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Insider

Position battle update

3/28/2012
Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

LOS ANGELES -- As the Trojans reach the midway point of spring practice drills we take a look at the progress of some of the most competitive position battles:

1) No. 2 quarterback -- There really isn’t anything separating Max Wittek and Cody Kessler right now. Both look fairly comfortable working with the offense and they’ve been getting plenty of quality reps as Lane Kiffin limits the work for Matt Barkley. Jesse Scroggins has not taken part in practices yet so he’s fallen behind the other two, but he is expected back soon. Kiffin has said there is no timetable to name a No. 2 guy.

2) No. 2 running back -- This spot would not have been on the list coming into spring, but the move of Tre Madden has suddenly made it more of a competition. D.J. Morgan has looked pretty good in the early stages of spring, but Madden is a completely different kind of back, more of a power runner that Kiffin said he clearly wants to find for this offense. With that in mind, it’s easy to see Madden getting every opportunity to compete with Morgan for reps.



3) No. 3 receiver -- This has been a very interesting situation to follow. George Farmer came out of the gate hot but then hurt a hamstring and hasn’t returned to the field since. Meanwhile, Victor Blackwell and De’Von Flournoy have made their share of plays as they are getting plenty of work (Robert Woods is out with injury and Marqise Lee -- who has been the top player all spring -- missed the Coliseum practice due to track). Flournoy, in particular, has received praise from Kiffin as an example of a player sticking with the program and potentially earning some time.

4) Offensive tackle -- The first week it was Kevin Graf at left tackle and Aundrey Walker at right tackle. Then the coaches said they wanted to take a look at switching the players for a week, so Walker went to the left side and Graf returned to the right side, where he started all of last season. As of Tuesday's practice, that’s where they were still lining up. OL coach James Cregg says the coaches are not even close to making a decision on where they will start and he thinks both players could play on either side.

5) Defensive tackle -- The two interior spots on the line represent the biggest hole in the USC lineup that needs to be filled. The good news is that one of the true bright spots of spring has been defensive tackle George Uko, who has really stepped up his game. The coaches are definitely talking as if Uko looks ready to be the kind of player they need him to be. J.R. Tavai is settled in as the starter at nose tackle. He’s a quiet and steady worker -- the biggest thing for him will be the need to continue to add weight.

6) Cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey -- It’s not an exaggeration to say that corner is the deepest position on the team this spring. So far it looks like Isiah Wiley is doing everything he needs to do in order to hold onto his starting spot, but there are no shortage of other options. There might not be a bigger surprise than Brian Baucham, who has been out of action for a long time but has wasted no time in making plays now that he is back. Anthony Brown looks good, Ryan Henderson is ready to start contributing. That doesn’t even mention Torin Harris, who has been out with injury, or Joshua Shaw, who is also out with injury and still waiting on word from the NCAA on his transfer waiver.