Who will be the breakout star for the Trojans in 2017? Will the Texas game live up to the hype? RoT’s USC Football mailbag gets to the answers.
Every year, someone unexpected comes along and shines unexpectedly bright. In 2016 it was Sam Darnold. In 2015 it was Cameron Smith. Who will it be in 2017?
That’s just one of the questions posed in the Reign of Troy USC Football mailbag this week.
Now it’s time to get some answers…
QUESTION: Who is going to be the breakout star this season? — @ubbergoat
ANSWER: First things first, let’s define “breakout star.” In a national sense, running back Ronald Jones II, cornerback Iman Marshall, predator linebacker Porter Gustin and defensive end Rasheem Green could all thrust themselves into the spotlight with exceptional junior campaigns.
However, while none of those are exactly household names yet, they all received recognition on the 2016 All-Pac-12 team and several of them are receiving mentions as top players in the conference and at their positions coming into the 2017 season.
So here’s a pick for a true breakout star, one most people in the country aren’t aware of: Uchenna Nwosu.
Like Michael Hutchings before him, Nwosu has emerged as a defensive leader this offseason, making himself invaluable in a tactical sense. But he also brings even more exciting physical potential, now bigger and stronger than when he first made the switch to strongside linebacker.
Nwosu didn’t manage an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in his first season as a starter, but he’ll surpass that honor as a senior.
QUESTION: Do you see Chris Brown starting week one? If so where? — @HumeDisciple
ANSWER: If Chris Brown starts USC’s season opener against Western Michigan, it’ll be at left guard, where he was the backup for Damien Mama in 2016.
As to whether or not he’ll be starting at all, it’s completely up in the air.
For now, it’s safe to bet that Toa Lobendahn and Nico Falah will occupy the two starting jobs at center and right tackle — or left, depending on which side Chuma Edoga settles into.
That leaves Brown to compete with Roy Hemsley, Andrew Vorhees and a squadron of other incoming freshmen eager to impress.
CHECK OUT: Best-Case, Worst-Case on Offensive Line
Brown has the seniority at the position for now, but Vorhees left a strong impression during his first spring camp as an early enrollee. Plus, there’s still the possibility that Lobendahn returns to play guard, which would create an even more fierce competition at tackle.
Plus, there’s still the possibility that Lobendahn returns to play guard, which would create an even more fierce competition at tackle.
QUESTION: Why does it feel like we are headed to a spread offense this year? — @CrashAntilles
ANSWER: The truth is, USC has been running an offense with spread concepts for almost a decade. Lane Kiffin’s offense made use of spread concepts while Steve Sarkisian’s took it even further.
Today, nearly all the men responsible for putting together USC’s offensive scheme come from spread backgrounds. Head coach Clay Helton ran the spread at Memphis. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin was the passing game coordinator for Kentucky’s spread. Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Tyson Helton comes from Western Kentucky, which runs a spread.
Even old-school offensive line coach Neil Callaway most recently worked in the confines of a spread offense.
Perhaps the reason it feels more obvious now is USC finally has a quarterback capable of running the zone-read in Sam Darnold. Cody Kessler ran the same plays, he just didn’t offer a threat to run.
It’s important to make a distinction between the spread offense and a pro-style offense that adopts spread concepts. USC still runs the latter, but they’re only following trends at all levels of football in doing so.
Steve Sarkisian is the new offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons in part because the offense he runs is so similar to the scheme Kyle Shanahan already deployed.
Look around the NFL and you’ll see offenses that look a lot like USC’s.
QUESTION: Will the Texas game live up to the hype or will it be a one-sided game? — @STUCKonSafety
ANSWER: Texas is coming off of a 5-7 season, so it’s possible some are overrating the Longhorns ability to compete with the Trojans, especially at the Coliseum.
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
However, Texas is like USC in that they’re always bringing top talent into the program. That means with the proper guidance they are a team that should be able to compete even against the best teams.
And if you’re looking for proper guidance, Tom Herman is about as good as they come. At Houston, Herman had a 6-0 record against ranked teams, including two Top 3 teams.
USC is rightly favored over Texas, but the game should at least be competitive considering the talent on the field and the sidelines.
QUESTION: Black road jerseys? — @SalvadorVieyra1
ANSWER: If you’re going to experiment with USC’s jerseys, you might as well do it on the road. Having said that, why fix what’s not broken?