Fall preview: Cornerbacks

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

Cornerback has been a problem at USC now for the last few years. In 2012, it was Nickell Robey anchoring one side of the field while the opposite side saw a revolving door of candidates who weren’t up to par, causing former coach Lane Kiffin to move Josh Shaw into the hole.

2013 proved much of the same as Robey departed early for the NFL. Once again, Kiffin had to move Shaw from safety to cornerback. Kevon Seymour won the job opposite Shaw after a long battle during fall camp.

It appears USC’s trouble with cornerback is finally in the rear view as Shaw and Seymour both return this season and first-year coach Steve Sarkisian begins to stockpile young talent at the position.

Losses: Torin Harris (Graduation), Ryan Henderson (Medical hardship)
Key Returners: Josh Shaw (RS Sr.), Kevon Seymour (Jr.)
Returners: Devian Shelton (RS Soph.), Ryan Dillard (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Chris Hawkins (RS Fr.), Adoree Jackson (Fr.)
Newcomers: Jonathan Lockett (Fr.), Lamont Simmons (Fr.), John Plattenburg (Fr.)

2013 Review: When the Trojans opened their season in August at Hawaii, there was not much clarification how USC would go forward in the season at cornerback. Anthony Brown and Torin Harris were listed as co-starters on one side of the field, Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton listed as co-starters on the other.

Brown suffered an ankle injury in the opener, sidelining him against Washington State, Boston College and Utah State.

Over the course of the next few games, Josh Shaw had to bounce around between cornerback and safety before he finally became a solution at corner.

Starting in all 14 games, Shaw made 67 tackles, grabbed four interceptions while returning one for a touchdown, and deflected seven passes.

Seymour settled into the starting role opposite Shaw after the first four games of the season, after taking advantage of missed opportunities by Torin Harris.

Playing in all 14 games, Seymour made 48 tackles.

2014 Outlook: After spending his last two seasons at USC bouncing back and forth between cornerback and safety, redshirt senior Josh Shaw has finally found a place he can permanently call home in the secondary – and it’s at cornerback.

Shaw, a fifth year player, not only provides valuable playing experience to the secondary, but he has become a vocal leader on the field for the Trojans. NFL Draft experts have Shaw pegged as one of the top corners who will be available in the 2015 draft.

Opposite Shaw will most likely be returning starter Kevon Seymour. The junior was listed atop the Trojans depth chart coming out of spring and remains there going into fall camp.

While Seymour’s sophomore campaign wasn’t overwhelming, he continued to show progression throughout the season and had arguably his best game in the season finale at the Las Vegas Bowl.

USC has been short at corner in years past, lacking not only depth, but also reliable starters.

The return of Shaw and Seymour should provide what USC has been missing. And don’t forget about redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins. Hawkins gained valuable experience with the first team over the Trojans 15 spring practices with Shaw sidelined. Hawkins may not win the starting role in 2014, but it is likely he will see meaningful time on the field.

The real wild card at cornerback as the Trojans prepare for fall camp will be the role of freshman Adoree Jackson. Will he play offense or defense? And if it is defense, will he challenge Seymour for the starting job?

Look for one of the other three freshman newcomers to emerge as a solid backup option… and the rest? If health is on USC’s side, they’ll redshirt and be ready to go in 2015.

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