I've been saying it since early last year but Kessler just looks the most polished and ready to go behind Barkley. And after watching the offseason workouts the past month and seeing his chemistry with teammates, my opinion is stronger. If the Trojans blow out opponents next year, I think it's realistic to see Kessler come in for fourth quarters.
Vainuku has the edge at fullback after Rhett Ellison's departure. And he's putting in the time. Last year Vainuku didn't look sharp, but a redshirt season and a few months of the offseason can change so much. From the bit I've seen at throwing sessions, he seems to be taking his role seriously and trying to do what it takes to be great in the backfield.
Pomee said he's been playing both h-back and tight end and that dual role is where coaches are projecting him. As a third or fourth option behind USC's great receiving core, Pomee lining up from a variety of spots could be lethal to defenses bracketing Woods or Lee.
Last year there was a committee, and fans and the media worried too many would share carries and the Trojans' would lack a dominant back. Now, everyone around USC is worried about the depth with just two backs on the roster that have game experience. Morgan didn't have an incredible freshman season, but I'd expect him to do some damage in 2012.
McNeal, coming off a 1,000-yard+ rushing season, will be the Trojans' go-to barring an injury or unexpected competition.
Graf said he's planning to make the move from right to left tackle, his natural position anyway. He'll have humongous (literally) shoes to fill after the departure of Matt Kalil, but Graf just needs the opportunity and coaches' confidence to succeed. He said last week that he is in great health, so this spring will be a big one for the big man.
Banner, like Walker did for Graf last year, could see some early time behind Graf but I don't expect him to start over the soon-to-be junior. Graf has too much of a knowledge advantage.
I don't know if Martin will start again. I think this position is fluid, as it was for much of the 2011 season. If Martin can show encouraging improvement and doesn't get usurped by the incoming competition or redshirts Hobbi and Temple then he could still maintain his place. Wouldn't be shocked to see John Martinez move left; that Graf-Martinez-Holmes combo would be a running backs' dream.
Holmes, named college football's number one preseason center, has all the tools to have his best year yet. I don't say this just because I like Holmes a lot as a person, I like what he can do on the field. He has an incredible football IQ, and shook off the few poor snaps to start the season to finish 2011 splendidly.
To relieve him, Hobbi could make some noise. Hobbi is smart too, attentive and has a great mentor in front of him in Holmes.
Right Guard: John Martinez, Cody Temple
The guards to me are fluid. And I haven't seen Cody Temple play. He might move to another position; he's another guy who needs to have a big spring ball. Attaching asterisks to this spot now. Somewhere Martinez will play and somewhere Martin will see the field, I just don't know if it's as a starter.
Walker didn't have the wow, pop, fizzle that everyone expected his freshman year to be. It could easily happen in 2012. He has the opportunity. It's in his hands, now he's just got to make that lemonade.
The lineman that was tough for me to leave off was Abe Markowitz. Because of his back-to-back foot injuries I didn't know where to place him. I haven't spoken to Markowitz in a while, so I don't know his health status. If healthy I could see him play really either of the guard positions or backing up Holmes, but you'd have to wonder if Kiffin will give more opportunity to younger players at this point.
Right now and even last season the two were so close --Telfer a bit better blocker, Grimble a bit better of a receiver. Grimble got more opportunity than Telfer probably because of that, but the two are still so close in ability it'd be a hard call to say who would have the edge over the other. My guess: this spring we see a wider gap between the two. Who will take the lead is anybody's guess. Also, I'd put Pomee here because I could see him becoming a breakout star next season but I think he still has a lot of catching up to do. Don't you love spring ball?
*Putting three here because I see USC using three wideouts more in the coming season, so it's possible all three Serra mates are on the field together in certain sets. Farmer is a legitimate weapon at wide receiver, we just have become accustomed to seeing him out of the backfield or on the sideline, nursing small nicks. Going to go out on a limb but I expect this to be his breakout year if two things happen: he gets the opportunity and he can get his grades up.