USC football roundup: Athlon rankings, CFN All-Pac-12 and more

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

USC football picked up a middle-of-the-road ranking from Athlon Sports, while College Football News is higher on one Trojan defender than most.

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June is one of the more barren months of the offseason, but you can always count on preseason content to generate enough nuggets to keep things interesting.

On Monday, Athlon Sports released their 130-team preseason ranking, slotting USC football at No. 43.

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That’s just behind No. 42 UCLA and above No. 46 Arizona and No. 45 Arizona State.

Those are tight rankings for the Pac-12 South, which is headed up by No. 13 Utah. The Utes get quite the vote of confidence in that regard.

Colorado brings up the rear at No. 69.

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While you could nitpick any ranking, the overall grouping of the division definitely says something about the perception of the teams in the middle. It’s hard to tell exactly how the Trojans, Bruins, Sun Devils and Wildcats will shake out in 2019. So the safest thing to do is to throw them in the middle tier. One or two will rise from there.

As for the out of conference schedule, Fresno State and BYU sit close together at No. 56 and No. 55 respectively.

Notre Dame is positioned at No. 9. With Washington at No. 12 and Oregon at No. 15, the slate is challenging enough.

MORE: Five reasons to be optimistic about USC in 2019

CFN Preseason All-Pac-12

The College Football News preseason All-Pac-12 team features three Trojans.

Michael Pittman represents at wide receiver. Christian Rector made the cut at defensive end. Finally, Tyler Vaughns features at punt returner.

Pittman and Vaughns have been recognized in those positions by other All-Pac-12 teams from other publications, but Rector has been strangely underrepresented. For instance, he didn’t appear on Phil Steele’s first, second, third or fourth-team defense.

CFN certainly has more faith in the redshirt senior. He’s the No. 13 player in their Top 30 Pac-12 player rankings.

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The only other Trojan who made the list was Pittman, who landed at No. 29. That was still good enough to be ranked as the second-best wide receiver in the conference, behind No. 1 Laviska Shenault.

A players’ coach

Clay Helton hasn’t gotten much good press in the past year, but it’s worth remembering that for all the criticism he receives as a head coach, the narrative around him as a person has never wavered.

Players, in particular, love Helton and have vocally had his back through thick and thin.

On Monday, Inside The Team highlighted just that with this tweet:

Helton goes into the 2019 season with a lot to prove, but he hasn’t lost buy-in from his players it seems.