Previously, we talked about how USC will probably have one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12 this season, and today we are going to elaborate as to why.
It’s funny that this is even the case for the Trojans when you consider that for the past two seasons, this unit was considered one of the weakest links, consistently. Sure, ‘SC had fierce, dominating playmakers in free safety T.J. McDonald and cornerback Nickell Robey and…that’s about it. Jawanza Starling emerged as a viable strong safety last season when he had a couple of clutch fumble recoveries (most notably the one that was the game-changer against Notre Dame), but up until then HE—and the other back up safeties and corners, for that matter—had been streaky at best. To their credit, they made a significant improvement from the Kiffins’ first season at ‘SC to last, finally getting a hang of Monte Kiffin’s scheme. And they also were ravished by injuries, so they did the best they could with what they had.
This season though, it’s fair to say that Trojan fans can expect even more out of the secondary.
For starters, depth won’t be an issue this time around. USC is returning all of its starters at both safety and cornerback positions, and that’s just the beginning. At safety, the Trojans currently have six guys who could play the position if need be. Obviously, T.J. McDonald will continue to hold it down at free safety, lighting up wide receivers like they are going out of style. Behind him are Drew McCallister and Josh Shaw, the Florida transfer who was recently cleared by the NCAA to play this season. All three of these guys have in game experience, and if (God forbid) anything were to happen to McDonald, either McCallister or Shaw could fill in for him with no problem. At strong safety, USC has current starter Jawanza Starling, with Demetrius Wright and Gerald Bowman backing him up. Similarly, the Trojans have three capable options to fill this position.
At cornerback, the Trojans have four guys who could start at any given point, and that’s not counting the backups or incoming freshman. We know that Nickell Robey, USC’s—and arguably the Pac-12’s—best shut down corner, is going to do work. And we know that Isiah Wiley, the likely starter as of now, is going to compliment him well. So that leaves two other potential starters (Torin Harris and Brian Baucham) to rotate in and out with these guys, creating all kinds of havoc for opponents.
With that, USC will have around ten hard-hitting, skull-crushing, ball-hawking secondary men who would just love to turn opposing teams into highlights. With them, the USC defense will dare its foes to pass the ball deep, for they know what waits in store for receivers should they venture into those waters.
So if the question is, “Should other teams worry about USC’s secondary?” the answer is “Absolutely.”