When Greg Townsend Jr. committed to the USC Trojans back in the class of 2011, he was a highly touted prep All-American defensive lineman with an impressive football heritage as the son of former NFL All-Pro Greg Townsend. But the fifth-year senior has yet to capitalize on that massive potential over the last four seasons, suffering a number of setbacks and injuries. Will 2015 finally be the year he steps into the spotlight for the Trojans?
Looking back at Townsend's run at USC, you see a young man running into a series of unfortunate events. After redshirting his first year on campus, Townsend sat out the 2012 season while recuperating from knee surgery. Even when he appeared set to get on the right track in 2014, he was sidelined with chicken pox, of all things.
During fall camp, however, Townsend has enjoyed a string of health like he has never had at USC, saying that he is "in the best shape since I've been here," and is finally showing what he can do with regular reps in practice. Steve Sarkisian has raved about Townsend's work this offseason, saying that he has brought a pass-rushing element to the defensive line group that nobody else has shown consistently.
Townsend has quietly moved his way up the depth chart during camp in part due to his ability on the field and ironically because he's been able to stay healthy. Claude Pelon (19 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks in 2014) was penciled in as the starter ahead of Townsend but has been sidelined with a knee sprain, pushing Townsend into the No. 1 spot.
Finding a consistent presence up front has been a priority for the Trojans this offseason. The interior defense took a major hit when Leonard Williams took his talents to the NFL where he's getting set to anchor the defensive line of the New York Jets. Williams was a destructive force for USC in 2014, logging 80 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, three passes broken up, and even an interception.
If Greg Townsend can stay healthy and deliver on the potential that he came to USC with back in 2011, the Trojans defense just might be able to fill the void on their defensive line this season and make a serious push for the Pac-12 title in 2015.