Written in Sand

Injuries, depth and uncertainty leave plenty of unknowns even as first depth chart is revealed.

USC Coach Lane Kiffin said his first-ever depth chart was written in "sand."

It might as well be covered in bandages.

The two-deep released Friday included 17 players that couldn't be evaluated because they missed part or all of spring practices due to injury. That tally doesn't others that missed time, including receiver Ronald Johnson, running back Dillon Baxter or Torin Harris, listed as a co-starter at cornerback with T.J. Bryant.

"We have a number of injuries, so the depth chart, it's just something to go off of and we'll be constantly moving as we get to the fall," Kiffin said.

That was most obvious on the offensive line, where just seven players were slotted. Left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Kevin Graf and right tackle Tyron Smith did not have a backup listed.

Kevin Graf is listed as the starter at left guard.
Incoming freshman Seantrel Henderson was tentatively slotted as the second left tackle, but Graf and Butch Lewis could also see time there. Lewis, who has started eight games at guard and another five at tackle, could end up as the utility lineman, capable of providing depth at multiple spots.

"Butch is very unique in that," Kiffin said. "He's a guy that you can move around and a guy that understands the system really well."

The biggest surprise of the day was at defensive end, where Wes Horton was listed as equal with projected starter Nick Perry.

That scenario also played out to much less fanfare at middle linebacker, with junior Chris Galippo and sophomore Devon Kennard.

"It's been a great battle at middle linebacker, and both guys have done different things," Kiffin said. "I would imagine whoever ends up winning the battle will find a way for the other guy to play, because they both have a chance to be really good players for us."

Other positions that won't be settled until the fall include tight end, second corner opposite Shareece Wright and kick and punt returners.

Kiffin was also quick to point out the roster is not yet a finished product, with 17 newcomers set to arrive soon. That total doesn't include Baxter or Kyle Prater, both of whom enrolled early and showed flashes of being major contributors.

Given how Kiffin is comfortable with what Baxter has shown as a tailback, he projects as a satellite player, working as a receiver or Wildcat quarterback.

"Dillon has picked things up extremely well," Kiffin said. "He's studied hard and done a great job of grasping our offense, and things do come very easy for him."

It's been more of a struggle for Prater, the No. 2 split end behind Brice Butler, who was limited by a pulled hamstring, sore back and sprained thumb in the spring.

"I've been disappointed for Kyle, not in Kyle, because he was so excited to get here. He's really pushed through, which I'm glad to see that," Kiffin said.

Dillon Baxter could be used in a variety of ways in 2010.

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