LOS ANGELES — USC might not issue its first depth chart of the season until Aug. 27, which means nearly 30 practices could occur before players know exactly where they stand.
This hardly seems ideal when training camps are now longer than ever and every practice snap gets scrutinized. USC fans clamor to know who is starting at positions like wide receiver but even players don’t know.
If you go by who works with the first team, you can get an idea but then the coaches try to pour water on there being a set lineup.
“The competition never ends,” USC assistant coach Tyson Helton said. “It would be wrong to think a lineup is set.”
For example, freshman wide receiver Tyler Vaughns worked exclusively with the first team until about a week ago and predictions were made that he would be a breakout player this season. But the past week, Steven Mitchell supplanted Vaughns at wide receiver.
So now Mitchell is the starter? No one knows for sure because there is no depth chart.
Sometimes, the coaches can’t fool anyone even when they try. When training camp started, Toa Lobendahn, a three-year starter, shared snaps equally at left tackle with Clayton Johnston, a little-used redshirt sophomore.
Even though USC coach Clay Helton talked up Johnston, it was still apparent Lobendahn was going to start.
Maybe there is no depth chart because outsiders would never predict who the starters appear to be at some positions like wide receiver: Deontay Burnett was not heavily recruited and overshadowed at Serra High in Gardena by stars like Adoree’ Jackson; Jalen Greene was the quarterback at Serra and has bounced between receiver and quarterback while Mitchell is coming off his second major knee operation.
Call it the perseverance crew. All are familiar with quarterback Sam Darnold, which gives them an edge.
But where are all the blue-chip recruits who were supposed to be transforming the offense? I bet defensive coordinators at Western Michigan and Stanford are skeptical…