Spring ball mid-point review

We've reached the halfway point of USC spring ball drills and now that the Trojan players have scattered for spring break it's time to take a look at how each position is shaping up so far:


Too close to call on a starter right now.  Form has pretty much held true as Matt Cassel and Brandon Hance have performed at the highest level but Matt Leinart and Billy Hart have done enough to continue strong consideration.  Cassel appears to be the most comfortable with the offense while Hance has shown the ability to move the team even though it's clear his arm is not 100%. The coaches have said they want to name a starter by the end of spring but that's going to be very hard to do. 



Hershel Dennis looks terrific and is ready to take his place as the USC tailback.  A couple interesting options we've seen so far, on a part-time basis, have been Darnell Bing and Justin Wyatt.  Bing is so big and powerful and he has made a habit of breaking off long runs whenever they put him on offense.  Wyatt has been seen primarily at receiver but when the coaches put him at RB he can make things happen.  At fullback, Lee Webb had a terrific open field block in a scrimmage last week and David Kirtman is showing enough hands to be a threat out of the backfield.  It would be nice to see Brandon Hancock on the field.



Mike Williams has bulked up and picked up right where he left off last January in the Orange Bowl.  Mike is simply a dominant receiver and the increased size is allowing us to see a more physical player.  Keary Colbert had been his usual smooth self until he pulled up last Tuesday with a bad hamstring.  He should be fine and back at practice next week.  Wyatt has been a nice surprise as a playmaker with his open field moves and sharp cuts.  Justin is dynamite with the ball in his hands so look for him more on offense this year.   Chris McFoy has put together a nice spring and he's battling D Hale, Jason Mitchell and Greig Carlson for the remaining snaps which should be even more limited after Steve Smith and Whitney Lewis arrive in the fall. 



Alex Holmes has become a leader on the team and he noticeably increased his upper body size.  We haven't seen Gregg Guenther yet due to his basketball commitments so Dominique Byrd has received more reps and he's responded with several big plays.  The coaches want Dom to become a more physical blocker and that should come with time.



There's been some shuffling along the line due to some nagging injuries but for the most part the unit has played very well.  Winston Justice hasn't participated much so Kyle Williams has been splitting time between RG and RT.  Williams was moved to guard in anticipation of challenging Fred Matua, who also has been slowed somewhat by a recent hernia surgery and a bad knee, and the good news is that Kyle has performed well despite bouncing back and forth.  Norm Katnik is solid at center and he's bigger than we've ever seen him before.  Lenny Vandermade has returned from a bicep injury and it looks great to see him paired back up on the left side of the line with Jacob Rogers.  Don't be surprised if Rogers gets some All-American consideration next fall. 



We all know how good the line is and they've lived up to the billing.  Kenechi Udeze is such a physical force and it seems as if he can take control at any time.  Omar Nazel has played OK at the spot opposite Udeze but the problem Omar has is right now Frostee Rucker is making plays left and right and could really challenge for playing time.  Frostee goes at a high level when the ball is snapped at that certainly appeals to Ed Orgeron.  LaJuan Ramsey has taken advantage of the absence of Shaun Cody to work with the first team and he's a beast in the middle of the line.  Speaking of Cody, his rehab is coming along fine and his arms are absolutely huge.  Mike Patterson is a steady plug for the Trojans.  Van Brown needs to make more plays.



One of the biggest positions to watch this spring has been MLB as the injury to Oscar Lua has thrown the starting spot wide open.  Lua spends his practice time pedaling the bike on the sidelines as Lofa Tatupu and Danny Urquhart try to earn the job while he's out.  Tatupu is barrel-chested and can really hit while Carroll has praised Urquhart for his play. Danny sure has enough size and he put together a very nice performance in the final practice scrimmage last Friday before the break.  Matt Grootegoed has been Matt Grootegoed, when he collided with Kyle Williams on one play it was the big offensive lineman who missed the next two days with a concussion.  Dallas Sartz has been a ballhawk this spring and is really making his presence felt.  Melvin Simmons is solid. 



The performance by Darnell Bing so far has done nothing to disappoint those who anxiously awaited his arrival.  Darnell glides from the strong safety spot and once he gets adjusted to the Pete Carroll system there's no telling how good he can be.  With that being said, Mike Ross is certainly making a case to earn the starting spot himself.  Mike switched to jersey #43 and is playing with the same aggressive style as the man who wore the number so honorably for the past four years.  We've got an excellent pair of strong safeties and the free safety is pretty darn good as well in Jason Leach.  At corner, Marcell Allmond continues to look good and it's impressive the strides he has made to the point where he is looking at an NFL career as a corner.  Kevin Arbet has taken most of the snaps as the starter on the other side but his ankle is still bothering him a little.  Ronald Nunn hasn't played due to injury so we've seen a lot of Will Buchanan and the Ting brothers.  Will is still struggling with the physical requirements of defense but the Tings have a bright future.  They are like gnats on the field, always flying around hitting somebody. 


Special teams

We know what we have in Tom Malone and he's certainly hit a couple trademark boomers this spring.  His back-up, Tommy Huff, has also looked good.  Ryan Kileen appears to have stepped his placekicking up a notch.  For punt returns we've seen Carlson, Wyatt, Arbet and the Tings at different times while on kickoff return we've seen Allmond, Wyatt, Mitchell and Hale among others. 

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