Lane Kiffin’s first team at USC is a little less than spring-loaded


New Coach Lane Kiffin will hold his first practice Tuesday as the USC football team opens spring workouts at Howard Jones field on campus. The Trojans, 9-4 in 2009, will practice 15 times over the next five weeks, concluding with the annual Trojan Huddle game at the Coliseum on May 1. Times staff writer Gary Klein identifies five areas to watch between now and then:

Leading off

Matt Barkley was USC’s quarterback as a freshman last season, starting 12 games. After the season, Aaron Corp transferred to Richmond, leaving Mitch Mustain as the only other quarterback with college experience.

Kiffin said Monday that Barkley and Mustain will split first-team snaps Tuesday. The percentages after that, he said, would be determined by performance.

We’ll see.

Barkley, a right-hander, had off-season surgery on his right wrist. He has said he is feeling good and looking forward to applying what he learned in 2009.

Mustain, a senior, has not started a game since his freshman season at Arkansas in 2006. He should be buoyed by the fact that in two of the last three seasons, a backup has started at least one game for the Trojans.

Under scrutiny

The linebacker corps is a question mark again following a season that featured three new starters and several spectacular breakdowns.

Sophomore Devon Kennard had an outstanding first season at defensive end and strong-side linebacker. He will work at middle linebacker and the outside spots.

Junior Chris Galippo, last season’s starting middle linebacker, said he welcomes the competition. “Everyone is better when they are getting pushed, myself included,” he said.

Down in front

With super recruit Seantrel Henderson not scheduled to arrive until summer, the Trojans will experiment with combinations on the offensive line.

Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith and Kevin Graf will get looks at left tackle.

The defensive line will be tested physically and mentally by demanding assistant coach Ed Orgeron, who broke down and then built up All-Americans such as Kenechi Udeze and Mike Patterson.

Nick Perry, a freshman All-American, will push to start at end ahead of Wes Horton or Armond Armstead.

New guys

Dillon Baxter and Kyle Prater graduated from high school in December to get an early jump on learning the offense.

Baxter, a touchdown machine at San Diego Mission Bay High, will play running back as the coaching staff experiments with his multipurpose skills. Seniors Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable are the top returning tailbacks. Junior Marc Tyler and sophomore Curtis McNeal are competing for carries.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Prater is built like former Kiffin-recruited receivers Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett and Patrick Turner.

Of primary concern

. . . is the secondary.

Senior cornerback Shareece Wright, who intercepted a pass in the Emerald Bowl after sitting out nearly all of the last two seasons because of a neck injury and academic ineligibility, is the most experienced player in a unit that will have four new starters.

Junior T.J. Bryant, sophomore Brian Baucham and redshirt freshman Torin Harris are among those competing for the other corner spot and nickel position.

With sophomore Jawanza Starling splitting time between football and baseball, sophomore T.J. McDonald, junior Drew McAllister, redshirt freshman Byron Moore and freshman Patrick Hall will compete at safety.