#17 USC 2018 Football Preview

USC Trojans
Overall Rank: #17
#3 Pac-12
 USC Logo
USC returned to the Pac-12 title game for the second time in three years. This time though the Trojans managed to beat Stanford and claim a Pac-12 championship. Coach Clay Helton has only been leading the program for two years, but he has already turned things around. Coach Helton is the only USC coach to lead the Trojans to back-to-back 10 plus win seasons in their first two years at the helm and that has Trojan fans excited for year three.
2017 Record: 11-3, 8-1
2017 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Ohio State (L 7-24)
Coach: Clay Helton (27-10 at USC, 27-10 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tee Martin
Defensive Coordinator: Clancy Pendergast
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Stephen Carr, RB, 363 yards
Passing: Matt Fink, QB, 43 yards
Receiving: Tyler Vaughns, WR, 809 yards
Tackles: Cameron Smith, LB, 112
Sacks: Christian Rector, DT, 7.5
Interceptions: Marvell Tell, S, 3; Ajene Harris, LB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Michael Pittman, TE Tyler Petite, OL Toa Lobendahn, OL Chris Brown, LB John Houston, CB Iman Marshall, CB Isaiah Langley
Key Losses: RB Ronald Jones, QB Sam Darnold, WR Deontay Burnett, WR Steven Mitchell, DE Rasheem Green, DT Josh Fatu, LB Uchena Nwosu, S Chris Hawkins, CB Jack Jones
There are some major holes on offense though and that could slow down the Trojans. Gone are quarterback Sam Darnold, leading rusher Ronald Jones and top receiver Deontay Burnett. At quarterback the Trojans do not have much experience. Matt Fink, who saw mop up duty in a few games last season, is the only quarterback who has thrown a pass. Incoming freshman JT Daniels is a superb talent and will be given the opportunity to win the starting job. Stephen Carr, Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai will attempt to replace Jones at running back. Those three should be able to grind out some yards, but none have the breakaway speed of Jones. Tyler Vaughns figures to be the top pass catcher after hauling in 57 passes for 809 yards and five touchdowns. With plenty of other potential receivers and experience on the offensive line, USC could be a dangerous team on offense if they can find consistency at quarterback.
The Trojans played well on defense last year and much of that had to do with their ability to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. The front seven does lose some productive playmakers, but there is still plenty of talent left. Porter Gustin returns after missing most of last season with an injury and he will join players like Christian Rector, providing the Trojans with a consistent pass rush. With Cameron Smith and John Houston manning the inside linebacker spots, USC has plenty of experience up front. The secondary was problematic at times last season. They allowed too many big plays, but the hope is with more experience, the unit can at least be more consistent.
The Bottom Line:
This group is not expected to do as well as they did last year, but that does not mean a Pac-12 title is out of the question. The Trojans appear to be the best team in the South Division, but they do have to play Utah, Arizona and UCLA on the road. They also head to Stanford on September 8th and that early test will be a great indicator of who may be the dominate team in the Pac-12.
Projected Bowl: Alamo Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 185.1 (39th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 299.0 (16, 3)
Total Offense: 484.1 (13, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.6 (35, 4)
Rushing Defense: 158.6 (56, 5)
Pass Defense: 237.0 (82, 6)
Total Defense: 395.6 (68, 5)
Scoring Defense: 26.1 (60, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.14 (80, 9)
Sacks: 3.29 (5, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.14 (71, 6)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#40 Iman Marshall
#44 Cameron Smith
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#13 Amon-Ra St. Brown
#16 Palaie Gaoteote
#23 J.T. Daniels
#30 Devon Williams
#35 Olaijah Griffin
#40 Isaac Taylor-Stuart
#109 Solomon Tuilaupupu
#114 Talanoa
#131 Trevor Trout
#169 Justin Dedich
#173 Chase Williams
#215 Abdul-Malik McClain