Predictions: Who Will Be USC Football Stat Leaders in 2016?

Oct 31, 2015; Berkeley, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) runs for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2015; Berkeley, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) runs for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2016 USC football season is set to kickoff. To get ready, the Reign of Troy team made predictions on which Trojans will lead the team at some key stat categories.

Nothing makes a player a permanent fixture in the USC football media guide quite like being a statistical team leader.

From yards to tackles, the RoT team sat down to go through some stat predictions. Let’s start at running back:

Who Will Lead USC in Rushing Yards?

Alicia de Artola: Even though Justin Davis will serve as the starter for the time being, Ronald Jones’ will lead the Trojans in yards. Not only is he an explosive homerun hitter, he’s also much better at getting the tough yards on more routine runs than people give him credit for.

Michael Castillo: Conventional wisdom says Ronald Jones will be the guy to rack up the yards for the Trojans as he goes into what could be a breakout year as a true sophomore. But with Justin Davis starting the season as Clay Helton’s No. 1 running back, while being a more complete player, Jones hasn’t yet asserted himself as an every down player. Until then, let’s go with Davis.

Bill Quimby: The fast, explosive and elusive Ronald Jones will lead the team in rushing in his sophomore campaign. Look for him to break a few long 60-70 plus yard runs before he’s done this year.

Jordan Gettinger: Ronald Jones II will be USC’s leading rusher for the second-straight season.

Bryan Karbasi: Ronald Jones II.

Who Will Lead USC in Tackles?

Alicia de Artola: It’s tough to go with anyone besides Cameron Smith. Not only is he the middle linebacker, a position tailor-made for racking up tackles, but he proved as a freshman that he has a knack for being around the ball. He would have led the Trojans in tackles last year if not for his ACL injury. Health permitting, he’ll do it this time around. Don’t count out Marvell Tell, however. If anyone takes a run at Smith in this department, it’ll be the young safety.

Michael Castillo: The simple choice is Cam Smith, who would’ve led the team in tackles a year ago, if not for an ACL tear in the middle of November. He’s not only the best linebacker the Trojans have going into the season, he’s the only one firmly holding a starting position, with both experience and a sizable gap ahead of his understudy. More rotational reps for everyone else means more tackles for Smith.

Bill Quimby: Cameron Smith will pick up where he left off last season, if healthy. This year, he should have more support alongside him in the Clancy Pendergast defense. Don’t forget that last year, he excelled as a freshman in a dysfunctional defensive scheme. That’s all in the past now and number 35 will be all over the field making plays.

Who Will Be 2nd in Receiving Behind JuJu Smith-Schuster?

Alicia de Artola: There was hope that someone would emerge during training camp and take on the clear mantle of No. 2 behind Smith-Schuster, but that never happened. So predicting this is like throwing a dart blindfolded.

Sure it might be Darreus Rogers, but he’s had ample opportunity in the past to emerge and has never proven consistent enough. Steven Mitchell may be the best bet, but Deontay Burnett is pushing him for his job and his injury record is a worry on top of that. The true freshmen are intriguing enough to temp a pick, especially with Michael Pittman’s progression. However, with so many options, the numbers could be spread out across six or seven different receivers.

Because of that, here’s a ridiculously bold prediction — tight end Tyler Petite. He’ll attract his fair share of targets and has as much a chance as any one else to rank second in receiving. After all, Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee, the tight end who was coached by new Trojan passing game coordinator Tyson Helton, would have been USC’s second leading receiver with more than 500 yards last year.

Michael Castillo: As much as going off the beaten trail with a Deontay Burnett pick, or choosing a freshman would be fun, let’s keep it simple. It’s time for senior Darreus Rogers to become the first productive USC receiver since Ronald Johnson in 2010. It’s been far too long, and he has the skill and body control to be a key passing down target.

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Bill Quimby: I see true freshman Michael Pittman stepping up and starting as early as the Stanford game. Once he gets the nod, look out, because he can be a super effective target for Max Browne.

Jordan Gettinger: It’ll be Darreus Rogers.

Bryan Karbasi: Steven Mitchell, because they’re trying to lessen Adoree’s offensive presence and focus him more on defense. Plus, Helton seems pretty pleased with him.