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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #4 USC

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 25, 2017

#4 USC Trojans

2016 Recap:
A 1-3 start looked like it spelled doom for the Trojans and then they made a committment to Sam Darnold as the quarterback. USC rattled off 9 wins in a row to finish the year 10-3 beating Penn State 52-49 in a Rose Bowl for the ages. During the winning streak USC outscored their opponents 359-198 or an average of 40-22.


Coaching:
Clay Helton was all but replaced as the USC head coach after the brutal start. This year will be a big test as we see how much he was respossible for the turnaround last year or if it was merely the quarterback change.

 

Offense

One of the reasons Sam Darnold enjoyed so much success last season was he had the cleanest jersey of an Pac-12 quarterback, meaning he was sacked less than anybody else. Darnold will not run for a ton of yards but his ability to feel the rush, step up in the pocket and make plays make him a dangerous quarterback and one who is getting a lot of Heisman hype. It's also nice to have a running back supporting you responsibl; for over 2,500 yards from scrimmage over the last two seasons running the ball for you. Ronald Jones II is the forgotten man in the potent Trojan offense. Deontay Burnett looks to be the next in a log line of big time USC receivers and the offensive line was so fdeep last season that reloading for 2017 shouldn't be a problem.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Sam Darnold QB 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate and Possible Top Selection).

                                       Viane Talamaivao OG 3rd Round 2018.


Defense

Coordinator Clancy Pendergast has left his mark on this team as USC visbily imp[roved throughout the season. It's true they allowed 49 points in the Rose Bowl but making big plays and stopp9ing third down conversions were areas where USC was near the top of the Pac-12 statistics. Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin seem to have an unspoken chemisty when playing in space near one another and end Rasheem Green could be one of the FBS breakout players on defense. Iman Marshall leads a secondary unit that shows some of the best open field tackling skills displayed meaning they are eager and willing to help the front seven in run support.

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

                                       Rasheem Green DE 2nd Round 2019.


Special Teams:

Michael Brown looks to be the new placekicker as Matt Boermeester was lost through suspension. Aussie Chris TIlbey is back to punt and although his average is on the lower side he excels in pinning opponents inside the 20 or angling punts out of bounds. We all know Adoree Jackson is impossible to replace in the return game, we will see who emerges with the spot(s) when the season begins.


Schedule:

We doubt Western Michigan goes undefeated to a bowl game this year as the travel to USC week 1. Stanford on September 9th is one of the most critical early conference ganmes in the entire country. One loss rarely kills a Pac-12 team so each can can approach the game a little more freely. Washington is not on the regular season schedule and there will be a late October date in South Bend against the Fighting Irish.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

From a draft standpoint this all comes down to Sam Darnold and weather the redshirt sophomore declares for the Draft because he has an excellent shot at being the first player selected overall. There looks to be a number of defenders on this team just scratching the surface on their potential and we can see some new emembers emerging as serious threats on Draft boards.

 

DJ Boyer