That means we’ve got to continue our 30 key Trojans countdown in a hurry. We are on the cusp of the top 10 players that are 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?
11. Steven Mitchell, Jr. - Redshirt Sophomore
With seven days remaining until kickoff, we get to jersey No. 7 and redshirt sophomore receiver Steven Mitchell Jr., who is looking for a breakout campaign after a knee injury cost him his first year and his explosive playmaking during most of his sophomore year.
It wasn’t until late in the season last year that we finally started to see the Steven Mitchell Jr. that the coaching staff saw coming out of Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany when he was always one touch away from making a jaw-dropping, ankle-breaking play. Mitchell Jr. evened worked his way up the depth chart to earn a starting role in the Trojans’ final two games of the year.
Despite a knee sprain early in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska, Mitchell Jr. returned for spring practice as a man on a mission. No one could guard him as he worked his way in-between zone defenses, beat man coverages over the top, over the middle and in the flats where he showed his nifty ability to make defenders miss. He was spring’s biggest revelation. Not bad for a player making his first spring appearance.
When on the field, Mitchell Jr. has been an explosive playmaker, but the problem with 5-foot-10, 190-pound receivers is getting them to stay on the field so their abilities can be seen and maximized. Mitchell Jr. missed the 2013 season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament while trying to make a cut during summer workouts. He also missed spring practice before the 2014 season recovering from the knee injury and a sports hernia. He still wasn’t 100 percent to start the season and missed two of the first three games of the year before finally being able to work his way into some rotations and start on the ladder up the depth chart.
Mitchell Jr. finished his redshirt freshman year with seven total catches, including a 24-yard touchdown against Colorado and a pair of catches on back-to-back plays against Washington State, going for 23 yards and then the final five yards for a score on the next snap. In total, he had 82 yards receiving for the season, but he showcased just a glimmer of the potential star that is awaiting if Mitchell Jr. can stay healthy.
His fall camp has been up and down as he didn’t make a big impact until the Trojans got in full pads and defenders had to actually wrap him up rather than tagging him, but soon after Mitchell Jr. found himself on the sidelines for a couple of days with an injury. He rolled an ankle while making a strong catch on the sideline in the end zone and the coaches wanted to be cautious. They know how much of an asset he can be when he’s on the field at 100 percent.
“He brings a different skill that none of our receivers really have. He’s so versatile, so quick, so fast and he can really jitterbug around you, if you try to press or anything like that. He’s a great player. He’s a real deep threat.” — USC defensive back Chris Hawkins
PERSONAL SEASON GOAL:
“To be the best that I can be. Go out there [with] no injuries and play the best that I can play, contribute as much as I can.” — Steven Mitchell
“Cody Kessler says Steven has had a 'phenomenal' camp thus far and all Steven would say to that is 'shhh'. Teams don't know who he is, he says, and may not be ready for his stop-and-start, 4.3 speed and the ability to change directions on a dime. And that's an edge for him, Steven says. At least for a while. But if word of mouth matters, all you have to do is talk to the USC defensive backs. They're not keeping it a secret." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
Steven Mitchell Jr. checks in with Keely Eure to discuss how fall camp is going:
|11||Steven Mitchell Jr.||120 pts||8 (Shotgun Spratling)||13 (Dan & Ryan)|
|12||Claude Pelon||109 pts||9 (Dan Weber)||17 (Austin Geller)|
|13||Tre Madden||98 pts||6 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|14||Chad Wheeler||92 pts||6 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|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)|