Which players from the 2016 USC football recruiting class took a redshirt during their first year with the Trojans?
Despite a Top 10 finish in the national recruiting race last year, USC’s success in 2016 winning a Rose Bowl was largely built on more veteran players on the roster.
Only six Trojans played as true freshmen — cornerbacks Jack Jones and Keyshawn “Pie” Young, receiver Michael Pittman and linebackers Oluwole Betiku, Connor Murphy and Jordan Iosefa — leaving over a dozen redshirts who are set to make their USC debuts in 2017.
So who exactly redshirted this past season?
- Cary Angeline — four-star tight end
- Michael Brown — five-star kicker
- Jamel Cook — four-star safety
- Matt Fink — three-star quarterback
- Josh Imatorbhebhe — four-star receiver
- Liam Jimmons — three-star defensive end
- Velus Jones — three-star receiver
- Vavae Malepeai — four-star running back
- Frank Martin — four-star offensive tackle
- C.J. Pollard — four-star safety
- Trevon Sidney — four-star receiver
- Nathan Smith — four-star offensive tackle
- Tyler Vaughns — four-star receiver
That’s 13 players who spent the year developing on the sidelines for a variety of reasons.
For some, their positions simply had too many players ahead of them in the pecking order.
For instance, USC’s exceptional depth at receiver kept Imatorbhebhe, Jones, Sidney and Vaughns off the field, though Pittman was able to forge a role for himself, particularly on special teams.
All four of those could vie for real playing time as sophomores, with Imatorbhebhe and Vaughns in particular looking to make a big impression with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers off to the NFL.
It might be more difficult for Jones and Sidney to break through with slot receivers Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell returning in 2016.
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Fink was always likely to take a redshirt at quarterback, sitting behind both Max Brown and Sam Darnold.
Similarly, Pollard entered USC at a stacked safety position already boasting a group of experience players.
Meanwhile, the likes of Angeline, Jimmons, Martin and Smith simply needed the year to develop, playing positions where physical maturity plays a major role.
As for Cook and Malepeai, it’s unknown what the two might have done as true freshmen. Both sat out most of the season with injury. Cook injured his foot in an accident over the summer while Malepeai suffered a collarbone injury during a promising fall camp.