SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 13: Keenan Allen #21 of the California Golden Bears is tackled by Isiah Wiley #14 of the USC Trojans at AT&T Park on October 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
This is going to be a recurring motif during the season. The USC depth issue.
Lots of preseason pundit types think the Trojans have the best starting lineup in the country, led by QB Matt Barkley, whose jersey is being crafted from Egyptian cotton at Jacksonville Jaguars headquarters as we speak. The problem is that USC is still on partial probation, which means that it gets 10 fewer scholarship players -- 75 instead of 85. (Please go here to lodge your official protest.)
Sure, 75 still seems like a lot of players … except that college football players tend to get caught smoking synthetic weed, or plagiarizing Stephen King in a term paper, or other things that 20-year-old knuckleheads tend to do. And we’re not even counting injuries. Seventy-five players is plenty to take down Hawaii, but it might not be enough to beat Oregon twice. And USC might have to do that to win it all.
The latest depth chart underscores how little the Trojans can afford injuries this season. USC is set at plenty of spots, but not all of them. And they're going to start feeling the crunch the further the season goes on.
USC has now had a couple of injuries this fall camp, and it wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't at the positions the Trojans can least afford injuries--the defensive line and the secondary. Devon Kennard went down earlier in camp, and now Isiah Wiley joins him as an academic casualty.
Now it means J.R. Tavai will take over for Kennard at defensive end. Tavai has only four tackles in seven games of experience, and although he has the energy to play edge, he lacks the two years of playing experience Kennard brought to the position. This puts more pressure on Wes Horton on the other side and George Uko at the three technique, as they'll have to bring along young Tavai and Antwaun Woods throughout the season.
Taking Wiley's place (for now) is Anthony Brown. Brown is a good enough player who managed to start a few games last year, but he is coming off a season that ended early with ankle surgery. His backup is Torin Harris, the original starter from last year who saw his season end prematurely because of hamstring troubles that continue to plague him and set back his return to the field. That second CB spot on the other side of Nickell Robey is a big question mark.
USC has plenty of offensive firepower on their depth chart. But these defensive question marks could be an issue if they plan on stopping that Oregon offense twice in a month.
Around SB Nation on USC football
Conquest Chronicles: "Yeah, Wiley is gone. But Spring Ball standout Brian Baucham is still around, lessening the hit caused by Wiley's departure in the defensive backfield. Simmons, who was hurt most of last season, reinforces an already stacked linebacking corps. But special teams could always use more bodies. Since he's on the lower end of the depth chart, it would not be a surprise to see Simmons on kick coverage. But he has yet to begin hitting. Coming off a neck injury, Kiffin and Co. will take their time getting Simmons back in the fold."
Here's Dan Rubenstein's interview with Lane Kiffin from earlier in the month.