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Three questions answered in the spring
1. The line survived a trial by fire.
Nine on seven. It's common in football.
It's fine it it's a practice drill. It's a little scary if it refers to the number of defensive linemen being thrown at offensive linemen.
While the D-line found contributions from unexpected players for unparalleled depth, their counterparts on the other side of the line struggled to fill out a starting lineup, let alone the two deep.
But there was a positive to those limited numbers, giving a core group of four expected starters – Matt Kalil, Kris O'Dowd, Khaled Holmes and Tyron Smith – a chance to work together and simulate game conditions.
That will pay off this season, when they, you know, get actual breaks between series. It's also good news because there's not much coming in the way of reinforcements.
The better news? They're not going to face a defensive line as deep or talented, save perhaps in a BCS bowl game.
2. Matt Kalil picked up where he left off.
Ryan's not-so-little brother was terrific in his first career start in the Emerald Bowl. Moving from right tackle against Boston College to the left side in the spring, Matt continued his development, playing almost every snap against an onslaught of rotating defensive linemen despite a swollen knee.
3. Khaled Holmes emerged as the breakout star.
It's looking like a family affair up front. The other standout besides Kalil was Holmes, whose brother was also a national champion under Pete Carroll.
He showed a fine combination of athleticism and technique with just a little nastiness mixed in. Coming off a year in SEC country, the coaching staff loved that formula, consistently praising Holmes.
For a front five that was lacking attitude last season, the injection of this one player into the lineup could be the perfect way to change that chemistry.
Three questions for the fall
1. Is Seantrel Henderson ready for the big time?
He looks the part, I'll say that much. When the big man from Minnesota was in the Coliseum locker room during his official visit, he towered over everyone, current players included.
The degree of difficulty, however, is about to go way up. It's a big difference playing Oregon and Arizona as opposed to Stillwater and Woodbury. Henderson will find that out in fall camp, facing off against Nick Perry, Armond Armstead and their arsenal of pass rush moves.
If he can handle the stout Trojan defensive line, he can go. From day one.
2. Can the offensive line survive the numbers game?
Lane Kiffin joked time and again that as long as he had five linemen capable of playing, the Trojans had a line. That's all well and good in the spring, where there are ways to get around the lack of depth.
Once the season starts, however, there's a game every Saturday, like it or not. In 2007, the Trojans were down to five offensive linemen, not healthy mind you, against Arizona and barely hung on.
With Michael Reardon's return from a neck injury an unknown quantity, USC expects to have 12 linemen entering the fall. But those numbers can be exhausted like that, so the biggest pressure will be on the likes of Martin Coleman and John Martinez to step up once the bumps and bruises of the game begin.
3. Does Butch Lewis become the utility man?
No one among the front five has the versatility and experience comparable to Lewis, who has played in 33 games with 16 career starts. With playing time as both a guard and tackle, Kiffin said he expects the redshirt senior to jump in wherever needed.
Lewis was a non-factor in the spring because of injury, so offensive line coach James Cregg has yet to really see him in action. That's the only issue keeping Lewis from being perhaps the most important offensive player on scholarship.
Matt Kalil will protect Matt Barkley's blind side in 2010. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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