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USC Football: Positional Grades vs. Texas

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An excellent defensive performance highlights our grades in another Trojan victory

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans got all they could handle and then some, but ultimately got a much-needed victory over a scrappy and talented Texas team. Taking the game to the wire in a double-overtime winner, the Trojans’ 27-24 victory brought up a lot of questions for this team moving forward. Not getting ahead of ourselves however, we break down a few key groups with our positional rankings.

Quarterback: C

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This one of Sam Darnold’s worst games as a starter—and no, this isn’t an attempt at a hot take.

Darnold’s 49 passing attempts are his most in the regular season, just four shy of his 53 attempts in last year’s Rose Bowl—yet he only completed 57.1 percent of those passes against Texas setting a new career-low.

Darnold made a few buzz-worthy plays, but as is the norm for him this season—threw another two interceptions bringing the Heisman hopeful to six on the season.

On a bright note, Darnold’s 397 yards were a season-high, but that’s about all there’s good to say about his performance.

He made cringeworthy errors in crucial moments of the game, particularly throwing a pick-six being up 7-0 with only 30 seconds left in the first half to junior Texas safety DeShon Elliot to crash momentum into the halftime.

For this time to reach it’s potential, Darnold must reach his and be able to strike when the opponent is reeling.

Running Backs: C-

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There was nowhere to run.

The duo of Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr were finally stifled as they combined on 27 carries for 75 yards—a paltry 2.7 yard per carry average, and zero touchdowns.

Texas did an admirable job on the defense front, particularly junior linebacker Anthony Wheeler in sealing the edge as well as junior lineman Charles Omenihu and senior Poona Ford attacking the interior and creating an absolute wall upfront.

The RB duo did however come through in the passing game as Jones caught his only reception for a 56-yard highlight reel touchdown to end the first half and Carr catching three balls for 42 yards. They’ll need to do better moving forward, as this team cannot succeed without them.

Wide Receivers: Burnett-B/Rest of WRs-D

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The two-man receiving “core” of Deontay Burnett and Stephen Mitchell Jr. continue to amass drops, and it greatly stalls this offense.

It’s painful to see a clearly talented receiver in Burnett who caught eight balls for 123 yards and touchdowns being plagued by so many drops in unison with the rest of receiving brethren.

Burnett gets separation on crisp routes and has been Darnold’s number one weapon especially in the redzone.

The rest of the receivers seem promising, but there’s just way too many drops. In the second half alone, there was five drops especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Whatever these issues are, whether they be chemistry or concentration, something needs to happen.

Front Seven: A

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

As a preface, you have to combine the front-seven as a unit in this 5-2 defense since it is difficult to separate the down linebackers with the lineman that are also ou twide.

The defense won this game for the Trojans.

This unit combined for five sacks and ten tackles-for-loss, led the way by LB Porter Gustin ( two sacks and two TFLs) and lineman Christian Rector(1.5 sacks and 2.5 TFLs).

Linebackers Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu are undoubtedly the leaders of this team. Each had nine total tackles and were flying around the field—attacking the line of scrimmage and swarming to the ball.

This defense has been improving each week, and it’ll be exciting to see what they can do when the offense becomes consistent enough to keep them off the field.

Defensive Backs: C

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still waiting on Iman Marshall to play like the shutdown corner we’ve expected him to be—but he just have up 191 receiving yeards on seven catches to the 6’6” Colin Johnson who absolutely dominated the secondary.

Outside of Johnson, the secondary was very active in stopping the rest of the receivers.

Junior cornerback Marvin Tell III has continued his solid season with his second interception of the season. Sophomore Jack Jones also notched an interception, the first of his career.

There’s a lot of talent in this secondary, but they are inexperienced as a group and will need more games to figure how to successfully work together.