Expert Opinion: Most Competitive Position

SCPlaybook beat writers Whitney Blaine and Dan Greenspan dissect what position they feel is most competitive heading into fall camp.

Whitney Blaine, SCPlaybook Beat Writer/Reporter

Of all the depth concerns among positions, USC's defensive line isn't one of them. It is, however, just the opposite: competitive. Ed Orgeron is manning a crew that returns four starting lineman, ends Devon Kennard (who started as a linebacker last season) and Nick Perry, and defensive tackles Armond Armstead (who played some at end) and Da'John "Juicy" Harris. Those four don't include two others (end Wes Horton and tackle Christian Tupou) who have had some starting experience in their careers at USC.

Fighting for some time on the line is incoming tackles J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods and ends Greg Townsend Jr. and DeVante Wilson. With the plight of Steve Dillon, a third freshman lineman who isn't academically eligible to enroll at USC, there may not be enough redshirts to pass around come fall.

Least interesting is the leo-or weakside-end, which seems destined to go to Nick Perry. But opposite Perry, at the strongside end, the spot seems a total mystery. Devon Kennard has said he feels like he'll be "riding a bicycle again" when he plays at end, the position for which he was recruited but has yet to play as a Trojan. But toe-for-toe with Kennard is his roommate, redshirt sophomore Kevin Greene. Green's toughness was tested some last season, but he has maintained a positive outlook and his effort this offseason has not gone without notice.

At the nose spot, Tupou missed all of last season and this spring after undergoing knee surgery. Tupou has said he wished he were more confident but needs repetition in practice and games to gain that back. On the other hand, Da'John Harris doesn't lack in confidence and wants to make a name for himself (and his draft stock) heading into his final season.

When in the traditional 4-3, George Uko and Armond Armstead will be competing for that right tackle spot. Armstead has yet to be cleared medically to practice with contact. This past March, he suffered a chest condition where he had to spend a few days in the hospital. But Uko may not be ready for that starting spot, coming off his redshirt year. While Uko has made big plays this past Spring and showed his strong drive, Armstead's senior season might be the deciding factor to put him above Uko. That is, if Armsted can be cleared—and remain healthy.

Dan Greenspan, SCPlaybook Beat Writer

Considering how much USC's pass defense struggled last season, it would have been considered ludicrous to regard the cornerback position as a strength. But after seeing the steady improvement in spring practice and arrival of newcomers this summer, it is now perhaps the most competitive position. Expect fantastically intense battles for the starting cornerback position opposite sophomore Nickell Robey and for players who will see time in nickel and dime packages.

Redshirt freshman Anthony Brown has performed well during throwing sessions and could challenge projected starter Tony Burnett, a hard-working former walk-on with exceptional athleticism (He is also a USC track star). Torin Harris and T.J. Bryant are back from surgery and healthy, offering some needed experience, while newcomers Ryan Henderson and junior college transfer Isiah Wiley inject some new blood.

Monte Kiffin should be able to assemble a quality depth chart from those six names alone before deploying Robey and his All-America skills. As the staff proved last season by deploying the sawed off Florida native, they have no qualms about throwing the best player-- regardless of size, experience, or any other criteria-- into the mix. That fearless mentality mixed with this pool of talent will provide surefire entertainment during fall camp.


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