On Wednesday, Sam Darnold announced his intention to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. With his announcement comes chatter about who will replace him? Who will follow him? And who will stay? Taking into account more NFL bound announcements, here are the Trojans slated to make a huge impact in 2018.
Porter Gustin, LB, Senior
After being sidelined for most of the season due to a foot injury sustained during the Texas game on Sept. 16, Gustin is unlikely to enter the draft this year which is great news for the Trojan Family.
The Trojans’ pass rush certainly felt the loss of Gustin who in three games recorded multiple sacks. Gustin’s dominant presence in the tackle department, will also be a welcome bonus to the 2018 team.
Senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu repeatedly delivered during clutch moments needed to give USC a win, something the Trojans will be looking to Gustin for next season.
With Nwosu headed for the NFL, Gustin needs to fill his All-American shoes in order to keep the defense in top form. Junior linebacker Cam Smith may very well enter the Draft as well, even more of a reason the USC defense will be Gustin’s to lead. Look for him to be named a captain in 2018.
Through four games Gustin recorded 16 total tackles, 9 solo, 7 assists, & 3 sacks.
Stephen Carr, RB, Sophomore
Junior All-American Ronald Jones has declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, which leaves the door open for Carr to take the reigns. While he battled injury this season, Carr did have flashes of greatness, especially when it came to his speed.
His debut came in the first game against Western Michigan, where he racked up two touchdowns and 69 yards, with a yard average of 9.9 and a long of 52.
While Carr’s first game was impressive for a freshman, his breakout came during USC’s routing of Stanford on Sept. 9.
Fans delighted in seeing both Jones and Carr go back and forth in trading stats and touchdowns. Something the Trojan Family really hasn’t seen since Reggie Bush and LenDale White.
Against Stanford, Carr recorded 119 yards with an average of 10.8, and a long of 52.
Fans have been waiting to see more of what Carr can unleash, and with Jones not eating up the first team reps, they just might get their wish.
Jack Jones, CB, Junior
USC corner Jones had his breakout season this year.
While junior Iman Marshall probably won’t declare for the draft because of a lack-luster season due to injury, I still think the keys to the defense are in Jone’s hands.
Jones had some fist pumping plays this season, whether it was spot on coverage or key interceptions, he has the skill to become one of college football’s top corners in 2018.
However he still has a few things to learn, USC’s game against Colorado showed Jones’ youth. Blown coverage and giving up two big touchdowns won’t get anyone a spot on the All-American Walk wall, but lucky for Jones, he has an incredibly high ceiling, and his upside will be exciting to watch.
The Quarterbacks: Fink, Sears, & Daniels
With Darnold headed for a first round selection, the keys to the Trojan offense are up in the air.
Here are the suitors for 2018:
Matt Fink, redshirt sophomore, former three star
Jack Sears, sophomore, former four star state champion
JT Daniels, true freshman, five star Gatorade Player of the Year
USC fans saw a glimpse of redshirt freshman Fink in some garbage time against Oregon State, where the second string dual-threat ran for a 51 yard touchdown.
Fink has also been strong in practice, his speed and agility is what makes him stand out, and it’s also what may win him the starting job along with his experience.
Fans were also excited when Sears joined the ranks of the Trojan quarterbacks, but they have not seen much of him in action. A talented and agile pro style quarterback who even had a better career than Darnold at San Clemente high school, will definitely be competing to win the starting position.
The talk of the Trojans recruiting cycle has been the reclassifying of Daniels from 2019 to 2018 quarterback.
Daniels has won just about every award you can win at the high school level, while leading No. 1 Mater Dei to an undefeated championship season. He can make every throw and even leap over defenders, and is definitely the fan favorite to take over the Trojan offense.
During his perfect senior season, Daniels recorded 4,123 yards, 52 passing touchdowns, an average of 274.6 yards per game, and six interceptions.
Daniels also was explosive on the ground with 556 yards and nine touchdowns.
While putting up jaw-dropping stats in high school doesn’t guarantee you a starting position, many seem to think Daniels has earned the right to take charge.
All of USC’s heirs to the quarterback throne have the ability to make explosive plays, so look for accuracy through the air to be a deciding factor going into the position battle. I predict it will come down to Fink and Daniels this summer.