Trojans continue to tinker with lineup

Spring practice comes to a close Saturday with the Spring Football Game at the Coliseum, but that doesn’t mean the team is done making changes.

Game changers · Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin is molding Devon Kennard from the defensive line into the linebacking corp. - Geo Tu | Daily Trojan

In the last practice in pads this school year, junior linebacker Chris Galippo moved from his natural middle linebacker position to outside linebacker to make room for sophomore Devon Kennard.

Galippo got about 15 to 20 snaps in at outside linebacker and said the move from the position he’s played his whole life didn’t feel weird.

“Mentally, outside linebacker is a lot easier than middle,” Galippo said. “You don’t have to worry about making the checks. When I’m in there, I trust Devon to make the strength calls and the checks. “

Other features of the position gave Galippo a new feeling for playing in the system.

“I like that you get a lot of space and you’re kind of on the edge,” Galippo said. “You can take a look at the formation and rush a whole lot more … I kind of felt like I was on vacation and I could just go out there and play.”

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is trying to work Kennard, a defensive end last year, into the linebacking rotation and Kennard has easily been one of the best linebackers on the field this spring. Kiffin told Galippo yesterday about his move to outside linebacker and said he chose him because of his experience.

“I completely understand. Coach Monte said he wants the three best linebackers on the field and if this is what we got to do — being the older linebacker I completely understand it,” Galippo said. “It’s a lot for Devon to go from defensive end to learning middle linebacker and if he were to go then learn outside linebacker… I can handle it.”

Galippo’s not sure what the coaching staff has in store for him beyond Saturday and doesn’t know if he’s going to be playing both middle and outside linebacker. He said he’s “absolutely fine” if Kennard is put atop the depth chart when it comes out on Friday for the spring game.

USC coach Lane Kiffin warned to put little stock in what appears on the spring game depth chart, however.

“We’ll have something on Friday but that’s pretty much in pencil,” Kiffin said. “It’s just something for [the media] to have Saturday. There will still be a lot of work in between that and the final one. Saturday will matter obviously and going back through all the stuff throughout the 15 practices.”

The wide receiver corps looks like it will be thin for the spring game. With senior David Ausberry moving over to tight end and redshirt junior Brandon Carswell and sophomore De’von Flournoy injured, the corps was already low on bodies.

Then there’s senior Ronald Johnson, who spent the majority of practice catching punts but didn’t participate in any receiver drills because of a wrist and elbow injury.

“It’s still questionable about whether he will need wrist surgery. It looks like he won’t now, but he still can’t play because of his elbow sprain,” Kiffin said.

This gave senior Travon Patterson and redshirt sophomore Brice Butler a chance to play a lot yesterday as the team practiced swing passes, wheel routes and bubble screens.

“Travon Patterson made some plays and it’s good to see Brice Butler playing better and really playing physical,” Kiffin said. “We need him to step up. He’s got potential to be a No. 2 or No. 3, but he’s got to be more consistent.”

Continuing with the injury theme that has been a storyline this spring, redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Perry left midway through practice with a left knee injury. Also, junior tight end Blake Ayles suffered his second concussion of the spring season over the weekend and will miss the remainder of practice.