May 12, 2009

Newcomers should make waves on D

When you only lose a few contributors on offense, things become exponentially more difficult for an incoming recruit to climb the depth chart. USC head coach Pete Carroll won't be shy to pull the trigger on putting a newcomer on the field, but offensively, it doesn't look favorable for a lot of USC's newest weapons.

Defensively, though, things are a little different. The Trojans are replacing an entire unit at linebacker and have holes at defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback and safety. Luckily players already on campus should fill those holes, but as those players move up, spots open on the depth chart for newcomers.

Here is a look at the odds that members of the 2009 recruiting class will contribute on defense and special teams.

Defensive line: Odds: 2-to-1

With a new position coach leading this unit to great heights over the spring, it's plausible to assume that this group won't need much help. That assumption is wrong. Defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo could come in and challenge at the three technique and could get a look at nose tackle, though the depth chart seems more stable there. James Boyd and Devon Kennard could be called upon to provide depth at defensive end, where USC is young and inexperienced as is.

Linebacker: Odds: 1-to-2

Carroll was so bold as to say he's counting on the incoming players at linebacker to come in and make a difference right away at linebacker. While the Trojans have a future star at weakside linebacker in Malcolm Smith, look for Frankie Telfort to push Jordan Campbell for the No. 2 spot. In the end-of-spring depth chart, Carroll lists Jarvis Jones or Marquis Simmons at middle linebacker, where USC has Chris Galippo and Uona Kaveinga. Jones and Kevin Greene should also get a look at strongside linebacker, where USC is notably thin. If Luthur Brown can get healthy and stay that way, that would give USC an experienced backup capable of playing all three positions. If not, USC could lean on more than one incoming linebacker for valuable depth.

Secondary: Odds: 8-to-1

This is the most experienced group returning on defense, making it the spot least likely for a true freshman to step in and take over a spot. That being said, the secondary might be the strength of the 2009 recruiting class. T.J. McDonald will back up three scholarship players at strong safety, including two seniors. Jawanza Starling and Patrick Hall will be backing up Taylor Mays, the team's best players, and Drew McAllister, maybe the biggest ball hawk on defense. Byron Moore and Torin Harris will have five scholarship players ahead of them on the depth chart entering the fall. Hall is the x-factor here because he could end up on offense as well.

Special teams: Odds: 2-to-1

While Joe Houston seems to have a slight lead over Jordan Congdon for the starting placekicking job, Billy O'Malley went through spring virtually unopposed. That won't happen during the fall when the versatile Jake Harfman comes aboard. Harfman has a big leg and can kick or punt, and expect him to fight with O'Malley for the starting punting spot. Harfman could also end up handling kickoffs.

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