(Photo by Jon Vidar / AP)
The hills of Los Angeles are ablaze and two USC starters are down and out — one for the entire season — but the Skinny’s here to quell any fear and provide the low down on what this all means.
WR Johnson Injured: USC lost starting Wide Receiver Ronald Johnson to a broken clavicle putting him on the shelf for 6-8 weeks.
The Skinny: The wide receiver depth definitely takes a hit. However, as odd as this may sound, this could end up benefiting freshman QB Matt Barkley. David Ausberry moves into the #2 Wide Receiver position providing Barkley with a 6’5 target that is very easy to find. Ausberry has had his best fall camp since being a Trojan and has made big strides with Coach Bates now leading the offense. Over the past few seasons Ausberry did not mesh well with Sarkisian’s often critical and negative style and Bates seems to have breathed new life into the potential difference maker. Usually, Ausberry would look great in the spring but get lost in fall camp. This year, he has continued his fine play through fall camp and if it translates into games it will give Barkley a big target he can lean on in tight situations. He has Mike Williams like qualities and we all know the impact he had on Carson Palmer’s career.
Damian Williams will be the #1 option but don’t be surprised to see David Ausberry lead the team in receptions.
The injury to Johnson will also give Freshman Da’von Flourney a chance to get on the field earlier than expected. He has been extremely impressive with his playmaking ability after catching the ball. Once he gets his arms around the playbook he will be tough to keep off the field. Brice Butler is the new #3 Wide Receiver beating out Travon patterson who will now have to battle with Flourney for the few plays delegated to the #4 WR. Jordan Cameron will be utilized in red zone and short yardage situations.
The wide receiver corps will be fine as long as they can stay away from another major injury.
Thoughts on missing big hitter Shareece Wright after the jump.
Wright lost to academic issues: Starting Cornerback Shareece Wright was declared academically ineligible this weekend. Josh Pinkard will move from safety and start at cornerback.
The Skinny: Like the loss of Johnson at Wide Receiver, losing Wright mainly hurts depth and experience. The silver lining here is that Josh Pinkard is the team’s best cornerback even though he likes playing safety. He is a lock-down corner and this provides a great opportunity for him to creep out from under the shadows of Taylor Mays. It would not surprise me if he pushes for all-american status at corner. The safety position takes a little hit but Will Harris is more than capable to take over for Pinkard. The coaches took the news of Wright being out in stride because they know what Pinkard can do at corner and Harris will step in without much drop off at safety.
Depth chart released: After the mock game on Saturdy, USC released its depth chart.
The Skinny: No real surprises on the depth chart. Joe Mcknight is at the top of the top of the depth chart at Running Back even though it states that Mcknight, Johnson, Bradford or Gable could start. This has been Mcknight’s best fall camp. He has stayed injury free and shown more flashes than ever of his playmaking ability. I look for Mcknight to get opportunities early and often against San Jose State with Stafon Johnson and Alan Bradford steadily mixed in… especially in the red zone.
Bradford will finally get his chance: RB Alan Bradford has also had a great camp both with his attitude and bruising runnng style. Usually the forgotten back in the rotation, I think Bradford will finally get the opportunities he has been craving.
Who will lose out on the carries? CJ Gable might be the odd man out to start the season. The coaches want to keep the RB’s happy but it is almost impossible to rotate more than 3 backs and expect any rhythmn at the position.
Special teams notes: Walk-on punter Billy O’ Malley won the punting job from JC transfer Jake Harfman. O’ Malley does not kick as far as Harfman but according to the coaches he is a little more consistent and get’s the punt off faster. Damian Williams and Joe Mcknight will handle punt returns. CJ Gable and Curtis Mcneil will return kick-offs. Harfman will handle kick-off duties and Nebraska transfer Jonathan Congdon will kick field goals.
O’ Dowd likely out for the San Jose State game: Center Kris O’ Dowd could play if he absolutely has to against San Jose State but his goal is to be as close to 100% as possible for the Ohio State game.