For the 16 freshmen who spent 12 games not playing, the time to prove their worth begins Tuesday. The redshirt is off, the showcase is on.
Here's a look at those freshmen and what one can expect from them this spring or in the future.
Kris Albarado, a punter from St. Louis (La.) High will backup last year's starting punter, walk-on Kyle Negrete. Negrete, a Burlsworth Trophy candidate, solidified his role as the number-one guy with precision punting throughout the season. Fortunately for Albarado, Negrete is a senior. After another year in John Baxter's system, the freshman will likely take the reins in 2013 barring an injury to Negrete.
Javorius Allen: The power back from Tallahasee, Fl. has many in Trojanland excited about his potential, although he remains somewhat of a mystery. Equipped with the nickname 'Buck,' the 6-0, 215-pounder was a bit behind last fall after arriving to campus just days before the season opener. Allen said he still has to fully digest the playbook but with the Trojans' lack of depth among running backs, expect the silent Buck to make some serious noise in the fall, if not this spring.
Victor Blackwell: Blackwell will challenge George Farmer for that No. 3 spot in the Trojans' receiving core. If the Mater Dei product's performance in offseason workouts can be used as a measuring stick, he has a legitimate shot of competing for playing time. Blackwell is focused, a student of the game and maintains an upbeat attitude anytime you speak with him. Farmer is expected to get the nod, so this spring will be an important one for the redshirt freshman to prove his worth.
Charles Burks: Don't expect Burks to make waves this spring, as he still has plenty of weight to gain. Since moving from fullback to defensive end, Burks said in late February that he plans to gain about 20 pounds. Burks could be a useful player on the Trojans' relatively inexperienced defensive line, but challenging starters Wes Horton and Devon Kennard for a prominent role doesn't seem likely. The good news here is Horton and Kennard will both be seniors in 2012.
Ryan Henderson: Lane Kiffin has been saying he wants his defense to be able to rotate during games in order to stay fresh. As a backup cornerback, Henderson should be able to come in and provide that depth. With the talent of senior Isiah Wiley, redshirt junior Torin Harris and redshirt sophomore Anthony Brown, Henderson needs to have an incredible spring and fall camp to challenge one of them for a starting spot. But just getting time on the field this spring will be important for the Rancho Verde (Calif.) High product's development.
Christian Heyward: Heyward is one not too many talk about. For whatever reason, the defensive tackle just hasn't been that high on the radar. After having surgery on his shoulder in the offseason, it's uncertain and unlikely that Heyward is fully healthy. If he has been cleared by team doctors, he'll be an interesting one to keep an eye on late in the spring and definitely during fall camp.
Cyrus Hobbi: Hobbi is a versatile lineman. He can play both guard and center and should get in the fold during spring ball. The Offensive Service Team Player of the Year is undoubtedly a hard worker, and could prove to be a useful backup on the Trojans' offensive line next fall.
Cody Kessler: Ah, the quarterbacks. Last spring the early enrollee battle of Wittek versus Kessler trudged along, and a similar scenario is expected this time around. The impact of No. 2 might not be as significant as it was last year, as it's clear all three quarterbacks (including Jesse Scroggins) have talent and ability. Seeing as nobody will see much time until 2013 barring a Barkley injury or blowout, whoever gets this spot in the fall won't necessarily be that guy the following season.
Junior Pomee: His season ended before it began. The tight end broke his foot during one of the Trojans' preseason scrimmages and underwent foot surgery before the season opener. But before getting injured, Pomee displayed flashes of power and skill that forecast a bright future. Expected to be the Trojans' No. 3 tight end as well as an occasional defensive end, the 6-3, 252-pounder should make an impact wherever he lines up.
Peter McBride: The snapper job is perhaps the least discussed position of all. Unless you mess up, nobody really notices. The contribution of departed senior Chris Pousson was significant to the Trojans' special teams unit, one known for its consistency. McBride, an early enrollee in 2011, will inherit the starting snapper job. After a year-plus in the system, he's likely to adapt well into his new role. He hails from Chaparral (Ariz.) High Schol where he made the 5A Desert Valley All-Region first team as a long snapper in 2010, the same year his team won its division state championship.
Anthony Sarao: Sarao is not only impressive physically, but also in the way he goes about his duties. Quiet, reserved and tough, the linebacker will likely backup Bailey and Pullard on the outside in 2012 and could play on special teams. While he's still raw after only seeing mental reps in 2011, he's just someone you want on the field. He never complains, and as the team's Defensive Service Team Player of the Year expect his physicality and focus to earn him some decent paying time.
Cody Temple: Temple is an interesting one to keep an eye on. Last season the 6-3, 280-pounder redshirted on the offensive line but, as of a month ago, moved over to defense where he'll compete for time at defensive tackle. This spring will be an important one for Temple as he adjusts to his new role, the new calls and new position coach Ed Orgeron. Because of the lack of depth at that spot, he could fight for for playing time in the fall and he'll get some looks in March, but he has some steep competition ahead of him as the other freshmen defensive lineman have a season's worth of practice on him.
Greg Townsend: Townsend has the family ties, he just needs to get on the field. Admitting he needs to lose some weight, he sounds focused and hungry. If he can have a consistent spring, that backup end role could be his.
Max Wittek: Competing for the backup quarterback spot, Wittek said that his confidence and comfortability has improved since last season. It's obvious, too, when he gets into the huddle. Obviously with Clay Helton and Kiffin disseminating every move the trio of Wittek, Kessler and Scroggins make, this spring will be crucial for one of them to jump ahead the pack.
Antwaun Woods: Battling for a position at nose tackle behind freshman J.R. Tavai, Woods still needs to trim down his weight by 10-15 pounds. But in conversations with the 6-1, 310-pounder, he said he's taking football more seriously now than ever before. After dominating as a lineman in high school, the mental reps and games he spent watching rather than playing didn't sit well with Woods. It seems like there's still plenty of room for the lineman to improve and grow, but the potential is there.
Soma Vainuku: After sitting out fall 2010, the fullback enrolled early in 2011. Despite being here for some time, this season should be a good one for Vainuku as he doesn't have any real competition before him. Recent signee Jahleel Pinner won't enroll until at least the summer which gives Vainuku plenty of reps to get ahead. While he struggled to consistently catch the ball in fall practices, having senior workhorse Rhett Ellison ahead of him had to help Vainuku's progression; there is no better guy to watch and study from than Ellison. Spring ball will be his first real test as he goes at it alone.