A best-guess look at how the depth chart at USC shakes out currently based upon what was observed in spring practice.
*Those listed in italics were sidelined or limited due to injury at the conclusion of spring practice.
Sam Darnold (6-foot-4, 225 pounds, RS So.); Matt Fink (6-3, 195, RS Fr.); Jack Sears (6-3, 195, Fr.)
As the Heisman favorite, Darnold entered the spring surrounded by sky-high expectations, and to no surprise he certainly didn’t disappoint. What wound up being somewhat of a revelation, however, was the performance of Fink. The redshirt-freshman passer showed improvement in virtually every facet of his game as he made a major statement in the competition for the backup job. Sears, who enrolled at USC this past January, made tremendous strides this spring as well, so there’s reason to believe that the Trojans could be in solid shape here not just currently, but in the future as well.
Ronald Jones II (6-1, 195, Jr); Aca’Cedric Ware (6-0, 195, Jr.) OR Vavae Malepeai (6-0, 215, RS Fr.); Dominic Davis (5-10, 180 Jr.); James Toland IV (5-11, 195, RS Sr.)
Reuben Peters (6-0, 225, RS Jr.); Chris Edmondson (5-11, 210, RS Fr.)
Though he did miss brief time due to a toe injury, Jones II had a productive spring, providing more than enough reason to believe that he’s ready to best his performance in 2016 – when he led the team with 1,082 yards on the ground. Ware missed significant time with a foot injury of his own, but when he did come back he was arguably running with more confidence than ever. With both Ware and Davis sidelined throughout much of the spring, Malepeai carried the bulk of the load at times, and he made the most of the opportunity as he showcased a unique combination of power, vision and deceptive speed.
Tyler Vaughns (6-2, 180, RS FR) OR Michael Pittman Jr. (6-4, 210, So.)
Jalen Greene (6-1, 200, RS Jr.); Josh Imatorbhebhe (6-2, 210, RS Fr.); Keyshawn “Pie” Young (5-11, 175, So.)
Deontay Burnett (6-0, 170, Jr.); Velus Jones Jr. (6-0, 185, RS Fr.); Steven Mitchell Jr. (5-10, 190, RS Sr.); Trevon Sidney (5-11, 170, RS Fr.)
Coming off a spectacular Rose Bowl outing, Burnett (head) was slowed late, but he was easily the most consistent performer of the spring here. Staying at slot receiver, Velus Jones really asserted himself with some standout play, and it will be interesting to see how this position group shakes out when Mitchell jumps back into the fold as well. On the outside, Greene – who spent the spring solely at wide receiver – emerged as a reliable option, and both Vaughns and Pittman really came on as the practices wore on. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both players on the field early and often in 2017.
Tyler Petite (6-5, 235, Jr.); Cary Angeline (6-6, 230, RS Fr.); Austin Applebee (6-6, 240, RS Jr.); Daniel Imatorbhebhe (6-4, 240, RS So.)
Imatorbhebhe was limited throughout the spring with a shoulder injury, but from what he did show, you can expect him to be the top dog here again once he’s back to 100 percent. Petite appeared to show some improved hands, and with some added reps, Angeline asserted himself as a legitimate option here as a big, tall receiving threat.
Chuma Edoga (6-4, 290, Jr.); Clayton Johnston (6-6, 285, RS So.)
Roy Hemsley (6-5, 310, RS So.); Chris Brown (6-5, 300, RS Jr.); Richie Wenzel (6-3, 250, RS Jr.)
Nico Falah (6-4, 280, RS Sr.); Cole Smith (6-4, 280, RS So.); Frank Martin II (6-5, 310, RS Fr.); Toa Lobendahn (6-3, 295, RS. Jr.)
Jordan Austin (6-5, 300, RS Jr.); Frank Martin II (6-5, 310, RS Fr.); Andrew Vorhees (6-6, 290, Fr.); Viane Talamaivao (6-2, 315, Sr.)
Chris Brown (6-5, 300, RS Jr.); Clayton Johnston (6-6, 285, RS So.); Andrew Vorhees (6-6, 290, Fr.) OR Nathan Smith (6-6, 275, RS Fr.)
