USC Football released their first official depth chart for 2017 on Sunday night, setting a lineup in the lead up to the season opener against Western Michigan.
It’s official, USC’s depth chart has finally arrived leaving many of the spring and fall camp positional battles both settled and unsettled heading into the 2017 season.
The Trojans released the depth chart on Sunday night. The big news? Nico Falah has officially clinched the starting center job while Toa Lobendahn will serve as the Trojans starting left tackle this season.
The two offensive linemen switched off at center through fall camp, but Falah took all the first team reps at the position for the last two weeks, suggesting he had won the job. Turns out, he did.
USC’s offensive line from left to right will now be comprised of Lobendahn, redshirt junior Chris Brown, Falah, senior Viane Talamaivao and junior Chuma Edoga.
A pair of freshmen lineman did enough this offseason to earn starring back up roles. Former five-star Austin Jackson is No. 2 behind Lobendahn with spring enrollee Andrew Vorhees grabbed a shot at a back up role at both right guard and right tackle. Behind Edoga, he shares an OR with redshirt sophomore Clayton Johnston. Behind Talamaivao he is an OR with redshirt junior Jordan Austin.
The right to be Falah’s center is split between redshirt sophomore Cole Smith and highly-touted freshman Brett Neilon.
Here’s a rundown of the big takeaways from the rest of the depth chart:
Redshirt freshman Matt Fink beat out true freshman Jack Sears for the back up quarterback job behind Sam Darnold. With Sears on the scout team to start the mock game week last week, it is no surprise to see Fink as QB2.
Ronald Jones II retains his No. 1 place as expected. It seems there will be no No. 2 running back, in favor of a three-man rotation.
Junior Aca’Cedric Ware, redshirt freshman Vavae Malepeai and true freshman Stephen Carr are each listed as co-back ups.
That falls in line with the dispersal of running back reps throughout fall camp, with each of the three getting a chance to run with the first and second teams.
Junior Tyler Petite and redshirt sophomore Daniel Imatorbhebhe are listed as co-starters, which is no surprise despite Imatorbhebhe’s lengthy injury absence because of a hip flexor.
Behind those two, it is a free-for-all with redshirt freshman Cary Angeline, true freshmen Josh Falo and Erik Krommenhoek, and walk-on redshirt junior Austin Applebee sharing back up status.
Since USC will not be afraid to use two tight ends at a time in 2017, all four of those players could see the field as pass catching and blocking options.
Veteran receivers Jalen Green and Steven Mitchell were named starters along with junior Deontay Burnett as USC works to sort out a new-look receiver rotation.
Though those three have been settled for weeks, there is no clarity to be had on the depth chart behind each of them.
Despite his stellar camp performance, redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns couldn’t shake an OR with classmate Josh Imatorbhebhe or true freshman Randal Grimes behind Greene.
Redshirt freshman Velus Jones Jr., Trevon Sidney and sophomore Keyshawn “Pie” Young also go ORs in the slot, though Jones appears to hold an edge if practice reps are anything to go on.
Meanwhile, injured receiver Michael Pittman shares billing with true freshman Joseph Lewis for the remaining back up slot at outside receiver. Pittman was expected to battle for a starting job this fall, but he ran with the second team during camp before injuring his ankle.
Senior Josh Fatu sits atop the depth chart at nose tackle, having won the job during fall camp, but it intriguing to see such a mic of ORs behind him.
True freshman Marlon Tuipulotu battled Fatu for the starting place, but now finds himself sharing back up billing with redshirt senior Kenny Bigelow and fellow freshman Brandon Pili.
Tuipulotu’s practice reps would suggest he is higher in the pecking order, but Bigelow is being eased back into action after recovering from a knee injury. Pili has been an unexpected riser during camp thanks to his size and athleticism. Initially penciled in for a redshirt, he could see the field earlier than expected.
Flanking the nose tackles, Rasheem Green’s back up is redshirt sophomore Christian Rector. However, his role could shift across the line. That leaves freshman Jay Tufele at third string.
Redshirt junior Malik Dorton retained his starting place at defensive end.
It is worth noting that sophomore Oluwole Betiku will back up strongside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu while Connor Murphy is back up to Porter Gustin at the predator position. Both will see regular playing time this season and are considered “interchangeable” in the two positions.
John Houston is officially Michael Hutchings replacement at inside linebacker, a role he has held down since the spring. Behind him, true freshman Levi Jones did enough during fall camp to warrant a back up role. However, it will be interesting to track how much responsibility he is given early.
Sophomore Jack Jones was expected to slot in as Iman Marshall’s partner at cornerback this season and he fulfilled that expectation by locking down a starting role.
Back up cornerbacks include Jamel Cook behind Marshall and Isaiah Langley behind Jones, but USC’s depth at the position will come down to the development of freshmen Je’Quari Godfrey and Greg Johnson, as well as converted running back Dominic Davis, who sit third across the depth chart.
Ajene Harris got the nod at nickelback with redshirt sophomore Ykili Ross working his way to the back up job in that spot. After a standout fall, Ross should see playing time behind Harris this season.
The Trojans’ starting safeties in 2017 include newly-elected team captain Chris Hawkins and junior Marvell Tell III.
True freshman Bubba Bolden impressed enough to get an OR with C.J. Pollard backing up Hawkins. Behind Tell, it’s former walk-on Matt Lopes who gets the nod, though true freshman Isaiah Pola-Mao might have competed there before he was shut down for the season to have shoulder surgery.
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If you were looking for clarity on special teams, there’s none to be found.
At punter, returning starter Chris Tilbey got an OR with walk-on Reid Budrovich. Budrovich has taken first team reps over the last week.
At kicker, redshirt freshman Michael Brown and walk-on freshman Chase McGrath are still locked in a battle. Brown remains the favorite to win the job, but neither kicker has inspired confidence in the weeks leading up to the season.
Even in the kick return spots, ORs abound as the Trojans look to replace Adoree’ Jackson’s impact. USC’s kick returners could be any combination of Harris, Jones, Carr or Jones Jr.
For punt returns, Harris, Burnett or Jones could line up deep for returns.