USC football’s depth is feast or famine, making injury luck an all-important factor towards success in 2016.
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First Take… Sanctions are over. USC has a full compliment of scholarship players on the board. Yet depth remains a feast or famine concern.
On the one hand, Spring Camp showcased the wealth of players the Trojans have at their disposal at certain positions.
On the offensive line, USC was without two potential starters in Toa Lobendahn and Khaliel Rodgers. They also dealt with missed time by Chad Wheeler, Damien Mama and others due to injury.
Yet the big men up front remained stacked with players of high-level ability who might not even get the chance to start this coming season like Nico Falah, Chris Brown and Chuma Edoga. Even Jordan Simmons impressed upon his return to the offensive side of the ball.
At wide receiver, depth is similarly rich. Starters JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rodgers and Steven Mitchell look set to retain their places, but behind them Isaac Whitney, De’Quan Hampton and Deontay Burnett flashed brightly while early enrollees Michael Pittman and Josh Imatorbhebhe gave mouthwatering debuts.
More from Reign of Troy
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- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
Both of those positions will also receive reinforcements in the fall when blue chip players from the 2016 recruiting class arrive on campus.
On the other hand, the Trojans appear woefully thing at perhaps the most important — and injury-plagued — position on the field.
USC’s defensive line was already in question with the need to replace three starters and two additional role players. The crushing season-ending injury blow to Kenny Bigelow could not have come in a more desperate position.
Nagging concerns for Noah Jefferson, who hyperextended his elbow during the Spring Game to cap off an injury-plagued camp, only exacerbated the problem. Jacob Daniel also dealt with injury trouble.
And unlike other positions, the line won’t be receiving a great deal of reinforcements this fall. Connor Murphy and Josh Fatu will be valuable additions, but there will remain gaps even as the Trojans make use of the nickel package to help minimize them.
There always seems to be that one position which gets hit particularly hard by the injury bug. In 2015 it was center, where three different starters were lost. The Trojans faced a similar crisis at middle linebacker after both Smith and Lamar Dawson were lost.
With the nation’s toughest schedule and a great deal of inexperience on the defensive side of the ball, it might be time to start lighting candles for injury luck to be on USC’s side this time. Anywhere but the defensive line.
And Ten USC Football and Basketball News Links…
- CFB Huddle: Kyle Kensing explores what the Alabama game means to USC, including how the two have existed on different plans with their most recent periods of dominance coinciding with sanction-induced instability for the other.
- ESPN: Kyle Bonagura looks at USC’s quarterback competition, which is much more complicated than expected now that it will continue into Fall Camp. At the very least, Max Browne has the right attitude for a quarterback who wasn’t able to pull away: “I’m going to do what I’ve done the past three and a half years. Going to dominate this offseason, going to lead the guys and going to come back ready for fall camp.”
- Bleacher Report: If Browne wins the job, Justin Ferguson sees him as one of the ten quarterbacks who could break out in 2016.
- RipsIt Blog: Caroline Beisley breaks down the loaded Trojan offensive line in the latest spring feature from USC.
- USCFootball.com: Daniel Imatorbhebhe could be one of the biggest surprises for USC in 2016, says Ryan Abraham. The tight end transfer says he’s enjoyed the comfort level being at USC and has nothing but praise for John Baxter, the Trojan tight ends coach.
- Fox Sports: Aaron Torres praised Zach Banner for calling out USC’s “Hollywood attitude” this week, calling the attitude readjustment “exactly what the Trojans need.”
- Inside USC: Lynn Swann went undercover seeking information from current ADs about a what it takes to be an athletic director before he took the USC job.
- Pacific Takes: Avinash Kunnath rounds up the latest USC recruiting news.
- Athlon Sports: It’s easy to get caught up in USC’s quarterback battle, but rival Notre Dame is knee deep in a two-man race of their own. Since its never too early to start scouting the enemy, takeaways from the Irish Spring Game have Deshone Kizer with the slightest of edges over Malik Zaire.
- Daily Trojan: Hailey Tucker takes a deep dive into USC’s student-athlete graduation rates to see just how the Trojans are faring in the classroom. There’s some good and some not so good, but it all depends on how you look at the numbers.