USC is gambling that quality depth is better than quantity.
While Chris Galippo will not start at middle linebacker per the depth chart released Friday night, the veteran is still set to play a major role for the Trojans defense this season.
"Chris will be our backup at all three spots, which says a lot about him," coach Lane Kiffin said Saturday. "Rarely can someone do that mentally. He will also start on all four core special-teams units. He's going to play a huge role for us."
While Kiffin expressed confidence in Galippo, the physicality offered by sophomore Devon Kennard proved to be the difference, a necessary upgrade after being manhandled by Oregon and Stanford late last season.
"Just the ability to be a little bit more physical with Devon, seeing that and feeling it from an offensive perspective as well. Both guys did a great job, but he's just got a little more 'factor' to him when he comes up on the guards or the backs. He closes that space. He's so big in there, and quick for a big guy," Kiffin said.
Galippo, a redshirt junior who started all 13 games last year, said he was disappointed with the decision but understood the role he will play.
"You've got to trust the coaches, trust that they're going to put us in a situation where we're going to be successful. I'm still going to be getting in games and playing a whole lot. I think out of everybody on this team, I'm the one guy who knows how long the season is. People get hurt. You've got to have guys who are able to go in and keep guys fresh, especially a game like Hawaii," he said.
The other move confirmed by the depth chart was the elevation of running back Marc Tyler over Allen Bradford.
"Once again, very close," Kiffin said, "but he was just more consistent as we put everything together, more consistent staying on track and more consistent in his pass protection."
Kiffin said to expect plenty of changes to the depth chart, especially early on in the season.
"We will never try to prove ourselves right," he said. "Our staff knows that. We're not going to try to prove ourselves right because we named somebody a starter. If someone plays better, we'll change it the next day."
Upon Further Review
Despite throwing two interceptions in Thursday's mock game, quarterback Matt Barkley said he was pleased with his performance after assessing the tape.
"I went up that night and watched it really before the coaches delved into it just to get a feel and went back and watched it the next day on my own," he said. "Really unfortunate about those two picks because they could have been prevented just by little corrections, but it was good to know that those are easily correctable."
Barkley admitted that the service team played with more fire in the Coliseum, but the starters responded Saturday.
"There was a lot more energy on the offensive side of the ball," he said.
-S Demetrius Wright returned to practice after being cleared by the NCAA.
-OL Butch Lewis (groin) is on track to start after participating fully in Saturday's practice.
-CB T.J. Bryant (cheek) and S Drew McAllister (hip) were limited, but returned to action after being sidelined for several weeks.
-LB Hayes Pullard (knee) could return to practice in four to five weeks after undergoing surgery, Kiffin said.
-While Ronald Johnson and Woods are set to start, the competition at wide receiver behind them continues.
"It's still kind of work in progress," Kiffin said. "We look to play a lot of guys this week, and we'll still be in an evaluation process with all our players, but especially as we look at these first couple games."