The USC football team has only two weeks remaining in spring practice. The Trojans are primed to take on any opponent even though they are months away from kickoff. Many questions, however, still surround USC’s roster.

Big man · The Trojans hope redshirt junior Kevin Graf (center) will fill the void left by offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who entered this year’s NFL draft. Graf played left tackle at Agoura Hills High School. - Carlo Acenas | blastZONE

Spring practice has not been the easiest transition for the USC football program. Injuries, transfers and multi-sport athletes have hampered progress during spring practice. Despite a few roadblocks, the Trojans have made drastic changes to its roster.

Most recently, sophomore Tre Madden made the switch from linebacker to running back. Madden played backup strong side linebacker for the Trojans during his freshman season in 2011. Appearing in 12 games with one start (at Colorado), Madden totaled 15 tackles. His performance thus far during spring practice sessions has created a lot of buzz and received praise from coach Lane Kiffin.

Madden is not the only Trojan to switch positions during spring football. Much of the shake-up has occurred within two of the most crucial pieces of the Trojan puzzle — the offensive and defensive lines.

The departure of left tackle Matt Kalil for the NFL draft has left a gaping hole in the USC offensive line. The Trojans have turned to redshirt junior right tackle Kevin Graf to make the switch to the left side. Graf will ultimately have the most important role this season, as he will be protecting senior quarterback Matt Barkley’s blind side. The switch will not be too drastic for Graf as he logged experience playing left tackle in high school.

Because of Graf moving to fill Kalil’s former role, sophomore Aundrey Walker will move to right tackle. Walker served as a backup tackle and was influential on special teams during the 2011 season. Though Walker is still adjusting to playing right tackle, it is rumored that he might switch with Graf once more, if needed. Unless the most drastic situation occurs, however, the notion of switching Graf and Walker again would be truly foolish.

The Trojan defense line will have new faces in the mix in order to fill the three necessary spots vacated by Nick Perry, Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris. USC fans will not be surprised to see Wes Horton, Devon Kennard, George Uko and J.R. Tavai starting on the defensive line this fall. All have been instrumental to the potent USC defense during their time at USC. Younger players, however, such as Antwaun Woods, are looking to make their mark and earn one of the coveted starting positions.

Despite the three vacancies, the Trojan defensive line will be strong regardless of the combination decided at the conclusion of spring and fall practices.

With all the talk of position rotations within the corps of the offensive and defensive lines, it is only fair to question whether it is reasonable to switch veteran players in order to accommodate the younger players on the team.

Absolutely.

Now is the time to make necessary roster adjustments before fall camp and the imminent 2012 season. By seeing which players excel at particular positions or who` might be a better fit at another, it strengthens the program greatly. The roster adjustments can also influence off-field behaviors as well. Players like Graf are taking over leadership positions that can help ignite not only the offense but the defense as well in crucial   game-time scenarios.

In addition, the veteran players are more adjusted to the offensive and or defensive schemes. They know what is expected and can make the switch easier as opposed to a player who is still relatively new to the USC football program. The USC Trojans need to take advantage of every second of spring practice to refine and polish skills, settling them into a prime position for fall camp.

Position changes might be puzzling since only two weeks remain in spring ball, but have no fear the Trojans are still on track.

 

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