We are two weeks away from spring camp. This will be a brand new beginning for the USC Trojans after a pretty crazy off-season which included staff changes, losing out on key recruits, and transfers. The Trojans now shift focus on rebounding from a 5-7 season that left them at home during bowl season. There will be a few key changes to the team and some interesting storylines to follow for this years team as they work to turn things around.
Graham Harrell and the “Air Raid” Offense
USC set to begin life with a brand new offensive coordinator in Graham Harrell. The former Texas Tech quarterback brings his air raid offense to USC and will have a plethora of talent to work with. Last season the Trojans offense had one of its worst seasons on years due to multiple factors. One of them being lack of identity and creativity. Harrell helped turn North Texas into a top 15 offense in back to back seasons and has the opportunity shape up a struggling offense under his watch. With most of the Trojans starters returning on offense, Harrell will have the spring to install his offense have an initial rotation set up. We’ll get an idea of how the Trojans will look offensively heading into summer ball and fall camp.
JT Daniels in Year Two
The development of JT Daniels will have a lot of attention heading into year two. Last season was a pretty up and down with a lot of head scratching moments. With his freshman season behind him, all Daniels can do is learn from last season and improve from there. This year he has Harrell as his new offensive coordinator as well as his new quarterback coach to work with which is an upgrade compared to last season’s coaching staff. Daniels has the work ethic and talent to improve if he’s put into the right position. However he’ll have to compete for the starting job once again with Harrell opening up things to see who can run his offense.
USC will have a few positions opening up on the defensive side of the ball, however the cornerback position is the biggest area that needs the most attention. Gone are Ajene Harris, Johnathan Lockett, Isaiah Langley, and Iman Marshall along with a couple due to transfers early in the season. Greg Burns returns to the program to coach the defensive backs and all starting spots at cornerback are wide open, however USC will be limited at the position once again due to players recovering from surgeries or injuries. Greg Johnson and Olaijah Griffin are favorites to land the spot, but are expected to miss the spring to recover from off-season surgeries. Former four star cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stewart, who redshirted last season to recover from a foot injury, will have a shot to impress Burns during camp. Taylor-Stewart will have some competition from veteran and former running back Dominic Davis and safety Chase Williams, who could move back to corner for depth reasons. USC will also have three star defensive back Briton Allen, who enrolled early after signing during the early signing period back in December.
Clay Helton still being the Trojans’ head coach still isn’t sitting well with the fan base. Entering his fourth season with USC, he now faces the task of righting the ship at USC after a disastrous 5-7 season. Following the season USC made multiple staff changes, however the biggest question will be if Helton will make any changes to his style following last season? Helton won’t have to worry about calling plays this season or over seeing the offense with Harrell there. He can work on establishing a competitive culture and fixing the team’s on field discipline. There won’t be much on display this spring, so this will be a fine time for Helton to tune up a few things with the team.
This spring every position it up for grabs. USC wants to fix the culture around the program and having open competition is a way to do it. One of the biggest ones that people will keep an eye on will be at quarterback. With Harrell running the offense, he’ll want to see who can run his Air Raid system. Daniels had an up and down season as the starter which prompt the question of the job opening up. Redshirt sophomore Jack Sears had an impressive outing against Arizona State which brought a lot of optimism to many Trojan fans last season, while Matt Fink had flashes during the brief time he played last season. All three will have another shot at the starting quarterback position just like last fall. The big question will be if any of them well separate from the pack and will there be any improvement shown?
Early enrollees making an impact
USC is expect to have a handful of incoming freshmen who enrolled early. four star defensive back Max Williams, four star defensive end Drake Jackson, four star tight end Ethan Rae, three star linebacker Ralen Gorforth and Stanley Taufoou, three star lineman Gino Quinones, three star quarterback Kevin Slovis, and Australian rules Football player Ben Griffiths, who will join the team as a punter. With a new coaching staff and positions opening up, this could be an opportunity for the incoming freshman to impress and put themselves in a good position for fall camp. Defensive back Max Williams will miss spring camp due to a knee injury that he suffered during his senior season at Serra. An injury that required surgery. Williams will be on target to return for fall camp.