Fall preview: Safeties

Leading up to fall camp, Scout's SCPlaybook will take a look at each position group for the Trojans... Next up, safeties.

There’s no question the safeties this year are young for the Trojans, but their talent could be limitless.

If sophomores Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay III are able to stay healthy throughout the season, USC will be well on its way to building one of the strongest safety tandems in the country.

“I anticipate we’ll see the players in the secondary really mature in all aspects of the game,” Sarkisian said. “Especially the younger players who will take on bigger roles.”

Cravens and McQuay are listed atop the depth chart at strong and free safety.

Key Losses: Dion Bailey (Graduation), Demetrius Wright (Graduation)
Key Returners: Su’a Cravens (Soph.), Leon McQuay (Soph.), Gerald Bowman (RS Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Juju Smith (Fr.)

2013 Review: True freshman Su’a Cravens started alongside senior Demetrius Wright in former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s scheme, with senior Dion Bailey checking in at nickelback.

Bailey was big on production in the secondary, ranking fourth on the team after making 61 tackles while collecting five interceptions.

Wright made 59 tackles.

With a natural ability to find the football, Cravens finished second on the team – behind Bailey – with four interceptions on the season. More often than not, the true freshman looked the part of a veteran college football player for the Trojans.

Gerald Bowman saw time in the Trojans first three games of the season before he was forced to the sideline with a season-ending shoulder injury. Bowman was able to redshirt the season.

2014 Outlook: The Trojans will undoubtedly feel the loss of Bailey in the secondary -- he opted to leave early for the NFL -- but the future is certainly bright.

With Cravens at strong safety and McQuay at free safety there may be some growing pains. Both players are only entering their second year of college football. But, there’s no way to learn quite like being thrown directly into the fire.

For Cravens, he played a season ago like a veteran guy. McQuay wasn’t quite as quick of a study, but the above average athlete looked more confident during the spring knowing the starting role would likely fall on his shoulders.

Bowman hasn’t quite found his footing as a permanent starter in the Trojans secondary, but will undoubtedly prove as a worthy backup who will see meaningful time.

The real wild card in the position group is how 2014 five-star recruit Juju Smith will fit into the equation. Smith has the ability to play on both sides of the football. Sarkisian has said multiple times that Smith could see time on offense and defense.

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