USC football brought back special teams coach John Baxter for the 2016 season and he’ll have to restore the unit with slate of replacements.
With USC football’s 2016 spring camp due to begin next week, it’s time to look forward to preparations for the new season.
USC’s special teams have not exactly thrived since John Baxter’s departure from the program in 2013, but the special teams coach is back to set things right.
There are openings across the board for the special teams unit, so spring camp could become an interesting proving ground.
Departing (4): P Kris Albarado, K Alex Wood, SNP Nick Schlossberg, HLD Conner Sullivan, HLD Cody KesslerReturning (7): P Chris Tilbey, K Matt Boermeester, SNP Zach Smith, PR/KR Adoree’ Jackson, PR/KR Steven Mitchell, KR JuJu Smith-Schuster, KR Dominic DavisEarly Enrollees (0): N/AIncoming Freshmen (1): K Michael Brown
The Trojans are set to lose their starting punter, kicker and holder for the 2016 as Kris Albarado, Alex Wood and Conner Sullivan graduate and move onto the next stage of their lives.
Back up snapper Nick Schlossberg is also on the way out along with back up holder and quarterback Cody Kessler.
The kicking game will be the one to watch. After a disappointing 2015 season from that perspective, there is certainly room for improvement.
At kicker, the Trojans have a scholarship player in Matt Boermeester. However, the redshirt junior failed to beat out Wood for place kicking duties last year and yet another scholarship kicker, Michael Brown, will arrive this fall.
The heir apparent to Albarado and Australian punter transfer Chris Tilbey, who stands to be USC’s only scholarship punter. He boasts a strong leg and the ability to kick Aussie style, but there is no indication at this time whether or not the Trojans will deploy that particular style of punt.
Walk on punter Reid Budrovich, who was an accomplished kicker at the high school level, could make things interesting if Tilbey can’t build up separation early.
There are no departures in the returner positions for the Trojans, though Adoree’ Jackson’s Olympic pursuits will keep him out of practice this spring. That will leave Justin Davis, Dominic Davis, Steven Mitchell and JuJu Smith-Schuster the chance to make the case for more opportunities on special teams for the coming season.
From a coverage perspective, the loss of Soma Vainuku leaves a hole that will need to be filled as well.
Biggest Battle: Matt Boermeester vs. himself
Boermeester served as USC’s kickoff specialist, but couldn’t over take Wood for the starting kicker job despite Wood’s limited leg strength and shaky accuracy.
The pressure will be on when Brown, a player recruited by Baxter, arrives in the fall. For now, Boarmeester has a head start when trying to convince Baxter that he is USC’s best option.
Most to Gain: Steven Mitchell
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Mitchell has thrived during spring camp every year since he arrived at USC, but his contributions to the Trojans have not matched the talent he has been able to display during camp.
With Jackson out of the picture for the time being, stand out showings as a returner could open the door for Mitchell to take some touches away from the three-way star.
Most to Lose: Chris Tilbey
Unlike Boermeester, there’s no scholarship challenger on the horizon looking to leap frog his rise to the top of the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean Tilbey doesn’t have anything to lose this spring. Baxter didn’t recruit Tilbey to USC, so he and Budrovich will be on fairly even footing during camp.
Budrovich is capable of serving as the Trojans starting punter, so it would be unwise for Tilbey to rest on his laurels.
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