Now that Will Poole and Marcell Allmond are taking their talents to the next level it's time for two new players to step into starting positions at the all-important corner spots. There is no shortage of available candidates as we could see no fewer than seven guys in the mix, possibly more if we see other players switch positions, but the problem for Coach Pete Carroll is the lack of experience among that group. There is plenty of raw talent but the coaches did go out and try to recruit a junior college cornerback in this class because of the importance Carroll places on game experience. After all, look at the impact Poole was able to make last year as a veteran player coming in to a new situation.
Ronald Nunn has the most experience even though he has been banged up with injuries at times in his USC career. When healthy, Ronald is a good athlete who had an interception return for a touchdown against Washington last year. He will never be the most physical corner out there but there is no doubting his toughness after coming back quickly from an eye socket injury. He is also a senior who has played a lot and that will go a long way in helping him earn the job.
Justin Wyatt is one of the most dynamic athletes on the team and the coaches are trying to find a way to get him a spot on the field. Justin played as a true freshman at corner and then was moved to receiver prior to last season in an effort to take advantage of his game breaking ability with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately he didn't show enough progress holding on to the ball and was moved back to defense where he should be one of the favorites for a starting job. His open field tackle on punt coverage in the Rose Bowl was an example of the type of plays he can make and hopefully we'll continue to see more of those as he gains confidence.
A wild card in the mix could be Kevin Arbet if he is granted a sixth year of eligibility. Arbet was a solid starter coming into last season and if he can return from his ankle injuries it would stand to reason that he could be a contributing factor. Arbet has been in Carroll's system for a long time and his knowledge of the game plan would be a comfort for the coaches. Kevin used to return punts as well but with two ankle injuries and with the speed we have available to return kicks now it's doubtful Arbet would be called upon for that role.
John Walker has become a solid special teams performer to this stage in his career and now is the time to see if he is ready to claim some regular playing time at corner. This will be a huge spring for John. There are also a trio of young guys who could surprise if given the opportunity. Ryan Ting saw action on special teams last year while Eric Wright and Terrell Thomas redshirted due to injuries. Thomas has the long arms and lanky frame that would make for a great corner if he can make the transition from safety.
The good news for the Trojans is that both starters return at safety but the bad news is the lack of depth we will see in the spring. Darnell Bing and Jason Leach are set in their starting roles but Carroll was hoping to see junior college signee Scott Ware in attendance during spring ball to get a head start on next season. Ware in expected to be a major part of the rotation but academic problems have delayed his entrance until the fall.
Bing was named a Freshman All-American at the strong safety spot and his future is bright with his array of physical gifts. If anything the Trojan coaches would like to see Darnell become a little more aggressive to take advantage of his size and speed. Leach will never be a true free safety but his nose for the ball and tremendous hitting instincts have been successful so far. Jason is a physical player who has been a solid contributor throughout his USC career.
If depth continues to be a concern at safety we may see Dallas Sartz get some time in a switch from linebacker. Dallas played at safety on occasion last season and looked comfortable in his high school position. The only other player with experience is Mike Ross but it remains to be seen if he will be here for the spring as rumors flow about a possible transfer due to a desire for increased playing time. Mike is a wicked hitter who is a fan favorite and his KO coverage hit at the end of the first half against ASU set the tone for the big win which launched the rest of the season. Brandon Ting could see a lot of opportunity this spring.
There may also be a coaching shake up if Rocky Seto is moved from safeties coach to linebacker coach. There is always the possibility Carroll could coach safeties or he could bring in another coach to fill that role.
It should definitely be an interesting spring in the secondary with so many questions to answer.