The USC Trojans did win the Pac 12 South last season, but their final record of 8-6 did little to live up to the tradition and glory that the Trojans are expected to achieve on the football field.
It’s not a matter of talent, this team is pretty loaded and the recruiting has been more than good over the past few seasons.
The biggest question facing the USC Trojans from now until the starter is announced, or, when they face Alabama in their opening game, is who will be the next USC Quarterback.
Right now, Max Browne is expected to be the guy. The former 5 star recruit and top Quarterback in the nation has been patiently waiting behind Cody Kessler for a couple of seasons. That in and of itself in today’s times is almost a miraculous thing. Quarterbacks in today’s game don’t wait around for their chance, but that’s exactly what Max Browne has done.
Browne is 6-5, 220 and has a really strong throwing arm. He’s played very little over the past two seasons, but he is the most experienced Quarterback that they have.
He will compete with redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, sophomore Jalen Greene and true freshman Matt Fink. Although, realistically, probably only Sam Darnold has any shot at all at beating out Browne.
Darnold himself was a highly recruited Quarterback coming out of high school and he looks really good. Greene is more of a running threat and he will need to prove he can hit open receivers before taking the job. He has been at Quarterback, and then to Wide Receiver, and then back to Quarterback for USC over the past couple of years.
Matt Fink was also a highly recruited Quarterback and he is talented, but a true freshman probably has little shot here. However, as an early enrollee Fink has been a pleasant surprise this Spring and he looks like a guy with a bright future. Unlike Browne and Darnold, Fink can really run. He’s not the prototypical USC Quarterback of this century such as Carson Palmer, Matt Lienart and Mark Sanchez.
Expect Max Browne to play against Alabama in their opening game and he deserves a shot.
One reason many were optimistic about USC last year and now again this season is their Offensive Line. Some of these guys have been starting since their true freshman season. They are big and they are talented.
Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner at the Tackle positions are very experienced. The Guards should be Damian Mama and Viane Talamaivao a pair of juniors that have started from day one of their freshmen seasons. This should be a very deep, experienced and dominating Offensive Line.
*Clay Helton was named head coach after serving as interim coach. The Trojans were 3-2 when they fired Steve Sarkisian. They were 5-4 after Sarkisian was gone and Helton was in charge. This team is loaded, so I am not sure how that reflects on Helton. Maybe he deserves some time to get his own program going. On the surface, this was not an exciting hire. But, Helton is loved by the players and they went wild when he was announced as permanent coach.
*JuJu Smith-Schuster is USC’s top Wide Receiver for 2016 just as he was in 2015. In today’s college football world, the Trojans have only one more season to take advantage of this guy. Smith-Schuster is a good sized receiver at 6-2, 215. He is explosive with great hands and just a play maker. He has the knack for coming up with the big play. He might be the top Wide Receiver in the country in 2016 after hauling in 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 Touchdowns.
*Adoree Jackson is big time on either side of the ball. When I watch him, he reminds somewhat of Deion Sanders. He’s a very explosive player as a Cornerback, or a Wide Receiver, or as a return man.
Jackson did get burned by Will Fuller of Notre Dame, but my theory is Jackson had tired legs from playing offense, defense and returning punts and kicks.
But, Jackson is a track guy and has hopes of making the Olympic team. Last year, Jackson had 27 receptions for 414 yards and 2 Touchdowns. He had 2 punt returns for Touchdowns. While he didn’t return any Kickoffs for Touchdowns in 2015, he had 2 Kickoff return Touchdowns in 2014. He did average 23 yards per return this year on Kickoffs. As a Cornerback, Jackson had 35 tackles and 8 passes defended. He also had an interception which, of course, he returned for a Touchdown.
*Cameron Smith was an early enrollee last year and came in and started as a true freshman. Smith is big time and reminds of some of the Trojan Linebackers of old. Smith is 6-2, 245 and really good against the run. But, in the Utah game, Smith picked off 3 passes and took one of them back for a Touchdown. The other 2 Interceptions he ran nearly to the End Zone and setting up the offense for easy scores. Smith is a difference maker and losing him near the end of the season was difficult on the defense. He injured his knee and did not play the last 4 games.
Smith at out the Spring recovering, but he should be ready for the Fall.
*Porter Gustin came in with the class of 2015 and played some at Outside Linebacker. Gustin is an outstanding athlete and 6-5, 250
His father played Quarterback at Wyoming and his mother played basketball at BYU. Gustin is a premier athlete and the expect him to have a breakout sophomore season in 2016. They will use him as an Outside Linebacker/Defensive End and hopefully bring heat to the Quarterback on every passing play. He just has that Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing feel about him and he could be special.
