Depth Chart: Biggest Takeaways

A look at some of the biggest takeaways from the Trojans' end-of-spring depth chart.

We've had a day to digest Lane Kiffin's end-of-spring depth chart, released Monday. A few immediate observations are worth noting, as are some not-so-obvious developments.

The first notable from the two-deep that comes to mind are the jobs that have still not been "won" yet. While Kiffin said that there was little to take from the actual chart -- and we know there will be some definite changes come fall -- the defensive backs' competition is steep. Opposite veterans T.J. McDonald at safety and Nickell Robey at cornerback, there's some good talent. But none stands out among the pack after the spring. Listed at "or" are two safeties -- Demetrius Wright and Jawanza Starling -- and three cornerbacks -- Isiah Wiley, Brian Baucham and Torin Harris.

Let's examine this a little further. Immediately Marvin Sanders comes to mind; he's done a good job with this group in his short time here. The talent of the Trojans' secondary has greatly improved; it's obvious in the increased takeaways, but it's even more apparent in the depth there. Gerald Bowman and Josh Shaw aren't even listed in that top five, and Kiffin said he expects both players to get early looks. For an area that was noticeably thin last year, the Trojans have got to be pleased with the spring developments of their defensive backs led by Sanders.

Secondly, despite being listed as a possibility at both tailback and wide receiver, incoming freshman Nelson Agholor hasn't even enrolled yet. Here's what Kiffin said about the skill player in his post-spring conference call Monday:

"Nelson has just a great love for learning football. He loves studying it, watching the films, watching cutups, playbook work. He's very, very mature for his age, much like Robert (Woods) was, very similar to each other in that aspect so we'll see. If anybody can handle it, he'd be able to."

Agholor could come in and be the Trojans' go-to pass-catcher in the backfield. Sure D.J. Morgan and Curtis McNeal have been successful at that role at times, but Kiffin seems to still be searching for that consistent role player. Agholor's natural abilities might be too valuable not to utilize. Undoubtedly, he will be the one to watch in fall camp.

There are two interesting points of note concerning the linebackers that pop out from the depth chart. First, Tony Burnett is listed below Dion Bailey as the second string strongside linebacker. While Marquis Simmons was notably absent because of an injury this spring, Burnett became an impact player almost immediately. Bailey said it best: "Burnett should have played linebacker all along." His physical presence is a welcome addition in the box.

Some standout players this spring include Baucham, De'Von Flournoy, Soma Vainuku, Morgan Breslin and Scott Starr. I am inclined to add D.J. Morgan here, but he's already been a relied-upon player before the offseason. The previous five were unexpectedly great.

Vainuku had trouble catching the ball last year. Since then, his hands have greatly improved. He understands pass protections and his individual assignments better, although Kiffin admitted the beginning of spring was not his best showing.

If there was a game today it's likely that Flournoy would be the Trojans' third receiver, although he and George Farmer will duke it out for the position come fall. Showing consistency and a seriousness we hadn't before seen from the junior, Flournoy has accepted his role and appears more focused than in the past.

Breslin and Starr both entered as early enrollees, hit the gym and their playbook and took it upon themselves to become the likely backups in their respective positions. Starr moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker before spring started and proved to be a quick learner. The same applies to Breslin, who has made a variety of plays in the spring and impressed both teammates and coaches with his work ethic. Both will have competition to face in the fall, but made a good showing out of their first springs in the system.

Unexpectedly, incoming freshman linebacker Jabari Ruffin will also try his hand at middle linebacker, likely because both outside linebacking positions have considerable depth. Still, Ruffin was projected as an outside linebacker as a recruit so that transition will be one to keep an eye on.

Also, it appears as though Cyrus Hobbi's move from center to guard is permanent. He is listed as the backup left guard behind Marcus Martin. After redshirting last year and playing backup center for Khaled Holmes at times during the spring, Hobbi seems to understand the system better and genuinely enjoy his role at guard. He will have a legitimate shot to compete for a starting spot in the fall, or at the very least, a considerable amount of playing time.

I'm no punting expert, but a confusing item under the special teams' depth chart was the "OR" next to punter Kyle Negrete's name. After proving a clutch punter in 2011, Negrete will compete for the starting job with Kris Albarado. Kiffin called the competition "wide open" and suggested that perhaps Negrete becomes the shorter punter and Albarado the long punter. This will be another position to focus on in the fall, although it seems hard to believe Negrete will not play as often after a stellar debut last season.

Finally, we all knew the backup quarterback wouldn't be named with so much time remaining until the fall, but we didn't realize just how much work Jesse Scroggins had to do until we saw it on paper. Listed behind Barkley was "Max Wittek OR Cody Kessler. Below Kessler's name, without an OR, was Scroggins. Kiffin alluded to Scroggins' academic state, saying he needs to work on his grades these next few weeks to keep him academically eligible.

"Jesse's got a long two weeks here. He's got to dig himself out of a hole so if he doesn't do that, it doesn't make any sense to project anything past that," KIffin said Monday.

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