Spring battles: safety

The Trojans secondary took a hit this offseason with the graduation of TJ McDonald and Jawanza Starling, plus junior Nickell Robey announced his departure for the NFL draft. The competition is wide open going into spring practices...

The Trojan secondary was depleted after the 2012 season, losing T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling to graduation and Nickell Robey to the NFL draft.

The battle to man the "no fly zone" looks wide open for 2013…

Gerald Bowman, senior
Bowman was the No. 1 safety coming out of Pierce Junior College last year. He was known as a physical hard-hitting guy. He's a big question mark after having a quiet first year at USC, making only 11 tackles on the season. Bowman did record his first career interception in the Trojans 50-6 win over Colorado. He returned it 19 yards. Bowman will certainly get a chance to compete in the USC secondary this spring.

Demetrius Wright, senior
Wright is the most experienced USC player in the secondary heading into 2013. He is one of the better all-around athletes on the team who has yet put it all the pieces together to become a consistent contributor. Wright tallied nine tackles in 2012 and was used sparingly in the rotation.

Josh Shaw, RS junior
You saw Florida-transfer Josh Shaw's biggest upside in 2012 -- his versatility. Depth was lacking at cornerback for the Trojans and Shaw proved he was capable of stepping up to fill the gaping hole. The fact that the staff moved Shaw to corner showed their confidence in his cover ability. He made 30 tackles in 2012 and collected two interceptions.

At Florida he played in ten games as a redshirt freshman, making 22 tackles.

Su'a Cravens, freshman
Cravens comes into USC as Scout.com's top-rated safety in the country. There is little to no doubt that the true-freshman will be an impact player for USC when the season kicks off next fall. Spring practice will allow for Cravens to become comfortable with schemes of the Trojan defense and he'll begin to adjust to the speed of the college game.

Leon McQuay, freshman
McQuay is ranked as Scout.com's No. 6 safety in the class of 2013. USC has strong tradition bringing in defensive backs from Florida and those players making an immediate impact in the secondary -- look no further than Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling. The coaching staff likes to get those young out of state players early time so they can get back to that state and recruit more. No doubt that will play in McQuay's favor, but so will the fact that he made it to USC as an early enrollee and will gain that much more experience practicing at the college level before fall camp opens in August.

***New system with Clancy Pendergast taking over as the defensive coordinator. Don't rule out the chance that Dion Bailey could move back to safety, which is probably going to be his position he'll play if he goes on to the NFL.

My prediction:Too close to call. Talented veterans against sensational recruits. I don't expect meaningful depth chart decisions upon the conclusion of spring practices at safety. Cravens and McQuay have the most to gain from a strong spring showing.

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