It's Time for Spring Ball

Tuesday marks the beginning of the 2007 spring ball practices for the Trojans and they can't come soon enough. This will be our first look at a team with national championship potential, a team that returns so much talent up and down the roster that some of the position battles in spring should be as high spirited as any in the country.

USC head coach Pete Carroll begins his seventh spring in charge of the Trojans and this is his most talented roster to date. Carroll will benefit from the decisions of many underclassmen to stay for their senior seasons as guys like Sam Baker, Keith Rivers, Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis will provide the backbone of veteran leadership to a team that went 11-2 last year including a dramatic New Years Day victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

Success is nothing new around these parts as the Trojans have been on one of the truly legendary runs in college football through the last five years and there is no reason to think that this team will accomplish anything less. What do we have to look forward to in spring? Let's take a look at some of the highlights and competitions that we can't wait to see:

* John David Booty wants to use this spring as a launching pad to a successful senior season that should include a lot of Heisman Trophy talk. As we've seen in recent years, if you win as the USC quarterback you are involved in the discussions for that award and Booty has placed himself squarely among the pre-season favorites. It remains to be seen how much Mark Sanchez will be able to do this spring as he battles an untimely back problem, this could be huge for Sanchez as he continues progressing as the eventual heir to the QB throne for the Trojans. Garrett Green could end up seeing a lot of action, especially if Sanchez is unable to fully participate. Mike McDonald is another dependable option.

* I can't wait to watch what happens at running back and I don't really know what to expect. You have some savvy veterans in Chauncey Washington and Hershel Dennis, both with something to prove. Hershel will go through spring drills even though we don't know if he will be eligible for the fall semester. Desmond Reed wants to show that he can still be a part of the running back rotation too. On top of those guys, we've got a bunch of youngsters wanting to show that they can be the man. C.J. Gable started the opener as a true freshman and the Rose Bowl but that hasn't prevented message board discussion of a possible move to defense. We also have Allen Bradford and Emmanuel Moody, a pair of extremely talented runners with contrasting styles. Stafon Johnson was looking forward to a big spring but recent shoulder surgery will limit his availability. Don't forget about the long look we're going to get at a healthy Stanley Havili. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

* The wide receiver group should provide one of the more intense competitions of spring. It stands to reason that Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton are the favorites heading into spring to earn the starting roles. Don't count out David Ausberry though, he seems as ready as anybody to step up and be a major player. The other receivers talk glowingly about the potential impact of Jamere Holland so it will be nice to see his speed in action on a daily basis. Travon Patterson is ready to play a bigger role too.

* One of the big disappointments of spring is the fact that we will not be able to see Anthony McCoy in action. Anthony suffered an ankle injury earlier this month and will be limited in terms of what he can do. With his potential, I think a lot of Trojan fans were really excited to see his progress this spring. That shouldn't take away from what we do have which is three very solid tight ends in Fred Davis, Dale Thompson and Jimmy Miller.

* Two of the best position battles this spring could come at center and right tackle. We're blessed to be able to watch Sam Baker return for a fourth year of showing us how the left tackle spot is supposed to be played while LG Drew Radovich and RG Chilo Rachal have their spots pretty well sown up at this point. Radovich could end up facing a challenge from Jeff Byers (finally healthy after missing most of the past two seasons) although Jeff will also split his time while competing with Nick Howell and Matt Spanos at center. Those are three quality players vying to replace Ryan Kalil, should be quite a battle. Spanos will also compete with Charles Brown at right tackle in another good competition.

* ¾ of the defensive line returns and that is good news for Trojan fans, bad news for our opponents. With the decisions of Jackson and Ellis to stay for their senior season, the Trojan front line automatically became one of the strongest in the nation. In addition to those two, Fili Moala really came on well at the end of the year. It will be interesting to watch Kyle Moore at the end spot opposite Jackson as he tries to impress the coaches as much as he can before the fall camp arrival of Everson Griffen. Some young guys to watch this spring include Averell Spicer (would have been ready to be the starter if Ellis had left for the NFL) as well as Derek Simmons and Alex Parsons.

* Rivers, Maualuga, Cushing. Does anything more need to be said? This could go down as one of the more incredible linebacker groups we've seen at USC and that is saying something. In addition to the starters, one guy I'm really looking forward to seeing in spring is Luthur Brown, he has looked great in conditioning drills and workouts. I'm not getting my hopes up to see Josh Tatum in too much action but it sure will be nice to see him on the field after missing all of last fall while rehabbing from an injury.

* Injuries will impact the depth in the secondary during spring but fortunately there is a lot of talent available. At corner, Terrell Thomas figures to have one starting spot locked up but he will be limited in spring due to injury rehab so we will see a dogfight between guys like Cary Harris, Kevin Thomas, Mozique McCurtis, Shareece Wright and Vincent Joseph. At safety, the return of Will Harris will be one of the highlights of spring and it could be a huge impact for the defense if he is ready to go. Look for Will to get a lot of reps along with Taylor Mays as both Josh Pinkard and Kevin Ellison take it slow due to injury rehab as well.

* The special teams will feel an absence tomorrow when they walk on the field without the presence of #19 Mario Danelo. It's still a sad situation to think about and it will be hard for the players tomorrow when they practice for the first time without their fallen teammate. Look for David Buehler to get a lot of work as he looks to take over for Danelo.

* There are also changes on the coaching staff. Gone is Lane Kiffin, who has taken his whistle north as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. This spring will mark the debut of the Steve Sarkisian play calling era and there is a lot of optimism right now that Sark will be able to do great things. The Trojans brought in a face that Sark is familiar with to take over as wide receiver coach in John Morton, who Sark worked with at the Raiders in 2004.

DATES OF SPRING PRACTICE: March 20-22-23-25-27-29-30-April 1-3-5-7-10-12-13-14
(Tentative practice times: weekdays at 4 p.m., weekends TBA)

"TROJAN HUDDLE" scrimmage: April 7, Noon, L.A. Coliseum Top Stories