This is a unit that entered the spring surrounded by uncertainty, and due to a number of injuries, that is still most definitely the case today. Key performers Nico Falah, Viane Talamaivao and Toa Lobendahn missed most, if not all of the spring, but it seems safe to say that all three will fill starting roles in the fall. Helton noted that Lobendahn will compete with Falah for the starting center job in fall camp, with one of the two ultimately winding up at another position. Edoga spent most of his time at left tackle with the No. 1 group, and he also saw time at right tackle, but even he was hobbled late with finger and wrist injuries. Brown switched spots with Hemsley mid-way through the spring – from left guard to right tackle – and it will be worth keeping a close eye on both players in fall camp as they attempt to nail down starting jobs. Johnston and Vorhees are two more names to watch. Both players saw time with the No. 1 group.
Interior Defensive Line
Josh Fatu (6-3, 290, Sr.) OR Marlon Tuipulotu (6-3, 295, Fr.); Jacob Daniel (6-4, 310, Jr.); Kenny Bigelow (6-3, 295, RS SR.
Rasheem Green (6-5, 280, Jr.); Christian Rector (6-5, 275, RS So.)
Malik Dorton (6-2, 280, RS Jr.); Liam Jimmons (6-5, 280, RS Fr.); Kenny Bigelow (6-3, 295, RS SR.)
Fatu ran exclusively with the No. 1 defense at nose tackle to start things out, but Tuipulotu made a big impression in a hurry and was splitting the reps there with Fatu by the end of the spring. That will be an intriguing battle to watch in fall camp. It will also be interesting to see where Bigelow fits in once he’s cleared for full contact. Green, meanwhile, added some bulk to his 6-5 frame, and he was looking better than ever.
Oluwole Betiku Jr. (6-3, 250, So.); Connor Murphy (6-7, 255, So.); Porter Gustin (6-5, 260, Jr.);
Uchenna Nwosu (6-3, 235, Sr.); Olajuwon Tucker (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Nwosu was one of the most impressive performers this spring, and he looks primed to have a huge year on the field. Gustin (hand) was limited throughout the spring, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be back running with the No. 1 group when fall camp opens up. In his absence both Betiku and Murphy saw more action, with Betiku, in particular, opening some eyes.
Cameron Smith (6-2, 245, Jr.); Jordan Iosefa (6-2, 215, So.)
John Houston Jr. (6-3, 220, RS So.); Grant Moore (6-0, 210, RS Jr.); Tayler Katoa (6-2, 220, Fr.)
Smith, the team’s leading tackler in 2016, predictably had a great spring in terms of his play on the field, and he also asserted himself as a leader of the defense. Opposite him, Houston lined up exclusively with the No. 1 group at the WILL linebacker spot. It will be interesting to see if Iosefa, who looked good with the No. 2 group at the MIKE position, gets a shot to compete with Houston for the starting job there in fall camp.
Jack Jones (5-11, 170, So.); Isaiah Langley (6-0, 170, Jr.)
Iman Marshall (6-1, 200, Jr.); Jalen Jones (5-8, 165, RS Jr.); Jonathan Lockett (5-11, 180, Sr.)
Marshall quietly had a very solid spring. Jones spent the bulk of the spring running opposite him as the Trojans’ search for a replacement for Adoree’ Jackson officially got underway. Langley also saw time with the No. 1 unit at times.
Chris Hawkins (5-11, 185, RS Sr.); Matt Lopes (5-11, 195, RS Sr.); C.J. Pollard (6-1, 185, RS Fr.),
Marvell Tell III (6-3, 190, Jr.); Ykili Ross (6-0, 200, RS. So.)
Ajene Harris (5-11, 190, RS Jr.); Jamel Cook (6-3, 185, RS Fr.)
Hawkins and Tell give the Trojans a very capable starting duo with a ton of experience at the safety positions. Ross, who has battled injuries in the past, showed that he just might be ready to contribute as well. At the Nickel spot, Harris was rock-solid in that role, while Cook emerged as one of the real surprises of the spring.
Chris Tilbey (6-5, 205, RS Jr.); Reid Budrovich (5-11, 185, RS Jr.)
Michael Brown (6-2, 195, RS Fr.); Reid Budrovich (5-11, 185, RS Jr.)
Damon Johnson (6-0, 205, Fr.); Wyatt Schmidt (6-3, 210, RS Jr.); Jake Olson (6-4, 210, RS So.)
Wyatt Schmidt (6-3, 210, RS Jr.); Sam Darnold (6-foot-4, 225 pounds, RS So.); Reid Budrovich (5-11, 185, RS Jr.)
With it looking less and less likely that Matt Boermeester will return, Brown got a ton of work in. Inconsistent at first, he got better and better as the spring wore on, and he drilled a 50-yarder field goal in the spring finale.