USC Football: Projecting the 2015 Fall Camp Defensive Depth Chart


USC football’s No. 1 recruiting class featured a finish that hauled in five-straight five-star players on defense. Where do they fit in on the depth chart?


DE: Delvon Simmons (R-Sr.), Greg Townsend (R-Sr.)DT: Claude Pelon (R-Sr.), Rasheem Green (Fr.)NT: Antwaun Woods (R-Sr.), Kenny Bigelow (R-So.)RUSH: Scott Felix (R-Jr.), Porter Gustin (Fr.) OR Osa Masina (Fr.)SOLB: Su’a Cravens (Jr.), Jabari Ruffin (R-Jr.) OR Osa Masina (Fr.)MILB: Michael Hutchings (Jr.), Lamar Dawson (R-Sr.)WILB: Anthony Sarao (R-Sr.), John Houston (Fr.)CB: Kevon Seymour (Sr.), Chris Hawkins (R-So.)FS: Leon McQuay III (Jr.), Ykili Ross (Fr.)SS: John Plattenburg (So.), Marvell Tell (Fr.)CB: Adoree’ Jackson (So.), Iman Marshall (Fr.)

In 2015, looking at the defense’s make up will come down to one question: where will Su’a Cravens play?

If he’s a linebacker, then the Trojans have plenty of playing time for freshmen like Marvell Tell and Ykili Ross at safety.

Should Cravens move back to strong safety, the strongside linebacker spot re-opens for Jabari Ruffin as it was last fall camp. Furthermore, it opens more opportunities for freshmen outside linebackers Osa Masina and Porter Gustin.

For now, in terms of projecting what will happen, let’s play on the assumption that Cravens stays at linebacker.

What it would mean is that the Trojans might have the deepest –albeit partially inexperienced– linebacker corps in the Pac-12, if not the country. No other team can roll as deep, with as much talent as USC, if Cravens is leading the group as the run-stopping strongside linebacker.

Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) is pressured by Southern California Trojans defensive tackle Claude Pelon (90) in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Add in returns of Ruffin and the forgotten man Lamar Dawson, and you have a group of useable pieces like Anthony Sarao and Scott Felix to accentuate the star freshmen.

The biggest question mark will remain at middle linebacker, where Michael Hutchings steps in as the heir-apparent to Hayes Pullard.

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Even here, the depth is undeniable. Behind Hutchings, Lamar Dawson could also step into place, while four-star linebacker Cameron Smith has also joined the proceedings. The wildcard is Gustin, who played inside linebacker in high school and may be interested in staying in the middle.

The ripple effect of Cravens staying at linebacker would see the safety partnership that ended last season remain intact, with Leon McQuay at free safety and John Plattenburg at strong safety. Behind them, a pair of freshmen — Ykili Ross and Marvell Tell — will vie for playing time.

RELATED: Previewing the offensive depth chart.

Rounding out the secondary, it is hard to imagine either Kevon Seymour or Adoree’ Jackson giving up their starting positions, but if any incoming freshman could make a push, it would be Iman Marshall.

In the trenches, Antwaun Woods will spend another season filling up space at the center of the line, with Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons starting alongside instead of sharing time. It will fall to that duo to replace the output of Leonard Williams.

True freshman Rasheem Green may challenge both for a starting spot but, given his youth, for now we assume he will help supply depth the Trojans lacked last season. The return of Kenny Bigelow will help a lot in that regard as well.

Last year, the Trojan defense was fluid, both in terms of personnel and shape. There’s no reason to expect that to change in 2015, so consider any depth chart a suggestion, not a rule.

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