Football season is is officially less than a month away. USC takes on the Red Wolves of Arkansas State on Sept. 5 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Camp opens on Saturday The Trojans completed their final player-run practice tune up this morning. You can practically smell the football in the air on the USC campus.
We continue the countdown of the “30 Key Trojans” to get fans prepared for the upcoming season. And we head into the top half of the list starting with today’s potential superstar. As a reminder, this countdown features the 30 USC players our panel has voted as the most important to the Trojans’ success this season. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?
15. Iman Marshall - Freshman
We break into the top half of the list with our third freshman, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly all-world Iman “Biggie” Marshall. After a stellar career with the Jackrabbits, Marshall chose to attend USC after much thought and deliberation, as we chronicled soon after his announcement on National Signing Day.
Marshall brings not only stellar play, but also plenty of personality, charisma and character. That was evident when he started what is becoming a trend in college football recruiting by making the announcement of his college decision known through an online video that saw him training in Los Angeles before concluding the video in front of the Coliseum with a USC hat on.
While he brings the type of honesty and forthright speech that we have grown to love in linebacker Su’a Cravens, Marshall also brings the same star potential as Cravens. Listed at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, Marshall is already an imposing figure in the defensive secondary.
He already looks the same size as many junior and senior cornerbacks look after two or three years in the weight training and conditioning program. And Marshall might already have the same talent as many junior and senior cornerbacks in the Pac-12.
In high school, Marshall dominated receivers with his physical play. He could play in-your-face bump-and-run coverage and then still have the ability and speed to turn and run with receivers if he didn't get a great jam at the line of scrimmage. At Long Beach Poly, head coach Antonio Pierce, the former NFL linebacker, would move Marshall into a Troy Polamalu hybrid linebacker/safety role when they were playing teams that were run-first. In those instances, Marshall showed he can bring the hit stick and provide bombastic, highlight reel carnage when the opportunity arises.
Marshall was named to virtually every All-American team in the land and was named Cal-Hi Sports All-State Defensive MVP. He had 85 tackles with 16 deflections in the secondary while catching 19 passes for 315 yards and eight touchdowns on the other side of the ball. He also contributed on special teams as a returner. He took one punt back for a score while averaging 11.6 yards on punt returns and 23.1 on kickoffs.
First and foremost, Marshall is a competitor. He wasn’t afraid to tell opposing receivers that he was the best in high school, but he has come in with a business-like approach in summer workouts. Though he’s never been afraid to talk a big game and back it up, he’s simply let his play do the talking so far.
The No. 1 cornerback in the nation and No. 7 overall prospect has held his own in USC’s player-run practices, going against older wide receivers such as Steven Mitchell, Isaac Whitney and high school teammate Juju Smith on the outside. He has the versatility to also play safety. If he outgrows the corner position, Marshall could eventually become the next in line of the historic safeties at USC, but he prefers to stay outside and wants to leave a legacy as the first true Trojan great at cornerback (though Adoree' Jackson could beat him to it).
ON HIS COMMITMENT TO USC:
“Iman Marshall is an elite cover corner — probably the top corner in the country. He’s very physical at the line of scrimmage, which is something we are looking for to be able to play a little bit more press, bump-and-run man-to-man coverage.”
“Marshall is one of the few plug and play freshmen USC has recruited in recent years. Meaning, he comes in playing a specific position with the talent and knowledge base to play day one. The only real question we have is, how much will he play and how much of an impact will he make?
"He is technically, physically, psychologically ahead of just about any freshman USC has brought in over the last 10 years. You're comparing him to a guy like Matt Barkley in that context. Thing is, the cornerback position is much simpler to play, which is why expectations are high for Biggie." — Gerard Martinez, USCfootball.com
From his first appearance at USC's player-run practices:
Also, check out these Biggie Marshall highlights, along with commentary from USC defensive backs coach Keith Heyward on what the coaching staff is looking forward to seeing:
And we can't let you go without seeing his giant hit on Encino (Calif.) Crespi running back Jalen Starks, who fittingly is now a UCLA commit:
|15||Iman Marshall||86 pts||11 (Ryan Abraham)||25 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|