USC Football 2015: Previewing the Defensive Backs


After a frustrating 2014 campaign, the USC football defensive backfield is looking to turn a corner and fulfill its potential as one of the nation’s strongest units.

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The Trojan secondary, further strengthened by a stellar recruiting class, will face some of the most dangerous offenses college football has to offer. Thankfully, they face some of the country’s most dangerous offensive weapons in practice everyday.

While there could be improvement on the 274 yards per game given up through the air. the more pressing concern to defensive success is producing more turnovers in a conference which boasts so many high-octane offenses.

Nevertheless this Trojan secondary has learned to play fast, and should see an improvement across the board, as depth issues are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Sep 6, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; USC Trojans cornerback Kevon Seymour (13) catches the ball before the start of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned in Spring:

Led by senior cornerback Kevin Seymour, and sophomore preseason All-American cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, the Trojan secondary is young, athletic, and physical.

Both of the headliners in the secondary had stand out springs, though Jackson’s contributions were limited by his increasing participation on offense.

The safety position remains the major question after spring, though Chris Hawkins’ transition has reaped benefits already. Further development from Matt Lopes should shore up the position beyond last years’ starters John Plattenburg and Leon McQuay III.

What Could Go Right:

The Trojan secondary appears ready to take that next step, which means great things for USC.

Given the expectations created by Jackson’s spectacular freshman season, this could become a potentially dominant group, especially factoring in the underrated Seymour.

Though McQuay has not lived up to his five-star expectations, there is no shortage of talent to work with. A big final season from him would go a long way.

Young, yet battled tested, the experience gained through being pressed into action has given this bunch the sort of confidence, which typically bodes well for a defense.

The addition of a stellar incoming freshman class creates an embarrassment of riches. If they get off the ground quickly, there is no question the Trojan defense will thrive.

Freshmen Iman Marshall and Ykili Ross have turned heads in players-only workouts, adding intrigue, as both will be competing for reps when fall camp begins. Incoming freshman Marvell Tell rounds out the incoming Trojan defensive backfield at safety and could work his way.

What Could Go Wrong:

In a worst case scenario the Trojan defensive backfield could have a season similar to 2014, with the balance of the games laying in the hands of the secondary.

Mistakes are part of the game, and though a repeat of the Arizona State meltdown is unlikely, a lack of mental toughness could result in more late losses.

Regression from Jackson, or his greater role on offense getting in the way of his progress defensively, would certainly make things more difficult for the defense.

As with any team, injuries or lack thereof may dictate just how well the Trojans do in 2015.

Losing Seymour, the most experienced player in the secondary for any extended period of time would have serious consequences, particularly forcing a young player like Marshall into the harsh spotlight prematurely.

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Projected Starters:

  • CB: Kevon Seymour, Iman Marshall
  • FS: Chris Hawkins, Leon McQuay III
  • SS: John Plattenburg, Ykili Ross
  • CB: Adoree’ Jackson, Jonathan Lockett

Overall Strength: 7/10

The Trojan secondary had mixed results a season ago, with blown leads and budding stars.

This season, the aggressive, and increasingly confident bunch should reap the benefits of last year’s growing pains.

Quality depth at cornerback and exciting youth make the defensive backs one of the most intriguing units to watch in 2015.