What does adding Chris Steele mean for USC football?

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

What is USC football getting by stealing Chris Steele in the transfer portal? His addition could be a game-changer for the Trojan secondary.

BEST OF USC. Greatest Trojan Defensive Backs

May and June are supposed to be the dead period for USC football news, but the months certainly haven’t followed that normal trend.

The latest big development revolves around four-star cornerback Chris Steele, who signed with Florida, decided to transfer, committed to Oregon then flipped to the Trojans on Tuesday, according to a report from the Oregonian.

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Steele’s decision to join USC comes on the back of five-star wide receiver Bru McCoy’s transfer from Texas. He is expected to join the Trojans this summer as well.

Getting McCoy back is huge for USC’s future. Getting Steele could be huge for the Trojans present.

While McCoy will likely have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules, Steele may have a much stronger case for a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately.

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He reportedly departed Florida because of concern over their handling of Steele’s roommate, who was accused of sexual assault.

The NCAA has been tone deaf in the past, but awarding a waiver for Tate Martell, who left Ohio State for Miami, on the basis of hardship from Urban Meyer’s departure, while denying a waiver to a student-athlete like Steele, who has been widely praised for taking a stand against sexual misconduct, would seem like the height of folly.

If Steele is immediately eligible, he will instantly brighten the picture for USC’s secondary, which is one of the big question marks for the Trojans this season.

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USC already signed eight—potentially nine, depending on the designation of Tuasivi Nomura—defensive backs in the class of 2019. Cornerback Max Williams and safety Briton Allen enrolled early and participated in Spring Camp, but the remainder are due to arrive this summer.

Though there is excitement for the quantity of new bodies being added, none come with the profile of Steele, who ranked 42nd nationally and fifth among corners, according to the 247Sports composite. Williams, who ranked 186th in the country and 21st at his position, is as close as any of USC’s DB signees compare to Steele.

At 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, Steele fits the profile of corners with length preferred by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. He’s physical and capable of working in USC’s aggressive defense, going one-on-one with receivers. Best of all, he’s polished enough to contribute right away.

The Trojans will go into the season expecting promising 2018 additions Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart to win the two open starting jobs at cornerback, but competition for those roles was likely to be limited, with only Greg Johnson returning with any experience under his belt. Steele will no doubt make a run at seeing early playing time by battling with those players in Fall Camp.

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As they say, “iron sharpens iron” and whether Steele wins a starting role or is available to provide depth, it’s a major plus for the Trojans as they rebuild the secondary from the ground up.

Even if Steele is not granted immediate eligibility, his presence on the practice field could still go a long way. Like McCoy, he could strengthen the Trojans immensely on the service team while waiting for the 2020 season to arrive. From there, he would be expected to jump right into the rotation.

It must also be noted, taking Steele out from under Oregon’s nose means weakening a rival for the Pac-12 crown in the coming years.