In the age of the spread, USC has been one of the last bastions of the pro-style offense.
That could soon change, USC coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday. Citing available personnel, the Trojans could move to a spread-based attack as soon as next season.
"We may end up being a spread offense here. Look at what we have," Kiffin said. "We've got a bunch of really good receivers and backs and tight ends. We don't have a fullback on our roster that's on scholarship two months from now."
The Trojans have shown elements of a more open approach at times this season, in practice and during games, especially as sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley has gotten more comfortable directing the offense.
A move to the spread in the vein of the Colts and Patriots would also play to the team's strengths next season.
Barkley, who has thrown 20 touchdowns against four interceptions this season, will be entering his third year as the starter.
He would have a strong group of pass catchers around him, most notably breakout freshman receiver Robert Woods. Tight end Xavier Grimble, wide receiver Kyle Prater and running backs Dillon Baxter and D.J. Morgan, all outstanding in the passing game, are ticketed for larger roles in 2011.
The Trojans are also well positioned to sign another banner crop of skill position players in spite of NCAA-imposed scholarship reductions. They already have verbal commitments from Mater Dei receiver Victor Blackwell and Crenshaw RB/CB DeAnthony Thomas and could land other receivers such as Serra star George Farmer and DeAnthony Arnett of Saginaw, Mich.
At the same time, the fullback, a staple of the USC offense, could disappear. With the graduation of Stanley Havili, the Trojans likely won't have one on scholarship for spring practices.
Kiffin went as far as trying out freshman tight end Christian Thomas at that spot in practice Thursday morning.
"We're still trying to figure it out," Kiffin said. "Tight end is probably the easiest thing for him, but that may not be best for us.
"We're going to have to be creative with the hand that we're dealt here. Whether it's playing two ways or playing out of position, we've got to find a way to make the best of what we have."
Job No. 1
Most USC coaches have been out on the recruiting trail all week and Kiffin will join them on the road this weekend.
The top priority, Kiffin said, will be signing offensive linemen.
"Unless they are going to let us start entering some 7-on-7 tournaments, we better find some linemen," Kiffin said. "When you start looking at the spring, you've got a problem lining up and even running a play.
"Linemen will be our No. 1 focus, followed by linebackers."
Kiffin's comments came after a practice where USC mostly worked without four starters on the line Thursday, with only left tackle Matt Kalil completely healthy.
Guard Khaled Holmes was limited, while center Kris O'Dowd, guard Butch Lewis and right tackle Tyron Smith did not practice.
O'Dowd and Lewis are seniors, while Kalil and Lewis are eligible to enter the NFL Draft after this season.
-DE Wes Horton, LB Malcolm Smith, RB Dillon Baxter, RB Allen Bradford and RB C.J. Gable did not practice.
DE Nick Perry, OL John Martinez, RB Marc Tyler, TE Jordan Cameron and DE James Boyd were limited.
-The Trojans will practice Monday afternoon instead of Sunday.