March 11th marks the start of USC spring practice, a time when slates are swept clean and position battles begin anew. Steve Sarkisian and his new staff will get their first real look at the 2014 squad, which means Trojan fans also have a chance to start fresh evaluating the players who will make or break the new season.
This week at Reign Of Troy we’re taking a look at what to expect from each position group, now onto the defensive line:
Seniors – J.R. Tavai
Juniors – Claude Pelon (EE), Delvon Simmons (RS), Cody Temple (RS), Greg Townsend Jr. (RS), Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods (RS)
Sophomores – N/A
Freshmen – Kenny Bigelow (RS), Don Hill (EE)
While new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will be shifting the Trojans away from Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 defense, his defense self described as “somewhere in between a 4-3 and a 3-4,” won’t look all that different. Like Pendergast, Wilcox will use multiple sets depending on how he wants to face the opposition, which means positions on the defensive line will be fluid.
One thing is certain, Antwaun Woods will fill the space in the center of the line at nose tackle. The hope is that Kenny Bigelow will progress enough to become a solid contributor behind him.
Leonard Williams is the closest to a sure thing that USC has on the line and whether he functions as a tackle in a 4-3 set or a defensive end in the 3-4, he’ll be the focal point of the Trojan front seven.
The biggest battle in the spring, not just on the defensive line but throughout the entire squad, will take place at the end position left vacant by George Uko. J.R. Tavai proved that he could handle the starting position rush linebacker position in place of Morgan Breslin and it would be easy to see him move inside as a more true defensive end. Pushing him for that same spot is Texas Tech transfer Delvon Simmons, who had to sit out last year.
Junior college transfer Claude Pelon and early enrollee Don Hill will also be competing for playing time on the line.
Most Likely To Keep Their Starting Job: Leonard Williams
Most Likely To Lose Their Starting Job: J.R. Tavai
Battle To Watch: Defensive End
Most To Gain From Spring: Delvon Simmons
Most To Lose From Spring: J.R. Tavai
More position previews: