USC Football Fall Camp Preview: The Impact of Injuries


With just 75 players on scholarship, the Trojans have to be careful about depth, so it’s not exactly a surprise that injuries will be a story line as USC opens up camp next week. The injuries that will have the most significant impact to USC’s fall camp are the season-long losses to Tre Madden and Devon Kennard, as well as the lingering injuries to Robert Woods and D.J. Morgan.

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

When Tre Madden went down for the season back in April, it coincided with his sudden rise in the USC backfield as a newly converted linebacker. He was lauded by Kennedy Polamalu and Lane Kiffin for his athletic addition to the Trojans’ running game, and as a playmaker out in the flat, he was set to be used as a ‘Darren Sproles type’ of player before his torn ACL sealed his fate for 2012. Without Madden, the Trojans are right back to where they started before spring camp, with just three running backs on scholarship: Curtis McNeal, D.J. Morgan and Javorious Allen.

Because of the absense of Madden, immense pressure is put on D.J. Morgan, and it doesn’t help matters when he is forced to miss player-run workouts due to turf toe. If Morgan is going to be dinged up all camp, the Trojans will need to start to see production from Buck Allen or freshman Nelson Agholor, and fast. Last year, a strong camp by Amir Carlisle turned heads, so a similarly played camp by Allen or Agholor would go a long way as they battle for playing time in addition to Morgan.

Keep in mind however, that ideally, Lane Kiffin would like to use Agholor solely as a receiver. If Penn State’s Silas Redd decides to transfer to USC, Agholor could slide back to receiver as Kiffin hoped, but it’s also dependent on the nagging toe of Morgan. Should Morgan continue to face lingering injuries, he’s going to likely force some sort of participation by Agholor in the backfield, even with Redd in the fold, which should only add pressure on the receivers behind Robert Woods.

Woods injured his ankle last spring playing basketball and played the entire 2011 season feeling the effects of the injury, despite setting a conference record for receptions. This year, he’s been forced to sit out of summer workouts with his teammates due to lingering inflammation in his ankle that was reported back in June.

Kiffin said last week at Media Day that he didn’t expect Woods to be at 100 percent, a sentiment that Matt Barkley strongly agreed with. That puts pressure on Marqise Lee to step up and be the number one receiver in Woods’ wake, and also should force heavy competition amongst the receivers for the remaining spots on the depth chart in the USC receiving corps.

George Farmer, De’Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell will head into camp about even in their pursuit of receptions and the chance of becoming Barkley’s third option. If Agholor gets time at receiver, he’ll be right in the mix with the three just mentioned, while the fact of Darreus Rogers, a 4-star wideout out of Carson, is unknown due to academics.

Moving over to the defense, the position most impacted by injuries is clearly at defensive end. Senior left defensive end Devon Kennard will likely miss the entire season due to a torn pectoral muscle in his chest, and he went into surgery this morning at 6:30 am to repair the damage.

Without Kennard, the most likely candidates to replace him include newcomers Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams. Breslin is a polished JuCo transfer with plenty of experience at crashing off the edge at the collegiate level, while Williams is a tremendous talent, although he’s extremely raw and lacks experience.

Other players who might be able to snatch reps at end opposite of Wes Horton  include Greg Townsend Jr., Kevin Greene, Charles Burks and DeVante Wilson. With a part-time starter from 2011, George Uko, at the three technique, and either Antwaun Woods, Christian Heyward or J.R. Tavai at the other tackle spot, Ed Orgeron will have his hands full of promising, yet inexperienced players on the defensive line.