To bring you everything we know about USC for the upcoming season, we recently interviewed Dan Weber, USC expert and reporter covering the Trojans for USCFootball.com. Weber gave us all the details on the o-line, his pick for starting QB and his thoughts on breakout performers. Check out more from Weber on Twitter @dweber3440, and see how USC stacks up on our rankings page.
Overall, how do you believe the offense will compare to the 2018 version?
The offense will be much more focused, much more in tune with its talent, much better coached and disciplined if spring is any indication of the way they’ll perform for new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and his not quite Air Raid offense with holdover starting quarterback JT Daniels and the top three receivers — Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown. The way they practiced in spring is far different from the way they practiced last fall — far faster, far more physical, far more repetitive and disciplined.
What do you expect from the QB position in 2019?
I’d be shocked if JT Daniels isn’t the starter. He was the most accurate in the spring, followed by incoming freshman Kedon Slovis who was the most pleasanat of surprises. Dynamic redshirt sophomore Jack Sears showed his athleticism and run-pass abilities but would need to improve on his consistent accuracy. But to turn away from 11-game starter Daniels in an offense that seems designed to take advantage of JT’s ability to make all the throws with quick reads would not seem to be the way USC will go.
How do you see the workload at RB being distributed?
USC has three every-down backs returning in breakaway threat Stephen Carr and tough guy Vavae Malepeai, who at 215 to 220 pounds can run it inside and out as well as catch it. Getting the pass protection down for Carr might be something of an issue. But both will be threats out of the backfield on every pass play. Then there’s 230-pound redshirt freshman Markese Stepp, a revelation at the end of fall and in spring with his quickness as he dropped weight. He’s that big short-yardage guy USC hasn’t had, not that the other two dan’t get that done as well. Then there’s incoming freshman Kenan Christon, the second-fastest 100-metters man in California high school history, with a 10.33 time. Look for the San Diegan to be quickly incorporated into Harrell’s offense. As to the workload, that’s an interesting call. New running backs coach Mike Jinks says he likes to go with the hot hand and keep guys in the game until it’s time to bring the next guy in. Not sure how that works here. The three returning guys are pretty interchangeable so we’ll have to see how that plays out. Running more offensive plays will surely help.
How does the offensive line compare to the 2018 group?
The O-line group is bigger, more athletic with the four spring starters — not counting 6-foot-2, 300-pound center Brett Neilon — averaging 6-foot-5 1/2 and 310-315 pounds, just the frames you’d like for the pass-heavy, quick-hitting. Then there’s the addition of grad transfer Drew Richmond, a three-year starter at Tennessee, who will clearly be a big factor here adding the kind of depth this group needs. There’s also a former starter in Clayton Bradley, whose back issues kept the former starter out of the spring. At center, there’s second-year Justin Dedich, who like Neilon, was one of the nation’s top two prep centers his senior season. With the quicker-hitting pass-centric offense, the ability to run against defenses set to stop the pass would seem to be the goal here. O-line coach Tim Drevno, the former offensive coordinator at Michigan for Jim Harbauch, under whom Drevno coached at Stanford and the ’49ers, says that with the exception of the NFL team, this is the most talented line group he’s worked with. But after the last couple of seasons, that will be something that this group will have to prove.
What do you think the distribution will be to the WR/TE's?
No question the top three wide receivers, as described above with Pittman, Vaughns and St. Brown, will be one of the best groups in the nation. Second-year speedster Devon Williams (6-4, 205) and early entry freshman John Jackson each had their moments in the spring for a WR corps that had a number of players enter the transfer portal. One summer entry freshman USC is looking forward to is big, strong Kyle Ford (6-2, 210) from Corona who is rehabbing from ACL surgery. If healthy, he’s certainly healthy enough to play. At tight end, Josh Falo (6-6, 230) is a natural pass catcher and he’ll share time with a block-first but improved catcher Erik Krommenhoek (6-5, 255) and early entry freshman Jude Wolfe (6-5, 250) who looked like he belonged in spring. The distribution will be interesting after the first three wide receivers with Falo and the running backs all in the mix. But how that works, we’ll have to wait and see since USC didn’t put in every game-situation possibility with the whole crew.
For our dynasty owners, who are some young players that stand out as future breakout performers?
The new guys to look for have all been mentioned — Stepp, Christon and Ford. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if QB Slovis is as high as No. 2 on the depth chart.