Spring Ball update

The Trojans have finished the first week of spring ball with a fast start by the offense and a physical performance from the defense on Friday during the first day in full pads. Click below for a position by position look at how USC is looking so far this spring:

QB—Matt Leinart has picked up right where he left off during the Rose Bowl as he's been extremely accurate so far this spring and seems to be as comfortable as ever as the leader of this offense.  John David Booty has taken the majority of reserve snaps and he is throwing the ball fine after missing time due to a hand injury.  John David struggled to move the offense in the scrimmage on Friday while under constant pressure from the defense.  Brandon Hance is currently in the #3 spot but he's a veteran and there's plenty of time left for him to make an impression on the coaches.  Billy Hart is playing baseball and has not taken part in spring drills.

RB—The trio of Hershel Dennis, Reggie Bush and LenDale White have all shown some big plays thus far in spring.  Dennis is moving very well and broke a couple long plays during the Tuesday practice.  Reggie has flashed his speed as both a runner and receiver and we've also seen him practice at punt returner on special teams. We didn't see much of a consistent run game in the scrimmage but that can be attributed as much as anything to the growing pains on the offensive line.  Chauncey Washington has been in attendance at practices with his ankle in a protective boot and he also received a pep talk on Friday from Kennedy Pola who was at the scrimmage.  Desmond Reed has shown some dynamic ability as a pass catcher.  Brandon Hancock will undergo surgery on Tuesday to determine the extent of his knee injury and Lee Webb, who was originally ticketed to move to linebacker, has made a couple big plays as a pass catcher.  Webb has shared time with David Kirtman and Jody Adewale.

WR—It was a very encouraging week for the receiver spot as we look to replace a pair of talented starters from last year.  We knew Steve Smith would come in prepared and ready to take over from Keary Colbert and so far Smith has looked smooth and polished.  A pleasant surprise has been the performance from Whitney Lewis who has been presented with a major opportunity now that Mike Williams has gone.  Whitney has looked good from the start this spring with some acrobatic catches and great hands.  Fred Davis has made enough plays to let us know he will be a part of the rotation this year.  He's got size and has shown the ability to catch the ball in traffic.  Chris McFoy, Jason Mitchell, Greig Carlson and William Buchanan have all had their moments in these early days of spring so the depth at receiver looks good at this point.

TE—One of the best sights of spring so far has been Alex Holmes catching the football in traffic and running over smaller defenders.  Alex said his back feels great right now and that's good news for Trojan fans.  Dominique Byrd has been able to go through non-contact drills and that's another good sign as he rehabs from injury.  Gregg Guenther has not appeared this spring due to basketball but his return should provide us with one of the top tight end units in the nation.  Kurt Katnik and Nick Vanderboom have been getting a lot of work this spring.

OL—If there is a question mark through the early part of spring it would be the performance of the offensive line.  Graduation left us having to replace three starters but injuries and suspension have cost us two other starters so all of a sudden there are a lot of new faces trying to come together and that's not something that happens in one week of spring ball.  The good news is that these talented young linemen who have been signed in recent years are all getting a chance to show what they can do as they compete for playing time.  Kyle Williams gets the first shot at right tackle and Kyle is ready for this opportunity.  He knows the system and he's physically developed through time in the Carlisle program.  Matt Spanos has been serving as the reserve at RT.  Fred Matua was a part-time starter at right guard so he brings good experience and newcomer Travis Draper has been serving as his back-up.  Ryan Kalil was the only freshman OL who didn't redshirt last season and he enters spring as the starter at center. Walk-on Ross Burruel is currently the back-up but it stands to reason that incoming freshman Jeff Byers will find himself in the mix during fall camp.  Travis Watkins and Tiny Malu are sharing time at LG while one of the most interesting of the position battles figures to be at left tackle with Sam Baker and Drew Radovich.  These two were highly touted coming out of high school and both have impressed so far with their work ethic and technique.  The line could see a lot of changes during fall camp depending on the health and status of John Drake and Winston Justice as well as the arrival of Deuce Lutui, Byers, etc. but for now the young guys have a chance to get a lot of valuable practice time.

DL—Any discussion of the D-line needs to start with Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson as they might be the top pair of interior linemen in the country.  Both players have come out at a high level with Cody overpowering everybody and Patterson using his impressive speed.  Manuel Wright and Sedrick Ellis are their back-ups and right now these two are showing that they are ready to go as well, Manuel is down to 280 pounds and it shows in his quickness.  The end spots have seen a rotation as expected starter Frostee Rucker sits out with a toe injury suffered during the Rose Bowl while Chris Barrett, expected to challenge for the opposite spot, has been slowed due to a shoulder injury.  Lawrence Jackson, Van Brown, LaJuan Ramsey and Alex Morrow have all seen action so far at defensive end.

LB—Last season the linebacker depth was a concern but the future looks bright based upon what we've seen so far this spring.  The starting unit features Matt Grootegoed at weakside, Lofa Tatupu in the middle and Dallas Sartz on the strongside.  With a healthy Groots back in action reminding us of why he is so good, he's been around the ball constantly this spring, it's hard to imagine a better group of ballhawking backers.  Thomas Williams has shown that he is ready to step in with his physical style and he also had a nice interception early in the week.  Oscar Lua has been taking part in drills and that's been an unexpected surprise as he continues his knee injury rehab.  Collin Ashton and Marco Chavez are walk-ons who have performed well and with Keith Rivers and Ryan Powdrell arriving in the fall this will be a deep and talented unit. 

DB—The safety spots are settled with Darnell Bing and Jason Leach returning as a tandem for the second straight season.  Bing looks huge and he delivered the biggest hit of the scrimmage with a pop on Kurt Katnik over the middle.  Brandon Ting and Greg Farr serve as safety reserves right now.  The corner position, on the other hand, is wide open with two starting spots available.  Kevin Arbet has been forced to watch from the sideline so far as he awaits confirmation on his sixth year of eligibility.  Ronald Nunn and Justin Wyatt have served as the primary starters for drills and both have done well at times but there is a long way to go in this competition.  Terrell Thomas opened a lot of eyes with his play in the scrimmage and Eric Wright has been impressive as well in early practices along with John Walker and Ryan Ting. 

Special teams-It was interesting to see the reactions of the high school coaches who had gathered for the clinic on Friday as they watched Tom Malone go through his punt drills.  Malone hit booming punt after booming punt which left many coaches shaking their heads.  Ryan Killeen returns as the kicker with Mario Danelo as his back-up.  Will Collins takes over the long snapper role with Collin Ashton and Alex Holmes getting some reps as well.  Among those who have seen action as return guys are Bush, Dennis, Lewis, Smith, Wyatt, Carlson, Bing, Mitchell, Reed and Wright. 

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