Depth chart projections: Defensive line

2011 depth chart

DE – Wes Horton or Devon Kennard

DT – DaJohn Harris, George Uko, J.R. Tavai, Christian Heyward

NG – Christian Tupou, DaJohn Harris, Antwaun Woods

DE – Nick Perry, Kevin Greene, Greg Townsend

Projected depth chart for 2012

DE – Horton or Kennard, Burks

DT – Uko or Heyward, Armond Armstead possibly

NG – Tavai or Woods

DE – Perry (?), Townsend, Greene

There are definitely some variables along the line next year which could have a major impact.

The first is Nick Perry, once thought to basically be a lock to leave early for the draft. Perry has played well this year but probably not well enough to earn his way into a high-round selection. Will that still be enough for him to leave? It remains to be seen.

The second unknown is the status of Armond Armstead. Technically, Armstead can come back if all the medical issues are cleared and if he did, it would be a huge boost of an experienced big body in the middle. If he leaves, not only do the Trojans lose his presence on the field but it also means his brother Arik, a top recruit, probably won’t be at USC either.

Assuming Horton and Kennard stay, things are solid at one end spot. Both of them are a year older and wiser, they should really dominate in 2011. As it stands now, Charles Burks could offer a nice change-of-pace in a reserve role with his unique pass-rushing skills.

The other end spot obviously depends a lot on Perry. If he leaves, it’s possible that either Kennard or Horton would flip over. Greg Townsend has been coming along nicely in recent weeks and has a nice future, but he’s not going to offer a better starting option as a redshirt freshman as opposed to a veteran senior. Kevin Greene continues to show slow progress, at this point it seems unlikely he would play a major role.

At nose guard, the Trojans are going to be young. Tavai is getting a lot of good reps right now and it looks like it will either be him or Antwaun Woods in the starting spot. Tavai has also shown the ability to play other spots so he could be a versatile player in that regard.

Armstead is the only real veteran option at tackle. George Uko has seen playing time this season, but I think most people were hoping to see a little more from Uko so far. He’s got an awful lot of potential though. Heyward is one to keep an eye on. He really moves well for his size and he could be a real sleeper. There’s no doubt it would be ideal to have Armstead come back because of his experience, if not the Trojans young interior players will need some time to grow into their roles.