Spring Practice: And Everyone Else

Coach Lane Kiffin highlights seven NFL-caliber Trojans, but sees a troubling drop off in talent after.

NFL Caliber and Everyone Else
If college football was decided by which team had the most NFL prospects, USC would have won the BCS title last season and be in great shape to defend it again.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the roster has seven players capable of playing at the next level, not counting left tackle Matt Kalil, who wasn't included in that list.

There is veteran quarterback Matt Barkley, electric freshman wide receiver Robert Woods and steady tight end Rhett Ellison on offense, defensive end Nick Perry, safety T.J. McDonald and corners Tony Burnett and Nickell Robey on the other side of the ball.

Unfortunately for Kiffin, it takes 22 starters and plenty of quality depth to win games, something the Trojans just don't have right now.

"But there is such a gap between those guys and not just the bottom of your roster, but some of the lower starters even," Kiffin said. "Obviously our challenge is to develop a team because right now we would not be a very good team. We got some really good players but wouldn't be able to put it all together because of where the numbers are."

While injuries to starters like linebackers Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard have added to those woes, Kiffin has intimated the bigger problem rests with poor recruiting by the previous regime, both in numbers and talent.

Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron said as much referring to the sorry state of the offensive and defensive lines.

"When we had the championship years, we had two full units going after each other and competing like heck, he said. "We just don't have it where we want right now."

That is most evident on the offensive line, where Kiffin unloaded his harshest critique.

"We have one legitimate college player playing there right now in Matt, and the rest of the guys, none of them have played a significant snap of college football ever," he said.

And while Kalil is already regarded among the top prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kiffin said he must perform up to his physical talents to join the group of seven.

"Matt's (issue) is more of being disciplined than talent," Kiffin said. "His body set up and make up, he should play for a long time. His brother (former USC center Ryan Kalil) is as good as they come and he (Matt) is a better pro prospect size-wise than his brother. But he's got to be more consistent. He made a lot of mental errors last year.

"He's got to be able to put drives together, then quarters together and games together to be a premier player."

Tupou, Horton Back In Action
Defensive tackle Christian Tupou and defensive end Wes Horton participated in live drills for the first time this spring Tuesday, but Tupou exited early after taking a shot to his surgically repaired left knee.

Tupou, who tore his ACL in last year's spring game, said he would undergo precautionary X-rays.

"We just got to watch how much we do with them, but I thought they did pretty good," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said. "Wes went almost every snap, which is really good."

Hot Reads
-Cornerback Patrick Hall intercepted two passes Tuesday, picking off Barkley in team period and Jesse Scroggins in 7-on-7.

"Patrick is doing really well, really had a good day today," Kiffin said. "He shut down Robert on one drive when he was matched up on him the whole drive. It's another good thing to see."

-Woods made a leaping grab over Robey on a long pass from Max Wittek, the day's standout play.


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