There are starters aplenty in the Trojan lineup but playing time to be fought for in the secondary when USC football kicks off spring camp on March 3.
Returning starters: Kevon Seymour (Sr.), Adoree’ Jackson (So.); Leon McQuay III (Jr.), John Plattenburg (So.)Returning players: Ryan Dillard (Sr.*), Chris Hawkins (So.*), Jonathan Lockett (So.), Lamont Simmons (Fr.*)Newcomers: NoneDepartures: Gerald Bowman (Sr.*), Josh Shaw (Sr.*), Devian Shelton (So.*), Rahshead Johnson (Fr.*)
The Trojan cornerbacks and safeties enter 2015 spring camp in very different shape, with the former overflowing with options while the latter has been shaved down to a pair.
Still, the unit returns players with starting experience across the board, despite losing Gerald Bowman and Josh Shaw.
At cornerback, Kevon Seymour and Adoree’ Jackson have the two available spots locked down after exceptional 2014 seasons.
During spring, Jackson’s status as a three-way player could require adjustments in terms of how much time he spends on either side of the ball.
Behind them, the battle will play out between former starter Chris Hawkins and up-and-comers Jonathan Lockett and Lamont Simmons.
Nov 1, 2014; Pullman, WA, USA; Southern California Trojans cornerback Adoree Jackson (2) and cornerback John Plattenburg (24) react against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Lockett saw game-time in 2014 while Simmons redshirted. Their continued development should be key to settling the cornerback rotation before Iman Marshall, Isaiah Langley and Ykili Ross arrive in the fall to further muddle the waters in terms of playing time.
At safety things could not be more thin.
Only Leon McQuay III and John Plattenburg return as scholarship players, while fans will remember walk-on Matt Lopez from an impressive cameo against Washington State.
Plattenburg was a surprise success as a freshman, earning a starting job midway through the season as he stepped in for both Bowman and McQuay at different times. He will be looking to build on strong play this spring and establish himself as a full-time starter in the line up.
Meanwhile, McQuay needs to capitalize on a strong finish to the Holiday Bowl, when he made two potentially game-winning stops in a row to stop Nebraska’s comeback bid.
He will have the opportunity to grab a firm hold on the starting position alongside Plattenburg in the spring.
It is particularly important that both set themselves up in a position of strength by the end of spring with Marvell Tell and potentially Ross due to enter the fray in the fall.
Though there don’t seem to be plans to move him yet, Hawkins could be an option to bolster the safety position at some point as well. He practiced in that position late on in 2014 and with the potential logjam at cornerback it could be a way for him to find some playing time.
Battle to watch: Hawkins vs. Lockett vs. Simmons
Who has the most to gain? Lockett saw time as a freshman and he could benefit the most from Jackson’s split focus with extra snaps on the line if he can overcome Hawkins and Simmons in the rotation.
Who has the most to lose? McQuay has yet to live up to his five-star billing and a subpar spring could help put him on the outside looking in when the season kicks off.
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