- Biggest surprise of camp
Garry Paskwietz: I’ll say Jay Tufele and the way he has consistently made plays all during camp. There was certainly a lot of hope that Tufele would join the group of contributors from last year along the d-line but to see the way he has performed led Clay Helton to say recently that Tufele was playing as well as anybody on defense.
Greg Katz: The biggest surprise of camp to me was just how fast true freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown became an impact player to the point of not wondering how much early playing time he might, but would he become a starter on the outside or in the slot. If not for the scrutiny of the quarterback competition and J.T. Daniels, St. Brown could be considered the most impactful freshman.
HelixTrojan: So far the most pleasant surprise of this camp has been the depth of the running back position. Stephen Carr has quickly returned to his freshmen form after rehabbing from injury all off-season. Aca’Cedric Ware has improved as a player and leader, while Vavae Malepeai has looked strong. And before suffering a concussion, true freshman Markese Stepp stepped right in and was delivering exactly what was expected in the “big back” role.
- Under-the-radar development
GP: The fact that there are still a pair of competitions going on in the secondary. Isaiah Langley was thought to be the heavy front-runner to replace Jackie Jones, and he’s still in the lead spot, but he’s getting pushed by Greg Johnson, and I don’t think it will be too long before Olaijah Griffin gets into that mix as well. At safety, Bubba Bolden is holding on to the spot opposite Marvell Tell but nothing is certain yet, especially once Ykili Ross comes back from his hamstring injury.
GK: Biggest under-the-radar development is the play of redshirt freshman corner Greg Johnson, who is right in the mix for the starting corner spot opposite Iman Marshall. If Johnson can stay healthy the rest of training camp, things could get interesting. Keep an eye on this former L.A. Hawkins High star.
HT: The biggest under-the-radar development has been the depth of the Front 7 on defense. Even without starters Porter Gustin and Cam Smith due to injury, the defensive line and linebacker corp has been good with versatile veterans such as Christian Rector and Jordan Iosefa taking up the slack, and young players like Levi Jones, Jay Tufele, Kana’i Mauga, and Hunter Echols making significant progress.
- Biggest remaining question to be answered
GP: Coming into the camp the offensive line was top of mind for many Trojans in terms of questions that needed to get answered and I don’t think we know all of the answers yet. I do like the way the Trojans ran the ball in several run drills and team sessions but it’s not enough to say they are ready to go out and be the dominant force that can control the line in both the run game and pass protection. The only way we will know that is to see it in games, and there are two big tests early on which should provide some answers.
GK: Biggest remaining question that needs to be answered is -shockingly – who will be the starting quarterback against UNLV? If this question has been answered by the time this roundtable is posted, I would turn to who will be the starting safety opposite Marvell Tell lll?
HT: The biggest remaining question in my mind is whether TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe will return to practice in a reasonable time frame to help the team in the early games this season. He’s a difference maker in the offense as a receiver and blocker, and would make the new QB’s life easier with his presence.