During the 2012 season junior Nickell Robey had one side of the field on lockdown. But the other side remained open. Torin Harris and Anthony Brown saw significant time at the position before ultimately Kiffin decided to move Josh Shaw from safety to corner to plug the hole.
Shaw moved back to safety this spring, but Kiffin says it looks like in the fall he'll be moving again to corner.
But that only starts to solve the problem on one side of the field.
Robey, surprising some, announced for the NFL at the end of the 7-6 season -- creating another huge hole Kiffin didn't really think he'd have to fill.
"The early departure of Nickell really hurt us," Kiffin said, "for a guy that's not going to be a first round draft pick that was kind of the experience we were hoping would be coming back."
But there's no time for lamenting over the departure of Robey. With a front-seven playing as well as any defensive front at USC has in years and the depth at safety still strong despite the graduation of Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald, the only visible hole on the defense is at corner.
But it appears to be a big one.
"[Corners] aren't going to come out of somewhere," Kiffin said. "So we've got to play with the guys we have and get them better."
Brown and freshman Chris Hawkins have seen the most time with the first team at corner through the first 13 spring practices. Most recently however, it was Brown and redshirt sophomore Ryan Henderson anchoring the ones. "It's just about coach thinking I did better this week," Henderson said. "They want to see how I perform."
The players in the unit are well aware of the concerns their head coach has over their play. They're not letting it get them down, but rather are using it as motivation to get better as quickly as possible. "We just come out here everyday and try to get better," Brown said. "We come out here with the mindset everyday to get getter and execute."
"I just keep my head straight and keep working hard," Henderson said. "Hustle, hustle, hustle, and then contest balls and be a ball player and hopefully everything will fall right."
Harris, who missed time early in the 2012 season with a hamstring injury, went down in week four of spring drills with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Just as Harris went down, sophomore Kevon Seymour returned to action. On Tuesday he participated the "most he has all spring," according to Kiffin but remains a tough player to evaluate due to the time he's spent sidelined with injuries as a Trojan.
Saturday's spring game will be telling when it comes to evaluating how far the corners have come this spring... then again, they'll be going against two of the top receivers in the country in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor... so then again, maybe it won't.