What We Learned: Fall Practice Edition

After a very long offseason, it's finally game week. Look inside for an in-depth look at what we have learned about the 2010 USC Trojans.

We learned that the 2010 recruiting class is going to make a big impact this coming season. Wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Nickell Robey have both worked their way into the starting lineup, Dillon Baxter is already one of the most talented players on the roster and a handful of others could contribute in backup roles.

We learned that Chris Galippo will still have a major role despite being beat out for the starting middle linebacker spot by Devon Kennard. The veteran linebacker will serve as the backup at all three linebacker positions and be a key special teams player.

We learned that the Trojans have one of the best coaching staffs in the country. Lane Kiffin may still be unproven as a head coach, but the assistants that he hired are as impressive a group as you will find in college football.

We learned that Marc Tyler has revitalized his career with the help of the new coaching staff. I spoke with Tyler just days before the opening of fall camp and you could sense the excitement in his voice then.

Marc Tyler will start in the season opener.
Since that time, Tyler, who is finally healthy, has been so productive in practice that he wrestled the starting tailback job away from Allen Bradford.

We learned that Allen Bradford is still one of the most respected players on the team. The senior tailback lost his starting spot but continued to show leadership by staying focused on the practice field and vowing that he would compete to climb back up the depth chart.

We learned that Lane Kiffin isn't afraid to shake things up. Well, we already knew that, but I am talking about the depth chart. Switching Devon Kennard to middle linebacker gives his team a much needed physical presence in the middle, moving Jordan Cameron to tight end will provide a big, athletic pass catcher in the redzone and starting a pair of freshmen sends a message to the current players as well as recruits looking for early playing time.

We learned that Rhett Ellison will be the primary tight end after a solid performance during the fall. As Lane Kiffin recently noted, Ellison wasn't the most heavily recruited player coming out of high school, but he has become a valuable piece of the puzzle because of his hard work and dedication.

We learned that all the talk of bringing back discipline to the program was no joke. From the laps that players have to run after each mistake during practice, to the suspensions of freshmen Dillon Baxter and Patrick Hall, the message has been delivered that everyone is going to be held accountable for their actions. And the players have responded on the practice field and in the classroom.

We learned that Robert Woods has impressed the coaching staff just as much off the field as he has on it. The former Serra standout was able to quickly pick up the offense because of the countless hours he spent studying the playbook. He still hasn't played a single snap on the college level, but all indications point to Woods being a terrific player and leader for USC.

We learned that Christian Thomas has a very bright future ahead of him, no matter which side of the ball he ends up on. Thomas came in as a tight end, and looked like the best of the trio of first-year tight ends, but he has since been moved to defensive end and shown plenty of potential as a pass rusher. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Thomas is big, physical and extremely quick off the ball.

We learned that the defensive line has been as good as advertised. With a lot of talent and versatility, to go along with the coaching of Ed Orgeron, this group will be the strength of the defense in 2010. After being pushed around during four intrasquad scrimmages this fall, the Trojans' offensive line is happy to get a crack at an opposing d-line.

We learned that a lack of depth will be one of the Trojans' biggest weaknesses in 2010. Due to injuries and transfers, the roster is thin at linebacker, fullback and offensive line. When healthy, USC is still one of the most talented teams in college football but they have little room for injuries this coming season.

We learned that Malcolm Smith could have a breakout season in 2010. The senior linebacker has quietly had a very good camp and has gained the confidence of the new staff. If Smith and Kennard play up to expectations then the linebacker unit will be much improved this season.

We learned that this team has shown a lot of character this offseason. With the departure of Pete Carroll, the recent NCAA sanctions and other issues, the players have banded together and remained united during tough times. The reward for those that stayed, as well as the loyal fans, arrives Thursday night with opening kickoff against Hawaii.

Devon Kennard won the competition for the starting middle linebacker job .

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