Pre-Spring Presser Notes

USC head coach Lane Kiffin held a 20-minute pre-spring session with writers, discussing a variety of topics. Look inside for injury news, an update on Dillon Baxter and much more.

When asked what position was most critical this spring, Lane Kiffin didn't even hesitate.

"Linebackers," the new USC coach said, "even though we have three guys that started before coming back."

Despite the return of Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, the trio charged with replacing four Trojans drafted to the NFL a year ago, Kiffin has to find ways to keep them healthy and increase productivity. That challenge became much harder as Kiffin announced Jarvis Jones is unlikely to ever play football again during a 20-minute pre-spring session with writers.

"I'm not very positive about the possibility of him playing here at all," Kiffin said.

Jones,'s third-ranked strongside linebacker recruit in the class of 2009, who was expected to provide depth at all three linebacker spots, has yet to be cleared by doctors after suffering a sprained neck at Oregon.

Devon Kennard will get a look at middle linebacker.
"We're going to continue to get the information, explore every avenue that we can with Jarvis' safety being the number one issue," Kiffin said.

"There is a serious concern that hits or a number of hits could lead to long-term damage."

That prognosis means Shane Horton will stay at linebacker, despite vacancies at safety, and newcomers Hayes Pullard and Glen Stanley could contribute immediately in the fall.

For now, Kiffin has to work with who is available.

"It's a group where we are going to have to move guys around to figure out the best spots," he said. "We got to figure these guys out this spring, who can play and where they are going to play. We need a big improvement at that position group from last year."

"There should be a ton of competition and opportunity all over the field," Kiffin said, addressing the bigger picture. "I don't think it's any secret we don't have a bunch of proven players coming back, so it's a good opportunity for a lot of kids."

- On offense, USC is equally thin along the offensive line and at tight end, but Kiffin said that wouldn't alter how the team practices.

"We can't slow our team down for a group," Kiffin said. "Our tight end group is going to be very small and our offensive line group is not going to be very big, but we can't slow everybody else down for that. Those guys are really going to have to push through."

Tryouts for walk-ons are set for Tuesday. Kiffin said he hopes to add linemen through the open call.

-Quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain will split reps Tuesday and both could work with the first team for several days, Kiffin said.

"It's not set for all 15 practices to stay ever," he said.

-Early enrollee Dillon Baxter will primarily work at tailback, despite an impressive showing at receiver during voluntary throwing sessions.

"We are going to play him as a running back that goes out to receiver at times," Kiffin said. "Just seeing his body structure, how he moves around, it's going to be easier to get him the ball as a running back. It's harder to put him outside, then move him inside, so let's toughen him up as a back and move him outside if we need to."

Kiffin added that he would like to experiment with the Wildcat, which would likely be quarterbacked by Baxter, but given the installation and development of the offense makes that a luxury.

-The Trojans will employ a fixed Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule for the next five weeks, before wrapping with the Trojan Huddle on May 1.

With a late start to allow Kiffin to put together him staff and the new approach, it could allow some players to return for the end of spring.

"I really like that because you never practice two days in a row, so you always get a day in between to meet with the guys, regroup and get healthy some times," Kiffin said. "It also gives us another week, so there may be some players who aren't healthy enough early that we get back and have an extra week with them.

"We're surprisingly very injured at this point. I don't know what to credit that to, but there will be a number of guys who are out or limited."

Jarvis Jones' return to football is unlikely.

*Discuss more on the message boards Top Stories