Marc Tyler went from worst to first in less than a month.
Tyler, scheduled to start at tailback for USC in the season opener Thursday at Hawaii, recalled reporting for the first day of training camp, only to find that he was scripted for the fewest reps in his position group.
"I'm not going to lie," Tyler said Saturday, "I wanted to leave."
Tyler's father, Wendell, a former UCLA and NFL running back, convinced his son that graduating from USC and playing in a program administered by new Athletic Director Pat Haden, a former Los Angeles Rams teammate, was worth waiting it out.
Now, after consistent practice and scrimmage performances, the fourth-year junior from Lancaster is at the top of the depth chart.
For the time being, anyway.
"That thing could switch after Game 1," Coach Lane Kiffin said. "We haven't played one snap with any of these guys. . . . We're not going to try proving ourselves right because we named somebody a starter. If somebody plays better than them we'll change it the next day."
The often-injured Tyler was so far down the depth chart at the end of last season that defensive assistant head coach Monte Kiffin approached him about switching to linebacker.
"It didn't go very well," said Lane Kiffin, Monte's son. "[Tyler] came out of the room and he wasn't smiling very much. I'm glad he didn't give in."
So is Tyler, who has endured through several injuries dating to his senior season at Westlake Village Oaks Christian High.
"That's why I came to USC, to be the starting running back one day," he said.
Sophomore Devon Kennard won the starting middle linebacker job over junior Chris Galippo because he was more physical.
"He's just got a little more factor to him when he comes up onto the guards or the backs," Kiffin said. "He closes that space."
Galippo will remain busy, backing up all three linebacker spots and playing on special teams.
Freshman receiver Robert Woods won a starting position with his work on and off the field.
"I walk into the lunch room during training camp and he's over in a booth by himself with his playbook open instead of hanging out watching TV or listening to his iPod," Kiffin said. "That went a long ways."
Butch Lewis, who was slowed by a groin injury in training camp, participated in all drills and appears on track to start at left guard. Michael Reardon played right guard in place of Khaled Holmes, who remains limited because of neck soreness. . . . Freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins and freshman safety Demetrius Wright returned to practice after sitting out a week while awaiting certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center. . . . Freshman linebacker Hayes Pullard, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week, is expected to sit out four to five weeks, Kiffin said.