Five players to watch this spring

Greg Townsend Jr. has all the necessary physical tools to make an impact as a rotation defensive end, and spring practice will go a long way to seeing if he's mentally ready to make that leap. Garry Paskwietz/WeAreSC.com

LOS ANGELES -- With spring practice now officially one week away, let's take a look at five players who have stood out in offseason workouts and seem to be ready for bigger roles this spring.

WR Victor Blackwell -- There has been a lot of attention paid to the move of George Farmer back to wide receiver and deservedly so, as Farmer has looked good in returning to his preferred position. However, Farmer is going to have competition for the No. 3 receiver spot from Blackwell, a speedy redshirt freshman who has the kind of burst and explosion that Lane Kiffin wants to see in his receivers. Blackwell also has one advantage over Farmer, as his familiarity with Matt Barkley dates back to when both played at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei HS.

OT Kevin Graf -- It may seem a little odd to have Graf on this list considering that he started all 12 games last season for the Trojans at right tackle, but Graf has his sights set on a position switch to left tackle this spring and has worked hard to put himself in good position for the open job. He's shown up in winter workouts in terrific shape and will get the first crack at the opening, although the coaches have made it clear that Aundrey Walker could get a look as well. Graf was primarily a left tackle in high school.

DE Greg Townsend -- The Trojans have a pair of senior starters at defensive end but not a lot of experience behind them. Townsend is one of the players who will get every opportunity to be the next guy in line in the rotation and seems well-prepared for the role. He's got terrific physical gifts with a big frame and natural pass-rushing instincts. There's no doubt that Townsend could have physically handled playing last year as a true freshman, but the redshirt year did wonders for him, allowing him to watch and learn from veteran players on the line. The patience to sit him out should begin to pay off this spring.

FB Soma Vainuku -- The transition year is over for Vainuku, as the Trojans need him to step up into the starting spot vacated by Rhett Ellison. Vainuku took part in spring drills last year at his new position after playing tailback in high school and struggled with the transition. After spending a redshirt season learning from Kennedy Polamalu and Ellison, Vainuku feels confident that he's ready to become the starter. Once he proves that he's has the mental part of the position taken care of, look out because Vainuku has some powerful physical skills to contribute as a blocker, runner and receiver.

OT Aundrey Walker -- Walker has made a huge transformation in his physical frame as he's down to the 315-320-pound range and looking good. Walker already moved fairly well last fall for a man who was tipping the scales at a much higher weight, so it stands to reason that the weight loss should benefit his foot speed once spring ball comes around. Walker has already shown the ability to compete at both right guard and right tackle. He will also see some time at left tackle this spring and will likely come out of spring as the starter at one of the two tackle spots.

Honorable mention

WR George Farmer, OC Cyrus Hobbi, LB Tre Madden, DT J.R. Tavai, DT George Uko