This comes a couple of weeks after our other starting corner, Chris Steele, declared for the Draft. This of course means that SC will now be looking for two new starting corners for next year.
Before this past season, nobody would have been surprised by this. ITS was even projected by some draft experts to go in the first round. Taylor-Stuart was "50/50" however, on his draft decision recently. While nobody enjoys having to replace both starting players at a position on D, USC can overcome this cornerback turnover.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Steele are entering the NFL Draft after having down years at USC.
While both Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Steele had some big moments in the Cardinal and Gold, the two of them seemed to have trouble with some of the turbulence that was the entire 2021 season.
Steele had a career-low in PDs this year (three), despite playing in five more games (11 games) than he did in 2020. He had just 33 tackles compared to his 26 in just six games in 2020. I like Steele, but look for him to try to channel what he was able to do in 2019 and 2020 in the NFL.
He tends to be a very physical corner, which projects well in the NFL, however he has at times been penalized in some inopportune times due to that physicality. If Donte Williams was able to focus more on the CBs this year instead of having to take over as Head Coach after two games, perhaps Steele would have been coached up a bit better and maybe would have entered the draft on a higher note.
I can say the same for Taylor-Stuart, as he didn't have the year many expected him to have as well. Taylor-Stuart wasn't a guy who put up tremendous numbers ever at SC, but his speed is easy to be enamored with. He reportedly ran a 40 in the 4.2-4.3 range over at Helix High.
It's why so many liked him coming into the 2021 season.
Few will be able to out-run ITS, even at the NFL level, and he had shown some ability to successfully force receivers close to the sideline when they dared to try to blow past him. ITS was often able to stay low and patient in his backpedal at the snap due to confidence he had in that speed.
Therefore, he'll likely not be in much press coverage in the NFL.
According to PFF, ITS gave up 26 completions on 38 attempts for 440 yards and three touchdowns this year. The struggles for Taylor-Stuart this season were in what happened when the ball was in the air. He had a tough time with awareness in that area, and it got to the point where he gave up some plays even when he was doing a good job staying with the receiver.
Again, this is why I have hope for what he can do with NFL coaching. Perhaps he would have developed in his technique and awareness around the ball if he had Donte working with him a little more personally.
Now that SC is without their two starting corners, who were both four-star prospects out of high school, Alex Grinch will now need to figure out what he has planned for that position. Nickel corner Greg Johnson is also on his way to be a Projan, so we're not looking at a ton of returners.
A couple of experienced guys we are returning, however, is third-year receiver-turned-corner Joshua Jackson Jr., and fourth-year CB Jayden Williams. Jackson showed some nice flashes when he was on the field this year, adding nine tackles and a pick in three games. He only has one year of corner experience, however, while Williams has three and played a bit more than Jackson last year (five games).
We'll have second-year guys Prophet Brown and Ceyair Wright returning, who are two four-star guys as well who I really like, but they don't have a ton of playing experience just yet. They have plenty of potential, however, so Grinch may be eyeing them to take over.
Brown played in three games last year and had five tackles against Cal. Wright played in two.
USC was able to sign Domani Jackson out of Mater Dei, of course, for this last recruiting cycle, which was huge. The five-star recruit is the No. 7 recruit in the country according to 247Sports, and the No. 2 corner. We also picked up Fabian Ross out of Bishop Gorman, a four-star who is a top 30 corner recruit in the country (247Sports).
Ross is a strong, physical guy who's still very quick and reactive. I can say the same about Jackson, and he's also very long and noticeably ferocious as a tackler. Both guys have no issue pressing other receivers, and project well at this level.
So, while losing our two starting corners from 2021 isn't ideal, our future at the position is far from doubtful. We have some special talents waiting in the wings, with what will likely be a much better defense now that we'll have a better defensive coaching staff heading into 2022.