#33 USC Football 2019 Preview

USC Trojans
Overall Rank: #33
#6 Pac-12
 USC Logo
USC suffered their first losing season in 18 years. Coach Clay Helton is hoping to quickly forget about that, but this Trojans team could again finish below .500. Or they could win the Pac-12 South with ease. Heading into the 2019 campaign, neither would be particularly surprising.
2018 Record: 5-7, 4-5
2018 Bowl: None
Coach: Clay Helton (32-17 at USC, 32-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Graham Harrell
Defensive Coordinator: Clancy Pendergast
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Vavae Malepeal, RB, 501 yards
Passing: JT Daniels, QB, 2,672 yards
Receiving: Michael Pittman, WR, 758 yards
Tackles: John Houston, LB, 67
Sacks: Christian Rector, DE 4.5; Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, 4.5
Interceptions: None
Other Key Returnees: RB Stephen Carr, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR Tyler Vaughns, S Talanoa Hufanga, LB Palaie Gaoteote
Key Losses: RB Aca’Cedric Ware, WR Velus Jones, OL Chuma Edoga, LB Cameron Smith, LB Porter Gustin, LB Ajene Harris, CB Iman Marshall, CB Isaiah Langley, S Marvell Tell
Coach Helton brought in Graham Harrell to run a new offense. Harrell learned his trade under Mike Leach and will bring his version of the air raid offense to USC. That should benefit JT Daniels after his shaky freshman campaign where he threw for 2,672 yards for 14 touchdowns and ten interceptions. He will need to hold off freshman Jack Sears though. Whoever is under center will have a ton of talent around and Harrell will want to utilize that depth and spread the ball around. Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns were the top three receivers and combined to catch 159 passes for 2,182 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Running backs Vavae Malepeal, Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp have not been consistent, but it is a talented group and a group that can catch the ball, which will be much more important with the new offense.  
There are not huge changes to the staff on the defensive side of the ball, so the Trojans hope that simplifying the scheme will pay off. This is a pretty young group too and keeping it simple will be extremely important. It all starts on the front line. Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu must occupy the offensive line so ends like Christian Rector and Drake Jackson can get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Linebacker John Houston is moving to the inside after starting the last two seasons as the weak side linebacker, but the biggest questions are in the secondary. Greg Johnson is the only corner with any starting experience and the two-deep is littered with underclassmen. If the front four is not getting to the quarterback, the lack of experience in the secondary will be a huge problem.
The Bottom Line:
The Trojans have an extremely tough schedule and there really is not an easy game in the Pac-12 this year either so it will be a grind week in and week out. The good news is that USC has three of their first four games at home, but that includes contests against Fresno State, Stanford and Utah, all of whom are expected to compete for conference titles. If the Trojans get off to a tough start, another losing season could be on the way.
Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 133.5 (106th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 249.1 (48, 6)
Total Offense: 382.6 (83, 10)
Scoring Offense: 26.1 (90, 9)
Rushing Defense: 164.8 (67, 9)
Pass Defense: 223.3 (61, 5)
Total Defense: 388.0 (60, 7)
Scoring Defense: 27.0 (64, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.83 (119, 11)
Sacks: 2.42 (43, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.25 (67, 7)

Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#44 Kyle Ford
#67 Drake Johnson
#154 Maninoa Tufono
#200 Max Williams