In terms of the skill players, George Farmer clearly is a better receiver than running back and if he can stay healthy, that No. 3 spot looks as good as his. Marqise Lee seems to be -- if it's possible -- better than he was in the fall. After a breakout freshman season that earned him Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (split with Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas), Lee looks as though he has yet to reach his full potential. At nearly every practice he's made an incredible catch.
That backup spot looks more like Cody Kessler's every day, while Wittek would be a close third and Scroggins a distant fourth. This is more my guess than the coach's, as no signalcaller has had much mention other than Matt Barkley, who is taking limited reps in the spring so the Trojans can fill that No. 2 spot more quickly.
At running back, the lack of depth is apparent. The good news here is D.J. Morgan looks to be in his best form since enrolling. Buck Allen also looks in prime shape, although he still has to get down the playbook. And Curtis McNeal looks faster and continues to play at a high level. The Trojans need to keep all three healthy though, so they'll probably give a walkon, like Kamaron Germany, some time.
While USC's offensive line was exposed a bit by Khaled Holmes' absence, Lane Kiffin and James Cregg will probably switch some stuff up here for trial and error purposes in the coming week. Abe Markowitz snapped in Holmes' place, but it was clear those on both sides of him weren't used to him and just looked out of sync. The defensive ends -- first and second string -- pressured the quarterbacks throughout Saturday's practice. While the individual parts will likely be much of the same toward the end of spring and start of fall ball, expect the coaches to bring in competition to challenge players to up the level of play on the line.
In three practices, USC's defensive line showed that their general inexperience shouldn't be much of a issue in time. A definite concern is the youth at tackle, with two sophomores in George Uko and J.R. Tavai replacing graduates DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou. Still, Uko and Tavai have proven reliable in a short time and while it's only spring ball, I don't think this position is as much of a problem as it was thought to be two weeks ago. They definitely need to improve overall, as any position, but luckily they are afforded the luxury of time to make the necessary changes to have close to the production they had last season. A handful of redshirt freshmen in Charles Burks, Greg Townsend, Antwaun Woods and Cody Temple (who moved over to defense prior to spring) have been seeing real, physical, this-actually-might-lead-to-playing-time reps. So far, Woods and Townsend have been running with the twos and playing well.
At linebacker, USC looks absolutely loaded. From top to bottom, the depth is there. Early enrollee Scott Starr is slowly picking things up, and once he can learn more coverages, he'll be a solid backup to Lamar Dawson. There isn't much worry at the position overall. Starr and redshirt Anthony Sarao should use these reps wisely in order to seriously contend for playing time in the fall.
In the secondary, that cornerback spot appears to have much more depth than it did in 2011. The question will be: who will stand out among the pack? Thus far, Isiah Wiley is working with the ones at cornerback opposite Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling opposite T.J. McDonald at safety. The safety situation will likely remain the same but at cornerback Josh Shaw could seriously contend for a starting spot if he can get his waiver accepted by the NCAA. Notre Dame was notified this week that Trojan transfer Amir Carlisle is cleared to play immediately in 2012; will Shaw be the next to know? And will Carlisle's clearance signify that Shaw will likely be cleared too? We don't know much about their specific situations, or what they argued on their waiver, but it's likely we'll hear about Shaw any day.
With the Trojans coming off a university-wide spring break, expect a lot of players to come back from injuries (pulled hamstrings for Allen, Farmer and Bailey; a calf strain for Holmes; turf toe for Xavier Grimble) and a lot of fresh legs and solid play on both sides of the ball.
While the Trojans still have minor kinks to work out, this team looks focused, hungry and ready to go bowling…five months before fall has even begun.