- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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With the USC Trojans football program now almost a year removed from the official end of the NCAA sanctions, and with Steve Sarkisian's staff having just pulled in the first full signing class at USC since 2011, the Trojans are inching back toward the 85-scholarship player roster limit.
After beginning the 2014 campaign with 67 recruited scholarship players on the roster, it looks like the Trojans will open fall camp in August with 75, and two more scholarship players who are former walk-ons -- Ryan Dillard and George Katrib. That puts them at 77, and it’s likely that more walk-ons will be granted scholarships before the season. Also, sources continue to indicate that sophomore linebacker Unchenna Nwosu, who was not enrolled at USC this past spring, will be back on the team in the fall.
As the numbers indicate, the 2015 team will feature an abundance of youth. Of the 77 scholarship players expected to be on the roster, six will be redshirt freshmen, and 24 will be true freshmen -- 22 of whom are members of the most recent recruiting haul. In addition, two blueshirt players -- Deontay Burnett and Clayton Johnston -- will count towards the Class of 2016. There will also be 16 sophomores, 15 juniors and 16 seniors using up scholarships.
Here’s a closer look at each position group.
* Denotes players who have used redshirt:
With the Trojans having signed two quarterbacks from the Class of 2015, Darnold and Town, they have plenty of depth. So much so, in fact, that rumors have been swirling that Greene could be headed to wide receiver.
The Trojans lost their workhorse, Buck Allen, to the NFL draft following last season. However, thanks to the signing of Davis, Jones and Ware, USC looks to have good depth at tailback. With Pinner and Vainuku entering their final seasons, it will be interesting to see if Sarkisian and Co. address the fullback position in the next recruiting class, or if the spot is phased out.
Wide Receiver (8)
Despite the loss of Nelson Agholor and George Farmer, this unit looks poised for a big 2015 season after a very productive spring. It is a fairly young collection of players, and the USC coaches did a nice job of adding a pair of veteran performers in the most recent recruiting class -- junior college transfers Hampton and Whitney.
Tight End (3)
Juniors: Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick*, Taylor McNamara*
Freshmen: Tyler Petite
The news that Bryce Dixon is no longer enrolled at USC was a heavy blow to the tight end group. Cope-Fitzpatrick, expected Oklahoma-transfer McNamara, and incoming freshman Petite will be expected to pick up the slack. The Trojans also appear to have some capable walk-ons in Connor Spears and incoming freshman Caleb Wilson.
Offensive Line (15)
Seniors: Max Tuerk
Juniors: Zach Banner*, Jordan Simmons*, Chad Wheeler*
Sophomores: Nico Falah*, Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama, Khaliel Rodgers*, Viane Talamaivao
Freshmen: Jordan Austin*, Chris Brown*, Chuma Edoga, Roy Hemsley, Clayton Johnston, Cole Smith
USC hasn’t had this kind of depth along the offensive line in years. With Tuerk serving as the lone senior, it’s a group marked by youth, but also talent.
Defensive Line (12)
Seniors: Claude Pelon*, Delvon Simmons*, Cody Temple*, Greg Townsend Jr.*, Antwaun Woods*
Sophomores: Kenny Bigelow*
Freshmen: Jacob Daniel, Malik Dorton*, Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Christian Rector, Kevin Scott
With five seniors along the interior defensive line, the staff wisely loaded up here in the most recent recruiting class. Some of those highly touted newcomers will undoubtedly be expected to contribute early.
Outside Linebacker/Rush End (7)
Felix, Ruffin, Hill and Gustin man the rush end position, with Cravens, Powell and Houston lining up at Sam linebacker. The Trojans have a nice mix of young and old here -- a good thing considering the fact that if Cravens performs as anticipated, he will almost certainly have the opportunity to leave early for the NFL.
Inside Linebacker (6)
Dawson and Sarao look like the likely starters on the inside, and with Tucker and Smith showing well this spring, and the highly touted Masina to arrive this summer, there is reason to believe there are some very capable young bodies available to rotate in here.
Seymour and Jackson looked extremely solid as the starting cornerback duo this spring. It will be interesting to see where Marshall, one of the most heralded members of USC’s incoming crop of freshmen, fits in.
The Trojans still don’t have much depth at safety, but the addition of Ross and Tell will certainly help. Hawkins, normally a cornerback, spent the majority of the spring at safety and will challenge for a starting role there. Lockett is another player who took some reps at safety and could provide depth here, but he was still listed as a cornerback on the post-spring depth chart.
Seniors: Kris Albarado*
Sophomores: Matt Boermeester*
Boermeester is in the midst of tightly contested position battle with walk-on Alex Wood, who has performed well in kickoff duty in the past.
With Steve Sarkisian's staff having pulled in the first full signing class since 2011, USC is inching back toward the 85-scholarship limit.