USC Football Spring Camp Review: Cornerback sees healthy returns

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football’s cornerback position was without a key starter this spring, but the unit looked much improved with depth to lean on.

After going through the 2017 season with just three healthy cornerbacks, USC football enjoyed much greater depth this spring at the position.

The Trojans still have a sizable experience gap between the veterans and the rookies, but the future looks bright at cornerback.

Here’s what the cornerbacks brought to the table this spring…

Roster Rundown

Returning (8):*Ajene Harris, RS-Sr.Jonathan Lockett, RS-Sr.Isaiah Langley, Sr.*Iman Marshall, Sr.*Jack Jones, Jr.Je’Quari Godfrey, RS-Fr.Greg Johnson, RS-Fr.Chase Williams, Fr.

Fall Enrollees (2):Olaijah GriffinIsaac Taylor-Stuart

*Returning starter

USC went into Spring Camp expecting to have three starters returning at cornerback. Unfortunately Jack Jones sat out, leaving Iman Marshall and nickelback Ajene Harris to provide a solid foundation for the group.

Marshall absolutely did that, putting in committed performances which showed head coach Clay Helton a renewed focus from his senior corner.

Harris did his part at nickelback as well, and remains a favorite of USC’s defensive coaching staff for his leadership and work ethic.

With Jones sidelined, Isaiah Langley maintained a first team role, building on his encouraging cameos during the 2017 season.

Behind those starters, the Trojans enjoyed having a much more potent group of support players to fill out the second and third teams. Where walk-ons had patrolled the secondary in practice during the season and in camps past, the likes of Jonathan Lockett, Greg Johnson and Je’Quari Godfrey made their push.

Lockett returned from injury and looked incredibly effective while shaking off the rust from his layoff.

Johnson is also on the way back from an injury, but was still limited from full contact because of his shoulder. When he was able to feature, he looked every bit the player who was a shoo-in to see significant playing time as a true freshman.

The healthy returns extended to Godfrey, who arrived at USC in the midst of rehabbing a high school knee injury. He was finally able to go through the motions and is positioned to contribute down the line.

Finally, spring enrollee Chase Williams displayed a willingness to learn and injected the unit with youthful enthusiasm, raw as he may be.

Biggest Winner

Marshall may have had the brightest spring, which makes USC the big winner. But the biggest winner of camp from a cornerback perspective was Lockett, who made a successful return to the football field after a year-and-a-half absence.

Lockett underwent hip surgery after breaking into the starting lineup at the tail end of the 2016 season. His injury trouble was supposed to be sorted out before the start of the 2017 campaign but he had to undergo another surgery and sit out.

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Now back from that upperclassman redshirt year, Lockett picked up where he left off. He’ll see plenty of playing time if he keeps up the level he showed during spring.

Biggest Disappointment

Jack Jones is undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of the group. The junior cornerback missed Spring Camp in order to deal with academics. That means he missed 15 valuable opportunities to improve and develop.

It would be one thing if Jones were the second coming of Adoree’ Jackson and only looking to go from great to really great this spring, but he’s certainly not. Jones held down a starting job last season in part because USC was low on players to push him for the spot. He was exceptional at times, but woeful at others. He needs to go from sometimes-good, sometimes-bad to all-of-the-time decent in 2018.

That progress will have to be made in Fall Camp, or he’ll risk seeing someone take his place in the starting lineup.