Written by Garin Turner
The 2018-19 college football season starts next month and today we take a look at the USC Trojans on PAC-12 Media Days. The Trojans have been projected in the PAC-12 Media Poll to win the PAC-12 South after finishing last year with a 11-3 (8-1 PAC-12) record and suffering a tough loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl where they lost. “I think one of the biggest things is to go back and view the experiences that you had the season prior, and to evaluate what you’ve done in spring football”, said USC head coach Clay Helton.
The Trojans will need to replace two-year starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who was drafted 3rd by the New York Jets in the NFL Draft this year. The only quarterback with game experience is redshirt sophomore Matt Fink, who appeared in three games last year, completing 6 of 9 passes for 43 yards and added seven carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. Jack Sears (redshirt freshman), Holden Thomas (redshirt sophomore), and JT Daniels (true freshman) will all challenge Fink for the starting job.
“It’s going to be about who the best player is in the moment. Who is going to be able to move our football team, move our offense and put the ball in the end zone in training camp,” Helton said of the quarterback competition.
The Trojans will also have to reestablish the running game with Ronald Jones II also heading to the NFL after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2nd round. Sophomore Stephen Carr could be that guy after playing in 10 games, rushing for 375 yards on 65 attempts with three touchdowns. However, he is coming back from a surgery, but coach Helton suggests he will be ready to go come fall.
“He’s good right now. He’s just been cleared to practice. Obviously coming off of back surgery, we’ll be smart and won’t throw him out there the whole practice, but we’ll bring him along just like a guy that’s been off.”
Wide Receiver Deontay Burnett signed with the Tennessee Titans and Steven Mitchell Jr. graduated, but the Trojans are a little more proven at that position than at quarterback and running back. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughns and junior Michael Pittman Jr. return after having solid seasons last year. Vaughns had 57 receptions for 809 yards and five touchdowns. Pittman Jr. had 23 catches for 404 yards and a pair of scores. “I was very proud of Michael, especially him and Tyler, how they finish down the stretch really led our football team,” said of Helton of the duo.
The defense has a lot of depth with several players at each position which will be an advantage for the Trojans as they plan on giving everybody including their star players rest. Christian Rector is the top returning defensive linemen from last year with 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. Marvell Tell III had three interceptions last year for the Trojans. “There are going to be several young players that have that opportunity. It’s a great mix on this team,” Helton said.
USC opens its season at home September 1st against UNLV.