USC football: Four potential breakout players for the 2019 season

By Harrison Cho
The USC depth chart in the secondary returns every starter. (John McCoy/Getty Images)
The USC depth chart in the secondary returns every starter. (John McCoy/Getty Images) /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football’s hope of a bounce back in 2019 could land on the shoulders of up-and-coming Trojans ready for a breakout season.

MORE. Which Direction Is USC Recruiting Headed?

As seniors and starters graduate and leave USC football, some possibly seeking an NFL job, there will be holes to fill on both ends of the ball for the 2019 season.

That means there are more than a few players looking to step into starring roles for the Trojans.

Here are some names to look out for as potential breakout candidates who can make a huge impact and help the team rebound from 2018’s disaster season:

Palaie Gaoteote

If not for the presence of senior and star linebacker Cameron Smith, Palaie Gaoteote could have arguably started regularly and had a terrific season as a true freshman. However, Smith’s presence limited his playing time in 2018, although he did see opportunities when Smith and John Houston were injured.

In 2019, Gaoteote will have arguably one of the biggest holes to fill as he will presumably take the starting role in place of Smith. Based on his few performances in 2018, USC fans have no reason to see a decrease in excellence at the position.

As the quarterback of the defense, Gaoteote has all the physical assets he needs to excel and replace Smith (they are about the same size), but more importantly he has the brains to do it. When Smith was injured, Gaoteote had to step in and take the MIKE spot and he performed perfectly fine.

In fact, Gaoteote displays very similar skills to Smith, such as an elite ball-hawking instinct, toughness, and nonstop motor, that will serve him well next season.

If Gaoteote can play just as well in 2019 as he did in his limited opportunities in 2018, then not only should fans expect him to gain the same level of respect as Cameron Smith, but he is also likely to catch the eye of some NFL scouts.