With the 2017 season closing in we take a look at the Special Teams group. A unit that was powered by the outstanding playmaking ability of Adoree Jackson returning kicks and punts last season. This season the Trojans must replace Jackson, who was drafted in the first round of this year’s draft, and kicker Matt Boermeester, who is unlikely to re-join the team after violating the University’s code of conduct. Most will say special teams will likely take a hit, but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s doubt special teams coach John Baxter as well as the athleticism and speed that USC has. That should be enough to give them some solid production next season.
At kicker USC will have to replace Rose Bowl hero Matt Boermeester, however they have plenty of depth to find that replacement. Redshirt freshman Michael Brown, who had a solid spring practice and appears to be the favorite to earn the starting job. Come fall practice he could have some competition as Chase McGrath out of Mater Dei high school arrives this summer. USC also has two walk on kickers in Reid Budrovich and Wyatt Schmidt, which completes the depth at that position. John Baxter has a knack for developing solid kickers and that should help with a Boermeester return looking very unlikely.
The biggest elephant in the room on special teams is at kick and punt return. USC must replace Adoree Jackson, who was responsible for two kick and punt return (four total) touchdowns last season. They also must replace his game changing ability, which is very tough to find. Many coaches are high on wide receiver Velus Jones returning kicks. Jones’ speed has caught the eye of Baxter on kick returns in which he calls “football game speed”. It remains to be seen if that speed will be game changing on kick returns, but it appears Jones will have a chance to show it.
Punt return seems to be a different challenge for the Trojans. Throughout the spring the Trojans have allowed a few skill players to audition at punt returner. Cornerback Jack Jones, Ajene Harris, Safety Ykili Ross, and Wide receivers Velus Jones and Deontay Burnett were given a chance to try their hand at punt returner. USC has until September to figure out who will return punts, so they’re not in a hurry to name a guy right away.