USC coach Lincoln Riley interacts with wide receiver Kyron Ware-Hudson during spring practice at USC. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Even after all of the regular trips to the transfer portal, Lincoln Riley had never started spring with such little depth. Just 60 healthy scholarship players were suited up for USC when camp began last month — so few that the coach briefly considered adapting his practices.
No position has felt that dearth of depth this spring more than the defensive back, where a mix of departures and injuries left cornerbacks coach Donte Williams working with just six healthy players at Thursday’s final practice. One was L Simpson, a walk-on. Another was injured five-star freshman Domani Jackson, who’s not likely to see the field Saturday as his knee continues to recover. The remaining four had just a single start among them.
Among that group, sophomore Prophet Brown, the owner of that single start, may as well be a seasoned vet. By this point in spring, he’s received more reps than he could count at cornerback. Others have bounced back and forth between positions in the secondary, cross-training to make up for a lack of depth on USC’s current defense.
“Sometimes one play [off] is a blessing,” Brown said of his place in USC’s thin rotation. “Sometimes you don’t get a play. Sometimes you have to wait until the next period and thug it out.”
There shouldn’t be much waiting around for Brown during the spring game. With USC’s defense facing off directly against its offense, there’s only so much room to rotate. Likely starter Mekhi Blackmon, who transferred from Colorado, has sat out the past week with an injury and isn’t expected to play. Neither is Domani Jackson or redshirt sophomore Josh Jackson.
That leaves Brown, Ceyair Wright and a band of unproven outside corners to…