How the Trojans are shaping up


The Trojans wrapped up fall camp over the weekend, and here are some of the key takeaways from the practice sessions.

Quarterback: There aren’t too many teams around the country that can boast a QB depth chart as solid as the Trojans; in fact the only one probably resides in Columbus, Ohio. Cody Kessler enters the season as primed as he could hope to be as an experienced leader of the team. Max Browne continued to impress as well, and the Trojans are in fine shape if Browne should be needed at any point this year. True freshman Sam Darnold opened a lot of eyes with his running ability and stronger-than-expected arm.

Offensive line: While there is no question the offensive line should be improved upon last year with so many young players gaining experience, the fact is things haven’t come together yet to make you think they are ready to stake a claim as one of the nation’s best. Part of the reason for the unsettled camp is the fact that projected left tackle starter Chad Wheeler has not been cleared for full contact drills, and potential guard starters Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao have both missed chunks of practice time due to injury. Max Tuerk has been a rock at center but there is still much work that needs to be done around him as the season gets going.

Tight end: When the news became official that Bryce Dixon and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick would both be unavailable to the Trojans for the upcoming season, it left a void at the top of the tight end depth chart. As the team breaks camp, it appears Oklahoma transfer Taylor McNamara has emerged as the most likely candidate to start, while true freshman Tyler Petite has promise as a pass-catching option and will get a lot of playing time.

Adoree' Jackson: He is USC’s best cornerback. He is also the best punt returner, the best kickoff returner and may very well be the best offensive playmaker too. At first glance, it would seem to offer Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian a variety of creative options to use Jackson in the best way but it also offers a fair share of risk, considering how many ways it would hurt if Jackson were to be overused or injured. While the initial thought is that Jackson is best on the defensive side of the ball, he is just too dynamic on offense for Sarkisian to not be tempted to use him in that capacity as well.

Kicker: One of the unsung competitions of camp was at placekicker, with walk-on Alex Wood battling Matt Boermeester, who had been brought in last year under the blueshirt scholarship rule. In part because of that unique scholarship designation, I think most USC fans assumed Boermeester to be the favorite heading into camp but it appears Wood has taken the lead. It has been fairly even between the two kickers; both are fairly consistent from mid-range, although I wouldn’t say either possesses an overly strong leg.

Defensive line: One of the major concerns has been the interior of the defensive line and wondering how pressure will be applied without the services of Leonard Williams. Greg Townsend Jr. has been the pleasant surprise, in part because he has been healthy for the longest stretch of his USC career, and he has moved into the starting lineup recently with the absence of Claude Peon due to a knee sprain. Sarkisian recently praised Townsend for bringing a pass-rush ability that hasn’t been present from the other members of the line.

Freshmen: In addition to Darnold and Petite, there have been several other first-year players who made an impression. Running backs Ronald Jones and Dominic Davis are capable of the big play, while Porter Gustin, Osa Masina, Cameron Smith, Iman Marshall and Marvell Tell have all shown they could play legitimate roles in the defensive rotation.