Early Thursday morning, USC released its depth chart heading into Saturday’s season opener against Rice. And it did provide some clarity on certain things.
Transfers Jordan Addison, Mario Williams and Brenden Rice have secured the starting receiver jobs. Sophomore Ceyair Wright has earned the second corner job opposing Mekhi Blackmon. Max Williams will start at safety while Jaylin Smith takes over at nickel.
But for some positions, battles will remain ongoing heading into the Coliseum for Week 1.
Notably on offense, transfer Travis Dye and Austin Jones share the title of first-team running back on the depth chart, followed by freshman Raleek Brown.
While returning back Darwin Barlow was left off the two-deep, head coach Lincoln Riley said the hope is for all four players to get some amount of activity against the Owls.
“I don’t know that I’d want to commit to something publicly on that,” Riley said on his weekly Zoom call, “but I would say there’s not a scenario where there’s just one guy getting a ton. And there is certainly a plan and a hope that we can get a chance to rep all four of them because we do think that we have four quality players in our backfield right now.”
As forecasted by offensive line coach Josh Henson earlier in the week, left tackle remains up for discussion, with both Courtland Ford and transfer Bobby Haskins listed as potential first-team options. Riley said it’s been one of those good problems, with both players stepping up rather than no one making much of an impression.
Both Ford and Haskins will play on Saturday as they look to distinguish themselves.
A more surprising either/or listed on the first team was at Will linebacker, with both captain Shane Lee and returner Ralen Goforth listed with the first team. But Riley said Thursday that Lee will start alongside Eric Gentry at Mike backer.
“Ralen is a pretty clear third guy going into the game. We’ll certainly play Ralen,” Riley said.
Special teams shakeup
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the depth chart was redshirt freshman Denis Lynch earning the job kicking field goals for USC out of camp over veteran Alex Stadthaus.
Stadthaus, who will still handle kickoff duties on Saturday, made all six of his field-goal attempts and all 11 of his point-after attempts last season. After receiving a scholarship in the off-season, it was expected he would be USC’s primary kicker this year.
But Lynch’s consistency in camp won him the job.
“It was close, man. We had two outstanding kickers,” Riley said. “Denis is one of the hardest-working specialists I’ve been around. … What guys did before, we’re not paying a whole lot of attention to. It’s going to be about production and results now.”
As for punting duties, Australian Aadyn Sleep-Dalton, the last person to join USC’s roster, will take over the responsibility.