It’s not too often that there are as many roster changes in one week in college football team as the USC Trojans saw last week.
There were five transfer departures confirmed in RB Amir Carlisle, WR Brice Butler, WR Kyle Prater, DB T.J. Bryant and DB Patrick Hall. There was also an incoming transfer announced with former Florida safety Josh Shaw, who enrolled at USC in time for the spring semester.
Carlisle was the biggest surprise of the group. There weren’t any previously known issues with Carlisle, and his future was thought to be bright within the USC offense. He was a shifty runner with good speed, excellent hands and a surprising amount of toughness in his running style.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin had been a fan of Carlisle’s since early in fall camp and gave Carlisle opportunities when he was healthy. Carlisle would have been the primary backup to incumbent starter Curtis McNeal heading into spring practice, with the potential to earn the starting job as a junior in 2013.
That’s not a bad path to take, so it was a shock when Carlisle announced he would leave. It was even more of a shock when he announced his destination, South Bend. There aren't too many transfers within the USC-Notre Dame rivalry, and Carlisle facing off against his old teammates is going to ramp up the rivalry even more than it usually does.
Combining the loss of Carlisle with the earlier departure of Dillon Baxter leaves the USC backfield somewhat slim at the tailback spot. In addition to McNeal, the Trojans will have sophomore D.J. Morgan and redshirt freshman Buck Allen. With so few bodies, it’s easy to see why D.J. Foster has become such an important target in recruiting.
The wide receiver spot also got a jolt with the departures of Butler and Prater. The Butler one, when he said he would head to San Diego State, wasn't a surprise and had been rumored for weeks. Butler would have had a solid supporting role next year with the Trojans but was looking for something more to help boost his chances at an NFL future. Since he has already graduated from USC, Butler will be immediately eligible to play next season for the Aztecs.
Prater was a common name speculated in terms of other Trojans who could possibly depart, as things just hadn’t worked out with him at USC in his first two years.
Prater suffered through injuries, inconsistent play and a lack of explosive ability with the ball in his hands. There was no guarantee his role would have increased this year with the Trojans, and he wasn’t willing to stay and see how things turned out. It is likely that Prater will transfer to a school closer to his Midwest home, with Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern mentioned as possible destinations.
Two players who will definitely benefit by the departures of Butler and Prater are George Farmer and Victor Blackwell. It was announced last week by Kiffin that Farmer would be returning to wide receiver on a full-time basis, and Farmer will compete right away with Blackwell for the No. 3 spot in the rotation. De’Von Flournoy is a senior in the rotation, but there isn't a sense that he is ready to stake his claim to more playing time.
The defensive backfield also got a shake-up, with two losses at cornerback in Bryant and Hall.
The transfer of Bryant had actually been announced by Kiffin at the end of the regular season. Bryant will graduate from USC and be allowed to transfer immediately to another school without having to sit out. This will allow him to play next season with the hopes of earning a shot at the next level.
It didn’t make sense earlier this season when the coaches decided to redshirt Bryant, but it does in hindsight. If he had played last season, his eligibility would have expired. But since he wasn’t going to see playing time for the Trojans anyway, it made sense to redshirt him and at least give him the opportunity to play somewhere else next season while still earning his USC degree.
Hall just never really got it going at USC, in part due to a pair of knee injuries which prevented him from staying on the field for any length of time. Hall originally hurt the knee in his first fall camp at USC in 2009 and then had academic issues which delayed his enrollment to the university.
Hall was working out at corner last summer and looking pretty good as he was trying to make his way back from the first injury but then he went down after being untouched on an interception return. It was another knee injury, which him out of action last season.
His off-the-field dedication to his rehab and classwork had been a struggle and eventually it led to the decision for him to leave. There aren't too many corners with his athleticism and Hall had a chance to be a good one if he could have stayed healthy.
The Trojans have real good depth at corner, so the losses shouldn’t hurt this season. In fact, the secondary got the benefit of an added body when Shaw announced that he would be coming to USC.
Shaw doesn’t play corner anymore, even though he was a pretty good one at Palmdale (Calif.) High School. He grew out of the position at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and should fit right in to the long term plans at safety. It’s unclear right now if he will be eligible in 2012, but the Trojans just added Gerald Bowman as a junior college transfer, so they should be set even if Shaw cannot play until 2013.