In 2017 USC had an up and down year. Their biggest issue was allowing the big play through the air. The Trojans gave up 54 passes that were 20 yards or more last season. Not to mention the health and depth issues also bothered the Trojans. USC will also be replacing some key starter in Chris Hawkins, who graduated, and Jack Jones, who left the USC program due to academics and was in legal trouble during the off-season. This season USC has depth on their side and hoping for good health and consistency.
Starters and Back ups
Cornerback: Iman Marshall elected to return for his senior season after an up and down season that was caused by some injury issues. When healthy Marshall brings a physical presence to the cornerback position. Without a doubt Marshall has a starting spot locked up, however the opposite side has a lot of uncertainty. Jack Jones was expected to be starter opposite of Iman Marshall, however his departure it leaves a hole in that area. Senior Isaiah Langley saw first team reps during spring practice and filled in for Marshall for a brief time last season. Expect Langley to start week 1 along with Marshall. Senior Ajene Harris will once again see time as the Trojans nickelback. Last season Harris came up at valuable times which included his two interception game against Colorado last season.
Once again USC has depth at the cornerback position. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will use the talent for second and third team units. Redshirt senior Johnathan Lockett missed the last two seasons due to injuries. He heads into the season finally healthy and could find himself in the rotation. Redshirt freshman Greg Johnson returns after being sidelined after season ending back surgery. There’s also incoming freshmen in Isaac Taylor-Stewart and Olijah Griffin, who could push for early playing time come fall camp. It has been noted that Griffin has been looking impressive during the player ran practices.
Safety: Another player who opted to return for his senior season was safety Marvell Tell. Tell had a productive junior season and is looking to continue be a huge piece of the Trojans defense in 2018. The strong safety position is completely wide open with the departure of Chris Hawkins and Matt Lopes. Both Sophomore Bubba Bolden and Redshirt Junior Ykili Ross are battling for the starting spot, however it is possible that both could split time in different packages.
USC has more talent behind Bolden, Ross, and Tell. Isaiah Pola-Mao missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Expect Pola Mao to compete for time in the Trojans rotation along with sophomore C.J. Pollard behind Marvell Tell. Freshman Talanoa Hufanga has impressed coaches during spring practice and has given himself a leg up to compete for early field time with his athletic ability and versatility to play both safety and corner.
Player to Watch
One key player to watch in the USC secondary will be Isaiah Langley. The senior played a key role in filling in for Iman Marshall last season and took first team reps during the spring. With Langley taking over for Jack Jones, many will look to him to provide some production on that side of the field. One thing the Trojans will need out of Langley is consistency.