USC Trojans All-Time Lists

Ranking USC Football’s early NFL draftees’ hypothetical senior seasons

Jun 13, 2017, 12:00 AM PDT
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans linebacker Su'a Cravens (21) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Mar 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the football helmet of the Southern California Trojans and the shield logo helmet of the NFL and the Olympic torch at the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum operated by USC will serve as the temporary home of the Los Angeles Rams after NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke (not pictured) to relocate the franchise from St. Louis for the 2016 season. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football has lost its fair share of players to NFL Draft early entry. But what if those Trojans had come back for their senior year?

No football program is lacking in “What Ifs.” For USC Football it’s no different.

What if USC had handed the ball to Reggie Bush on fourth-and-two? What if John David Booty’s pass hadn’t been batted down against Oregon State? What if Hayes Pullard had swatted ASU’s Jael Mary out of the air?

Some of the biggest “What Ifs” revolve around players who departed early for the NFL Draft, prompting one Reign of Troy reader to ask, “Of the players that have left early in the last 10 years, who would’ve had the biggest impact on the team if they’d stayed?”

So here’s a look at the 10 players whose return for their senior season would have had the biggest impact on USC’s fortunes:

Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble (85) runs after a catch in the second quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

10. Xavier Grimble | 2014

Had Xavier Grimble known what USC’s tight end group would look like in 2014, he might have chosen to come back to build his stock rather than enter the NFL Draft, ultimately signing with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent.

USC lost Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick to academics before the season began leaving just two scholarship tight ends on the roster in Randall Telfer and Bryce Dixon.

Telfer’s skillset was more aimed towards blocking and his history with nagging injuries didn’t help his ability to impact games as a receiver. Meanwhile, Dixon was a true freshman who wasn’t trusted with extensive playing time or involvement.

Grimble would have been a veteran and familiar target for Cody Kessler to rely upon beyond Nelson Agholor, who he hit for more than 100 receptions.

Would that have translated to a better finish for Steve Sarkisian’s first year as the head coach? It’s tough to say how much.

Maybe Grimble could have helped the Trojan offense reach their potential in close losses at Boston College, Arizona State and Utah. That’s if USC targeted the tight end, which was a rarity in that era.