College Sports

USC FOOTBALL: 2008 POSITIONS

OFFENSE

• QB: With Blake Mitchell gone, Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher have experience, but bet on redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia winning the job in spring practice.

• RB: Rising senior Mike Davis will have to step into the departed Cory Boyd's role, although he doesn't have Boyd's physical gifts. Davis has never been an every-down back, so expect to see rising sophomore Brian Maddox with Davis in a two-back system.

• WR: With Kenny McKinley and Dion Lecorn anchoring two spots and a host of others behind them, this is easily USC's best position.

• OL: Center Web Brown leaves but the other four return. The only problem is the guards constantly shifted in and out this year and tackles Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen, despite being returning junior starters, were pushed around far too much.

DEFENSE

• DL: End Eric Norwood leads the returnees while Travian Robertson should slide into the spot vacated by Casper Brinkley. Marque Hall, Ladi Ajiboye and Jonathan Williams plug the tackle spots after playing most of this year.

• LB: The biggest question -- will Jasper Brinkley return after knee surgery and if he does, will he be his rampaging self? With Rodney Paulk and Cliff Matthews beside him, it could be one of the best units in the SEC. Without him ... well, at least there probably won't be any Darren McFadden to worry about.

• DB: Another deep, talented spot led by Captain Munnerlyn and leading tackler Emanuel Cook. If they can avoid the injuries that beat up the unit this year, it will be another fine year defending the pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS

• PK: Ryan Succop should return and has the strongest leg on the team. If his accuracy improves -- especially in clutch situations -- it's hard to find a better kicker.

• P: After two years of triple duty, perhaps it's time for Succop to concentrate solely on field goals and kickoffs, where his strength is an asset. His punting was hit-or-miss this year, and Rock Hill native Spencer Lanning has been languishing on the bench despite coach Steve Spurrier praising his practice efforts. It couldn't hurt to give Lanning a try and ease Succop's burden.

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