*Oluwole Betiku was the Trojans top recruit in the 2016 season. In the Spring Game, the early
enrollee Betiku was lined up at Defensive End and he easily ran down super speedy Quarterback Jalen Greene when he tried to run outside. Originally from Lagos, Nigeria Betiku finished his high school football at Gardena, California. He is about 6-3, 250 which is smallish for a Defensive Lineman against a power running team that they will face in game one when they take on defending national champion Alabama.
But, Betiku can put on some muscle and become a star Defensive Lineman for the Trojans.
*Speaking of true freshmen, another early enrollee involved the Spring Game was Liam Jimmons from Huntington Beach, California. He was only rated a 3 star, but he was impressive and he’s another guy that just as that look about him. The recruiting services had him at 6-4, 235 and as a
Defensive End. But, the Trojan’s Spring roster had him at 6-5, 265 and as a Defensive Tackle. Obviously, he’s not through growing and he looks like he could be a good one for them down the road if not this season.
*The Trojans lost super star Defensive End/Tackle Leonard Williams last year when he was picked with the 6th pick of the first round by the New York Jets. This season, they lose every starter from last year. They really need for Kenny Bigelow to remain healthy in the 2016 season. Bigelow is 6-3, 290 and could be a star for the Trojans if they can keep him on the field.
Bigelow was one of their top recruits in the 2013 class right behind Su’a Cravens and Max Browne. Bigelow was the 3rd ranked Defensive Tackle in his class but he has struggled with injuries since his arrival.
*The Tight End position at USC is deep and that’s with the loss of Bryce Dixon included. Taylor McNamara, Tyler Petite and Daniel Imatorbhebhe are all really talented players. They have 4 star recruit Cary Angeline coming in the summer and he is a 6-7 guy with huge potential.
*Osa Masina was another top recruit of the 2015 class. He was the 8th rated Outside Linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class and he is another 4 star recruit that the Trojans stole out of the state of Utah. Masina is 6-4, 250 and will be a star Outside Linebacker or a Defensive End for USC. He is very
similar to Porter Gustin because he is a big guy that can run.
*The USC Trojans open with Alabama, and they have the maybe most difficult schedule in country. 11 out of 12 teams were in bowls last year and Colorado lost several really close games and could have been a bowl team.
* If USC is great, college football is better. A lot of people hate them, but if there’s a strong USC, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame and those traditional powers are great then college football is so much better. Who wants a college football season where only the SEC is great? It’s more fun to watch with a lot of great teams that are loaded with talent.
We need USC back at the level they were when Pete Carroll was around, or another power to rise in the West.
*Jake Olson came in and snapped for the Field Goal attempts and he was perfect every time. Olson is blind.
You think you have problems? Olson has had to fight cancer and blindness and he can still snap a football perfectly to a holder and he can play golf better than most.
He received a standing ovation from the fans. He is an inspiration to the team.
*Tee Martin is Clay’s Offensive Coordinator. He is the guy that did what Peyton Manning couldn’t do. He led the Tennessee Volunteers to the national championship the year that Manning was a rookie. Martin played a little in the NFL and in Europe before getting into coaching.
This will be his first time as a college Offensive Coordinator. That’s a bit unnerving if you are a Trojan fan. But, he has been the Passing Game Coordinator.
*Clancy Pendergast is the new Defensive Coordinator and unlike Martin, Pendergast is very
experienced. It’s exciting to think what Pendergast can do with Iman Marshall, Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, Oluwole Betiku and so many others.
*Lynn Swann is the new Athletic Director replacing Pat Haden. I liked Haden as a football player, but not so much as an Athletic Director. Swann is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and maybe the most graceful Wide Receiver a lot of us have ever laid eyes on. The Trojans like to hire former players as Athletic Director and the results have been less than spectacular. Swann is a very likable guy, but will he have a clue leading one of the greatest schools in the country?
Like the hiring of head coach Clay Helton, this should not give any Trojan fans a warm fuzzy feeling.
*Alabama being first on the schedule for USC could be interesting. The Crimson Tide will be quite a bit better than the Trojans, but Alabama may struggle with their Quarterback situation early so this may be the only shot anyone has at them before SEC play begins.
The most interesting story here may be Alabama Offensive Coordinator versus the school he was the head coach for a brief period. There’s a lot of bad blood between USC and Lane Kiffin.
That may have very little bearing on the game, but there is going to b