USC held a mock game Saturday afternoon before this evening's Salute to Troy football kickoff BBQ. Unfortunately, the Trojans last Fall Camp practice was closed to the media, but head coach Steve Sarkisian did speak briefly with the beat writers in between the practice and Salute to Troy.
Sarkisian said he would name the team captains during the Salute to Troy program, but the most interesting thing to come from his brief chat was his revelation of projected redshirt numbers for the freshman class.
We just spoke to #USC coach Steve Sarkisian, who estimated that 11 incoming freshmen will play while 7 will redshirt (subject to change)— Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) August 23, 2014
So who are the top candidates to redshirt and who will play (assuming injuries don't force someone's redshirt to be burned?
Here's our predictions:
Absolute Locks to Play
Adoree' Jackson - Offense, defense, special teams. He'll be all over the field and likely making a huge impact.
JuJu Smith - The athletic ability of the 6-foot-2 receiver will make the highlight reel this season...hopefully often.
Toa Lobendahn - An early enrollee, Lobendahn is in line to potentially join a rare group of USC true freshmen lineman to start the opener.
Bryce Dixon - Once Jalen Cope-Fitzgerald was ruled academically ineligible, Dixon's redshirt potential went out the window this season.
Not Going to Redshirt
Jonathan Lockett - Keith Heyward has raved about Lockett's playmaking ability. He'll also see time on special teams.
John Plattenburg - Plattenburg is at a very deep safety position, but his athleticism makes him a great special teams' asset.
Viane Talamaivao - Talamaivao and Mama are both going to be a part of the offensive line rotation.
Damien Mama - With Khaliel Rodgers out, either Mama or Talamaivao is in line to start the opener against Fresno State.
Unlikely to Redshirt
Ajene Harris - USC has a deep wide receiver group, but Harris continues to impress throughout the fall, making him a likely option in the slot.
Olajuwon Tucker - With Lamar Dawson's recovering from a knee injury sustained last season coming along very slowly, Tucker is currently backing up Anthony Sarao in the Will linebacker position.
Uchenna Nwosu - Athletic linebackers like Nwosu typically make really good special teams players, so even if he doesn't get playing time on defense, he probably will still see the field.
Likely One of the Seven
Rahshead Johnson - The Trojans' depth at wide receiver will keep Johnson from being needed this season. The question is whether he will stay on the offensive side of the ball for the entire season.
Malik Dorton - Damien Mama's St. John Bosco teammate has spent time with the defensive linemen and linebackers as he preps for an outside linebacker rush end role in the future.
Don Hill - Despite being an early enrollee, Hill didn't get the extra reps during spring practice after sitting out with an Achilles injury.
Chris Brown - Brown isn't currently in the 8-10 man rotation, Sarkisian and OL coach Tim Drevno want to employ this season.
Lamont Simmons - Simmons looked really good to open camp, but he's had his growing pains since. With USC featuring a solid cornerback crew this year, an extra-year of seasoning is ideal for Simmons.
Absolute Locks to Redshirt
Jordan Austin - Austin is already done for the season after undergoing hip surgery similar to what Zack Banner had performed last year.
Jalen Greene - Barring a rash of injuries to Cody Kessler and Max Browne, Greene shouldn't see any time under center. He is still very raw, but there is the outside chance Steve Sarkisian could put in a unique running package to utilize Greene's athletic ability at the QB position.