May 11, 2009

Can newcomers impact the offense?

Call Pete Carroll a lot of things, but calling him shy when it comes to pulling the gun on playing a freshman is pretty foolish.

With a fairly young roster already on board for the 2009 season, Carroll will undoubtedly look to supplement what he already has on campus with the fresh faces from his most recent recruiting class.

Carroll has always taken the early part of fall camp to take a look at his new players, like a child freshly home from the toy store, tearing open the packaging and taking his new Hot Wheels for a spin.

That's the first part of the process. For a freshman to crack the playing rotation by season's end, he's got to earn a spot there. And that's tougher at some positions than at others.

Here are the odds that members of the 2009 recruiting class will make an impact on the offensive side of the ball for USC next season.

Quarterback: Odds: 4-to-1

The crown jewel of the 2009 recruiting class, Matt Barkley, got a huge head start on the rest of the newcomers by enrolling early and going through spring practices. Barkley got a serious look at quarterback and made the most of his chances, earning the No. 2 spot on the depth chart heading into the fall. While the best-case scenario for USC might mean keeping Barkley on the bench (meaning Aaron Corp stays healthy and plays well, and Mitch Mustain performs as a viable backup), it could be tough to keep the talented freshman on the shelf if he continues to shine this fall.

Running back: Odds: 50-to-1

Barring position changes, which seem unlikely at this point, only one member of the 2009 class has a shot of seeing the field as a freshman. Fullback Simione Vehikite is the only running back in the class, and he'll enter the season behind veterans Stanley Havili and Adam Goodman. Vehikite will also be behind D.J. Shoemate, a versatile receiver who came on strong this spring. Vehikite does have a specialty, blocking, but it's hard to imagine him overtaking any of the three fullbacks ahead of him.

Receiver: Odds: 20-to-1

Like Vehikite at running back, the Trojans were thin in 2009 at receiver. Early in the recruiting season, the class looked like it would have Morrell Presley at tight end and Alshon Jeffery and De'Von Flournoy at receiver. Presley bolted for UCLA before Signing Day and Jeffery announced on Signing Day that he'd be staying in state at South Carolina. Flournoy, however, remained solid on his commitment. Still, USC is returning all of its receivers except for Patrick Turner, and its hard to imagine Flournoy passing up players like Travon Patterson, Jordan Cameron, Brice Butler, Brandon Carswell and David Ausberry for playing time this fall. He'll get some chances to prove himself, though, during fall camp.

Offensive line: Odds: 50-to-1

Like essentially every other spot on offense, the offensive line returns with great experience and depth, making things very tough on incoming guys like John Martinez and Kevin Graf. Martinez will play center, and he'll be behind three experienced guys in Kristofer O'Dowd, Jeff Byers and Alex Parsons. Plus, he's not had a lot of time at the position, and he'd likely benefit greatly from a redshirt year. Graf will line up at left tackle behind Charles Brown and Butch Lewis, and while USC is thinner at tackle, there are still too many guys ahead of him for him to make a major move up the depth chart. Still, if Graf were to outperform the players ahead of him, Carroll could consider putting him in the rotation, but that's a long shot at best.

Check back Tuesday for a look at the defensive odds.

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