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USC Football: Players to Keep an Eye on for 2019

This is the first time in 16 years that the USC Trojans have not had an underclassman declare for the NFL draft. The good news for the Trojans is that they will be returning most of their starters.

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

The USC Trojans had their worst season since pre-Pete Carroll era. However, with most of their starters returning, USC fans have a lot to look forward to.

1. JT Daniels

For a player that purposely finished high school early to join the Trojans, quarterback JT Daniels suffered some growing pains. As the second ever true freshman to start the season opener for the Trojans, Daniels went through some rough patches. Nonetheless, even though the Trojans fell just short of a bowl berth this season, Daniels gave Trojans fans a lot to look forward to in 2019. In just his first season with the Trojans, Daniels finished with a 128.6 passer rating, 2,672 yards passing, and gave up only ten interceptions.

2. John Houston Jr.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the attention on the defensive side of the ball was geared towards seniors Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, and Ajene Harris this season. A name that did not come up so often however was linebacker John Houston Jr., who had a very productive season. Houston Jr. had 67 tackles on the season, good for second best on the team. In addition, for a team that did not take away the ball often, Houston Jr. forced one of the six forced fumbles in 2018. Look for Houston Jr. to be one of the primary leaders for the defense next season.

3. Vavae Malapeai

Coming into the season, the Trojans were hoping to rely on Aca’Cedric Ware and Stephen Carr to handle most of the running back duties. Surprisingly, early in the season, Vavae Malapeai jumped onto the scene as a force to be reckoned with. Racking up 509 rushing yards, the redshirt sophomore had the most rushing touchdowns on the team with eight. If the Trojans have any chance of earning a bowl berth next season, they will have to rely on Malapeai to play at the same level.

4. Michael Brown

When Chase McGrath injured his ACL early in the season, the Trojans were left with questions on what to do at kicker. Even contemplating on bringing in a player from the USC Women’s Soccer Team, the Trojans eventually found their answer in redshirt sophomore, Michael Brown. When Brown, who sat on the sidelines watching McGrath kick for most of his college career, earned his opportunity, he did not disappoint. Missing only two field goals beyond 30 yards, Brown went 7-9 with a long of 46 yards in just five games played. With one season now under his belt, Brown will be a key player going into the 2019 season.

5. Amon-Ra St. Brown

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

A teammate of Daniels in high school, Amon-Ra St. Brown came into the 2018 season with high expectations. After the season was done, many Trojans fans will say that St. Brown certainly did live up to those expectations. St. Brown finished with 750 receiving yards, second to only Trojan veteran, Michael Pittman Jr’s 758 receiving yards. Furthermore, St. Brown became Daniels favorite target, catching balls in the most critical moments. With the combination of St. Brown and Daniels, the Trojans hope to have an even better offensive production in 2019.