Which young offensive linemen have impressed? How does Tuli Letuligasenoa’s commitment change recruiting? RoT’s USC football mailbag seeks answers.
The early part of the second phase of USC football’s offseason is in full swing, with the NFL Draft coming up this week. But spring camp is still fresh, having only been concluded a mere nine days ago.
Not to mention, commitments like Tuli Letuligasenoa’s ensure there’s no such thing as a down period for the Trojans.
The result? Both camp and recruiting are key topics in this week’s mailbag. Let’s get to the answers…
QUESTION: Any new faces showing promise on the offensive line? — @LEvidal22003
ANSWER: The two names that jump off the page following impressive spring camps are Andrew Vorhees and Clayton Johnston. Both saw an uptick in reps due to mounting injuries on the offensive line, but both made their opportunities count.
Johnston, a redshirt sophomore, has emerged as a serious contender for the Trojans’ second tackle position across from Chuma Edoga, while Vorhees mixed and matched at multiple positions to become the most eye-opening early enrollee lineman in recent memory. In fact, you could make a case he was the biggest revelation in camp, given the pre-existing expectations for Marlon Tuipulotu.
Clay Helton was apprehensive to name a starting five on the line, with both players expected to compete during a two-week battle at the start of fall camp.
Of the two, Johnston is the most likely to crack the lineup due to his experience and a thin depth chart at tackle. Though Nico Falah sliding outside could throw a wrench in his plans.
QUESTION: Do you think Clancy Pendergast will utilize more players from his two-deep than last year by rotating them in throughout the game?— @BranLo14
ANSWER: This is probably the biggest question surrounding the Trojans’ defense going into 2017. And the bottom line is that we won’t know until Week 2 against Stanford. Even then, it could be too early to get a read on it.
Pendergast has been reluctant to rotate much during his two seasons as USC’s defensive coordinator, with trust being a prerequisite for earning opportunities on Saturdays.
However, he’s yet to have a Year 2 with the Trojans, and it’s much simpler to cite trust as a decider in Year 1.
SEE MORE: Projecting USC’s Post-Spring Depth Chart
This will be the deepest roster Pendergast will have at his disposal. If logic is any indication, look for talent to force his hand at safety and outside linebacker, where playmakers like Jamel Cook, Connor Murphy and Wole Betiku could prove too valuable not to play.
At positions without much depth –looking at you, inside linebackers– Pendergast would likely keep things close to the vest as he’s done previously, relying on Cam Smith and John Houston to lead the way.
But of course, that’s speculation.
QUESTION: With Tuli Letuligasenoa committing, does this affect the chance at Tommy Togiai? — Luke M.
ANSWER: The quick answer is that it’s far too early to say, with Signing Day still more than nine months away.
Togiai, a four-star defensive tackle out of Idaho, released his top eight schools earlier this month. USC made the list alongside Pac-12 rival Washington, and a host of Big Ten powers like Ohio State and Michigan.
The Trojans have to like where they sit, as the only school to host him for a Junior Day. Plus, USC can play up its Polynesian pipeline, which could counter any sort of deterrent stemming from a stacked depth chart.
In 2014, commitments from Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao didn’t stop Damien Mama from committing on Signing Day. They helped.
The same could be said this past February with Jay Tufele opting to play alongside Marlon Tuipulotu, rather than finding a favorable situation at Utah or Ohio State.
Each recruitment is different and it would be unfair to cast Togiai solely by his Polynesian roots. However, there’s simply no reason to believe USC has a disadvantage following the commitment of Letuligasenoa. That will hold true until Togiai modifies his top schools or chooses not to visit Troy.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- 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
QUESTION: When does fall camp start? — @ecwh4
ANSWER: USC has not officially released a start date for fall camp. If they mimic last year’s plan, look at Thursday, August 3rd.
But keep in mind, the NCAA Division I Council just outlawed two-a-days, which could change things. In recent years, the Trojans have doubled up practice about four or five times per fall camp.
CBS Sports indicated earlier this month that teams can start practicing a week earlier and up to 29 times before their Week 1 games. Should Clay Helton choose to take advantage of that, USC could start camp as early as the last week of July.