USC Football: 7 Observations From The 1st Week Of Trojans’ Fall Camp

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4. Emergence of more role players

Kiffin has singled out three guys in the first week of camp that we might be able to expect big things from this season.

First, FB Soma Vainuku has really been displaying his growth. USC hasn’t had a strong fullback presence since Stanley Havili left, and he was sorely missed during the 2011 season. If Vainuku is ready to take over the reins, USC could have an even more multi-faceted attack. He has gotten a solid amount of carries in the scrimmages USC has held so far and is really starting to come into himself, as noted by Kiffin.

On the wide receiver front, there is a minor position battle going on for the WR 3 spot and De’Von Flournoy has quickly gone to work to put his name in the mouths of reporters. Farmer has been in and out of camp while nursing a hamstring injury, and Flournoy wasted no time in capitalizing on it. He’s a redshirt junior that is the most talented of the young, raw corps behind Woods and Marqise Lee. While he, Farmer, and Agholor are unproven in terms of in-game experience, Flournoy has been in Troy the longest, learning the system while he redshirted and battled hamstring problems. He is healthy and ready to go now, and we could see him as USC’s third aerial option, unless Farmer gets himself healthy and back into the competition.

Finally, S Demetrius Wright is earning the attention of Kiffin, who dubbed him the sleeper candidate for Defensive MVP. This is another Trojan we haven’t seen much during his years at USC, but this could be the season that Wright really establishes himself as a solid safety option. It’s doubtful he would dethrone T.J. McDonald or Jawanza Starling as the starter, but having a reliable candidate to take over for either of them early in the season or when USC is blowing out opponents could really offset the depth issues the Trojans face.

5. True Freshmen Have To Grow Up, Fast

With the absence of Aundrey Walker because of his wrist injury, true freshmen OL Max Tuerk and Leonard Williams have been given an opportunity to get an early start on their collegiate development. Kiffin said Sunday that if worst came to worst with Walker, Tuerk would start in his place. That means the freshman has just a month to get ready to ball in the Coliseum, coming in the wake of Matt Kalil. USC’s O-line was incredible last year, giving up a conference-low eight sacks. Tuerk would surely have his work cut out for him and even if he doesn’t need to start, he will likely be Walker’s backup. These freshmen are getting a crash course in what it means to be a man of Troy, and in just a few short weeks, their skills and mental toughness might be called into question. Their development—and likely that of other newcomers, like LB Scott Star who got a few reps at middle linebacker on one of the days Lamar Dawson was out with injury—will be another critical factor in USC offsetting its 75-scholarship player roster, when everyone else in the Pac-12 will be touting 85.

6. Position Battles

So far, only two position battles have really stood out in the first week of camp. DEs Greg Townsend Jr. and J.R. Tavai are duking it out to replace Devon Kennard at left defensive end, and the competition between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek for the QB 2 title has yet to be determined. Obviously, the first position battle is of more import, as one of them is absolutely going to have to start this season. Kessler and Wittek still have a year before either of them has to command the troops, but establishing a backup will indicate who we can expect to look for when Barkley comes out for a few plays during the season. Also, it means that one of these guys is likely to transfer if he does not get the backup job. Kiffin said that he will have this situation hammered out by the start of the season, so we will have a few more weeks for the conclusion of this drama.

7. Silas Redd Getting the USC Offense

Silas Redd, the biggest story of USC’s offseason once their 2013 recruiting class was set, has only been with the Trojans a week and has already made some waves. During the scrimmage in the Coliseum he broke off a 43-yard run on his first carry, giving a glimpse of what he is prepared to do while wearing a cardinal and gold jersey. He has often gushed about USC in media scrums, noting his transfer as one of the best decisions of his life, and saying that USC is his “new family” now.

He got a riveting introduction to the Trojan Family in practice when Lamar Dawson laid a big hit on him, and the defensive players on the sidelines shouted, “Welcome to USC!” He and Curtis McNeal are going to make a mighty fine tandem on the ground come September.

USC will start Week 2 on Monday at 3:15. Two-a-days had originally been scheduled but because Kiffin felt like the team had done so well in the first week, he is giving them Monday morning off.

What does the second week of Fall Camp have in store? We will know in a matter of hours, but if the football gods are kind to the Trojans, it will come with no unwelcome surprises.