Key position battles during USC camp:
With three receiving slots, there are plenty of choices. But while depth is a strength, there isn’t a dominant big-play guy like the departed Alshon Jeffery. Ace Sanders, the leading returning receiver with 29 catches last season, looks to have one spot locked up, but it’s going to be wide open for the other two. Veterans D.L. Moore and D’Angelo Smith lead the way heading into practice, but Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones all will push for appreciable playing time as well, as will freshmen Shaq Roland and Kwinton Smith.
Two sophomores are going head-to-head at this spot in Mike Matulis (6-5, 274) and Cody Gibson (6-7, 278). Both players showed flashes of great potential last season, as Gibson started the middle four games there and Matulis started the final four. That experience should provide solid depth at this spot.
Everybody knows Marcus Lattimore is the top dog. But the scramble for carries behind him is going to be intense between four tailbacks, all of whom have ability in their own right. Senior Kenny Miles and sophomore Brandon Wilds stepped up big at various times after Lattimore went down with a knee injury last season, while freshmen Shon Carson and Mike Davis both have plenty of promise.
A quartet of seniors will mix it up for the two starting spots: Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowens, Damario Jeffery and Quin Smith. Wilson (52 tackles last season) and Bowens (44 tackles) enter practice as the probable starters, both Smith (48 tackles) and Jeffery, who’s moving over from the spur position, figure to be right in the mix for playing time.
Both spots are up for grabs this month after the departures of Jay Wooten and Joey Scribner-Howard from last season. Senior Adam Yates will compete with freshmen Landon Ard and Nick St. Germain for place-kicking duties, while junior Mike Williamson and sophomore Patrick Fish are vying for the punting job. None have game experience at this level.
-- Compiled by Neil White