1) Freshmen Will Play
Recruits take note. When Steve Sarkisian and his staff tell a high school athlete that they will have a chance to play right away, they mean it.
Fall camp ended with the release of the Trojans’ official depth chart for the season opener against Fresno State and that aforementioned fact stood out immediately.USC will start three first year players on offense – slot receiver Ajene Harris, left guard Toa Lobendahn and right guard Damien Mama. The latter two are making history by becoming the first pair of true freshman to start on the offensive line for the Trojans to begin a season.
And it doesn’t end there.
The prize jewels of USC’s most recent recruiting class, JuJu Smith and Adoree’ Jackson, are set to see the field in the opener with places in the two-deep. Jackson even appears to have the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball as a back up at cornerback and slot receiver.
Beyond those, there are others like tight end Bryce Dixon, strongside linebacker Ochenna Nwosu, and weakside linebacker Olajuwon Tucker who figure to do their part against the Bulldogs.
On the one hand, Sarkisian will get to show off some of the more exciting young talents in the country. On the other hand, he is putting his faith in the hands of players who may not be ready to reward that faith.
Of particular concern are Lobendahn and Mama, who might be given the protection afforded past freshman offensive line starters like Max Tuerk and Chad Wheeler. One need only think back on Cyrus Hobbi’s unfortunate debut to see what a premature appearance can do to a lineman.