions. The recent allegations simply reaffirm this and allow the media to let everyone else come to the same conclusion.
Hometown/high school: Lake Charles, LA/St. Louis
Fall camp highlights: Kris Albarado was a heavy favorite to get the starting punting position although he was not available for spring practice. However, the punter job is still up for grabs according to head coach Lane Kiffin, as freshman Albarado and redshirt junior walk-on Kyle Negrete vie for the final nod.
As of Aug. 14, Negrete was ahead with slightly longer punts. In the second scrimmage, Negrete averaged 47.5 on two punts, while Albarado hit six for a 46.5 average.
Kiffin has made it clear that if there is a tie for the punter then the upperclassman will get the nod and the freshman will redshirt. Thanks to Negrete, USC could have a top kicker the next five seasons through the NCAA sanctions.
However, there is always the chance of either injury or performance issues during the season, so Albarado could still start a few games.
Hometown/high school: Cleveland, OH/Glenville
Fall camp highlights: Aundrey Walker started fall camp as the right tackle, but was moved to right guard after a few practices with the goal of giving him a chance to start.
He has performed well but has a lot to learn. Regardless of whether he is ready to start on Sep. 3, he will play this year and will likely start a few games due to injury or performance issues.
Hometown/high school: Scottsdale, AZ /Saguaro
Fall camp highlights: Cyrus Hobbi had the best act in the rookie show and has been getting a lot of reps at guard and center.
He has a terrific attitude, works hard, and is willing to do whatever is best for the team. He will keep plugging away, learning the system, and get a chance to start when someone gets injured.
Hometown/high school: Junction City, KY/ Boyle County
Fall camp highlights: Lamar Dawson was given the prestigious No. 55 for a good reason. Senior MLB Chris Galippo suffered a shoulder bruise last week diving for a pass and then re-injured it this week. Dawson has been starting since then and doing an excellent job.
Galippo will start as long as he is healthy, but it is unlikely that he will make it through the season without further injuries. Dawson will back him up and play a fair amount, and then start when needed.
Hometown/high school: Inglewood, CA/Serra
He has been very impressive in all practices this week. Other young Trojans have been dropping passes and possibly costing themselves playing time.
Lane Kiffin compared Robert Woods playing tape from the 2010 fall camp and concluded they looked a lot alike. Earlier in camp, Kiffin compared Lee (6-0, 190) to former Trojans standout Damian Williams.
Lee already has earned Barkley’s trust. He could end up in the top three or four wide receivers and possibly start some games during the season.
Currently only Robert Woods and Brandon Carswell look better than Lee.
Hometown/high school: Inglewood, CA/Serra
Fall camp highlights: George Farmer was the Trojan’s top recruit and a five-star receiver. Robert Woods said he is bigger, faster and stronger than him.
He has not been as impressive as expected in fall camp because it is taking him time to learn the system, and he has dropped some balls.
Farmer has great speed, and he is too much of a talent not to keep improving and working his way into the top-receiver group, and may possibly start a game during the season.
Hometown/high school: Eureka, CA/Eureka
Fall camp highlights: Soma Vainuku is a talented FB but that is a very difficult position to start as a freshman and it is key to the USC offense.
Senior TE Rhett Ellison has been playing fullback because there is a lot of overlap between this position and the movement tight end in USC’s offense. The Trojans also have three RS freshmen TEs, led by Xavier Grimble. If Ellison is the FB starter, then Vainuku could redshirt.
However, given the inexperience of the other three USC TEs, it may be necessary to give Vainuku the opportunity to start at FB.