USC football has no underclassmen declare early for 2019 NFL Draft

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

For the first time in over a decade, USC football had no underclassmen declare early for the NFL Draft. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

USC Transfers. Where Are They Now?

The deadline to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft came and went on Monday. Unless one of USC football’s draft eligible players secretly entered their name, the Trojans are expected to return all of their juniors and redshirt sophomores in 2019.

That is an exceedingly rare occurrence for USC. The Trojans have had an underclassman drafted every year going back to the 2003 NFL Draft, which was the last time USC had no early entrants declare.

Last year, Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II and Rasheem Green continued the decade-long tradition of departing after three years.

So here’s the question: Is that good or bad for USC football?

From one perspective, it’s always a good thing to return talent.

Starters like defensive lineman Christian Rector, wide receivers Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman, and linebackers Jordan Iosefa and John Houston were eligible to depart, but all will return to bolster the Trojan ranks in 2019.

Considering the departure of 12 seniors starters from 2018, losing any more players would have put USC in an even more serious rebuild mode going forward.

SEE MORE: How will USC replace each departing senior in 2019?

From another perspective, the lack of draftable juniors on USC’s roster may help explain how the Trojans fell to 5-7 and missed out on bowl eligibility in 2018 in the first place.

Going into the 2018 season, Vaughns and Pittman certainly looked like players who could launch their NFL Draft stock into the stratosphere while others could have made enough of a name for themselves to attract the attention of pro scouts. Instead, USC’s struggles seems to have weighed on the Trojans’ draft potential in 2019.

Coming out of a difficult season, each of those draft eligible players would have been fringe prospects. Vaughns and Pittman might have been able to justify their departure with good workouts while Rector might have intrigued certain teams, but there were no sure things from that group.

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By comparison, Darnold, Jones II, Greene, Adoree’ Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Leonard Williams and other past draft departures would have risked more than they gained by coming back. They were more-or-less no brainers.

The silver lining for the Trojans is returning those players will give them the opportunity to live up to their true potential. Vaughns and Pittman have the ability to be superstars in the right system and USC certainly didn’t do a very good job of putting them in position to succeed in 2018.

Rector has shown real pass rushing ability and may be cut loose as the Trojans primary playmaker up front going into 2019.

As for Iosefa and Houston, both have grown into their starting roles over time. Now established, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for either to take another step forward.

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They may not have been ready for the 2019 NFL Draft, but they will each get the opportunity to prove themselves ready for the pros in 2020.