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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #18 USC Trojans

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 3, 2016

#18 USC Trojans

2015 Recap:
8-6 is never a good thing for USC, especially when dropping three out of four down the stretch including a tight bowl game loss to Wisconsin (hmmm....I wonder when Wisconsin will come up in the countdown). There is a lot fo firepower returning on offense and the defense will be much healthier, USC lost a lot of able bodies down the stretch.


Coaching:
Clay Helton is at the controls after taking over after the season began last year with the Steve Sarkisian fiasco. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin has a bevy of offensive weapons while Clancy Pendergrast has some talent to work on the defensive side of the football.


Offense

For USC it all comes down to quarteback play this year after three year starter Cody Kessler is now with the Cleveland Browns at the NFL level. Max Browne takes his turn at quarterback for the Trojans, no stress taking that position right witht he amount of NFL talent that has passed through the University.  Sam Darnold does have the ability to push Browne and will be able to take over with a slow start by Browne. The best part about Browne taking over is he has such a capable stable of receivers available to throw to, including what could be the best overall wide receiver at the NCAA level. JuJu Smith-Schuster is back after posting 89-1454-10 numbers as a sophomore. Darreus Rogers starts alongsaide while the slot is occupied by fulltime cornerback/return specialist and receiver Adoree Jackson. Jackson is one of the most electric players in the open field and USC is rightfully trying to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. The 1-2 punch at running back with Justin Davis and Ronald Jones III is enough to keep any opposing defense honest. Zach Banner leads an offensive that returns all five starters and averages 318 pounds.
 

Best Draft Prospects: JuJuSmith-Schuster WR 1st Round 2017 (Early Declaration and top 10 overall pick).

                                       Zach Banner OT 2nd Round 2017.


Defense

It's been a few years since USC had a dominant defense and the lack of punch up front has been apparent over the last two years. USC registered 38 sacks on the season but gave up 38 as well. Many of the sacks came from opposing quarterbacks holding onto the football too long and the stat is a little misleading. The four starters up front do not include a senior and most of the players have experience despite not starting a season ago. Newcomer Oluwole Betiku is a defensive end that rushes the opposing quarterback like an outside linebacker. Betiku should be starting by the middle of the season if he doesn't start there at the beginning. Noah Jefferson looks to be the next dominant lineman in line at USC as the defensive tackle is poised for a big season. Cameron Smith was the Pac 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and led the team in tackles despite missing the last four games due to a season-ending injury. All four members of the secondary are back and Adorree Jackson is joined by Iman Marshall at the other cornerback position.

Best Draft Prospects: Cameron Smith LB 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration).

                                      Adoree Jackson CB 2nd Round 2017 (Early Declaration).


Special Teams:

Chris Tilbey switches from Australian Rules Football to American football and he is slated to be the new punter. It looks like Matt Boermeester will be the new kicker but that determination has yet to be made. Adorree Jackson leaves the special teams return game in more than capable hands.


Schedule:

Things get real right out of the gate as USC will play their opener in Arlington against the defending National Champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Weeks 3 and 4 begins  the Pac 12 schedule and it starts with a pair of road games against Stanford and Utah. The next time USC has back-to-back road games is late in the schedule against a much improved Washington squad and the annual grudge match of Los Angeles against UCLA. Notre Dame comes to town to end the year in what looks to be one of the toughest schedules in the nation.



Draft and Overall Outlook:

The draft picks are there, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster looking like the top receiver in the nation and ther favorite for the Fred Biletnikoff Award. Zach Banner is a top flight lineman that also has first round potential for the upcoming draft. As far as how the team will fair thsi will be the first full year under new coach Clay Helton so this remians to be seen. Even with hitting some bumps in the road USC continues to be a recruiting powerhouse and the individual talent is there.

 

DJ Boyer