With the days approaching to Saturday, USC prepares to open their 2019 season against the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Trojans are looking to bounce back from a horrific 2018 season that saw the team go 5-7 and miss a bowl game. Fresno State on the other is coming off an amazing season that saw them win 12 games, the Mountain West championship, and a Las Vegas Bowl victory over Arizona State. However, the Bulldogs come into the season with only 8 starters and must replace a mass amount of production from last year’s team. We highlight some players that fans should keep an eye on during Saturday’s opener.
Safety Juju Hughes
One of the best safeties in the Mountain West Conference, Juju Hughes returns to a Bulldogs defense that must replace 5 starters. Hughes was tied for the team lead in interceptions at 4. The senior safety brings production and experience to the Bulldogs secondary that will definitely need it, especially against USC’s passing game. Hughes is also known to make plays with skills in coverage.
Running Back Ronnie Rivers
Junior running back Ronnie Rivers returns to the Bulldogs backfield. Rivers was Fresno State’s leading rusher with 743 yards off 132 carries last season. His most impressive game of the season came during the Las Vegas Bowl where Rivera carried for 212 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State. While the junior running back will most likely split carries with junior running back Jordan Mims, USC fans could see Rivera a decent amount of the game.
Linebacker Mykal Walker
A Mountain West first team all defensive selection at defensive end, Senior Mykal Walker makes a switch from edge rusher to middle linebacker. Fresno State’s defensive coordinator Bert Watts has done a lot of shifting to plug holes on a defense that loses key talent on that side of the ball. Walker was one of the team leaders in sacks with 5.0 and tackles with 87 during the 2018 season. He also led the team in tackles for loss with 14. The move was made due in part that the coaches believe that Walker would fit better at middle linebacker. How the position change will affect the first team all Mountain West performer remains to be seen, but you can expect for him to be tested against an improved USC offense.