While expectations aren’t nearly as high as last season, there is still a tremendous amount of pressure on the Trojans to play well. Football is a team sport, and at the risk of placing too much blame on the cornerbacks, they underperformed last season.
The cornerbacks were part of a Trojan defense that allowed 60-percent of passes attempted against them to be completed, while yielding slightly over 11 yards per completion.
Entering the 2013 season, this position presents an interesting mix of concern and hope. One of the two standouts in the group who consistently played well last season was Josh Shaw; the other being Nickell Robey, who has moved onto the NFL. Shaw has since been moved back to his more natural safety position, where it appears the coaches intend on keeping him.
In part due to scholarship reductions, the experience at cornerback isn’t anything to write home about. However, given the talent at the position, which will be under the tutelage of Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach, Clancy Pendergast, there is optimism that the performance from the unit will improve.
The most experienced among the cornerbacks is redshirt senior Torin Harris. Harris had his best season at USC in 2012, recording 30 tackles while appearing in 10 games. Despite setting a personal high in tackles last season, whether or not Harris is able to establish himself as the leader of the group remains to be seen. He has consistently battled a shoulder injury, was often beat by opposing wide receivers last season, and is listed as an “OR” on the post-spring depth chart, meaning he hasn’t completely solidified his status as a starter.
A large amount of responsibility and expectations could fall on redshirt junior Anthony Brown, who has shown flashes of potential over the course of the last two seasons. Brown was particularly impressive in 2011, before breaking his ankle in an October game against Cal. His hard work proved dividends as he’s listed as a starting corner on the current depth chart.
After Harris and Brown, the question marks begin to surface. Should the Trojans need to go to a nickel or dime package on defense, who would step in? The first up could be Kevon Seymour, a sophomore who appeared in eight games last season. Seymour is pushing Harris for a starting spot and regardless of the outcome, figures to see significant time in 2013.
After Seymour is more inexperience in Ryan Henderson, Ryan Dillard, Devian Shelton, and the highly-touted freshman Chris Hawkins, who enrolled a semester early at USC.
Hawkins may be a likely candidate to redshirt, however injuries and poor performance could force Lane Kiffin’s hand into playing him. After all, Kiffin is coaching for his job this season, right?
Despite who the starters and reserves are, each player must be prepared to contribute and play in a defensive scheme that may often leave them isolated in one-on-one coverage.
The talent is there for improved play in 2013, it’s just a matter of the players putting it all together out on the field.