USC’s 55-6 victory over Arkansas State was expected by fans and Trojan recruiting targets alike, but the amount of new faces that saw playing time early in Saturday’s night’s season opener was a pleasant surprise.
Some recruits missed the game live because of its late start and limited broadcast partners.
In C.J. Pollard's case, the four-star safety commit had his own game to play Saturday.
“I saw the highlights of the game afterward,” said Pollard. “They dominated!
“A lot of young guys played early. I call it ‘Opportunity Avenue.’ The coaches at USC preach that everyone will get their chance. As a player, we have to take advantage of those chances.
“Coach (Keith) Heyward is a fair dude who will play the guys who earned the opportunity.”
In fact, not only did almost two dozen freshmen get a chance to play Saturday for USC, many were on the field in the first quarter.
Bishop Amat four-star athlete Trevon Sidney made it to the game along with fellow Trojan commits Frank Martin, Thomas Graham and Stephen Carr.
Sidney was impressed with the deep rotation of players USC used.
“The coaches didn’t lie about how they were going to spread it around,” said Sidney. “Everyone rotated a lot.
“After the game Sark said, and I didn’t even notice, that 22 freshmen made their debut. they’re definitely not hesitant to play freshmen, and that’s what I was looking for. I think a lot of recruits are looking at that.
“I wanted to see how the ball was getting spread around to all of those great athletes. This game wasn’t easy, but it was a game I knew they’d win. Now they just need to build off of it.”
On offense, both junior college transfer wide outs Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton caught passes. Taylor McNamara and Tyler Petite both played significant minutes at tight end, with McNamara scoring on a two0yard touchdown reception.
The Trojans freshman stable of running backs combined for more than 100-yards rushing and two scores as well.
“That’s a big thing for me in my commitment,” said Sidney. “There were even some plays where people in the stands were like, ‘That will be you next year.’
“That felt good. It felt like I’m ready to be there at USC.”
On the defensive side of the football, freshman safety Marvell Tell has been the surprise of camp and received mention from several recruits for his play Saturday.
“He surprised me,” said Sidney. “I played football with him when he was younger.
“He’s from Pasadena like Tyler (Vaughns) and I, so it was great seeing him out there.”
Pass protection was one area where USC struggled in the first half. Giving up five sacks, the Trojans offensive line saw its own steady stream of rotating players in and out of the line up.
It was something Murrieta (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Nathan Smith watched closely.
“I actually don’t get the Pac-12 Network on my TV, but we ended up going to Sizzler for my little sister’s birthday party and they had it on there,” laughed Smith. “I thought the offensive line picked it up a ton in the second half.
“Some of those sacks were on them, some of them weren’t. What I see is opportunity - clearly looking at stuff like that. I thought the offensive line did pretty well. They could have done better, but I think they still played well.”
At offensive line, USC rotated in freshman right tackle Chuma Edoga in the first quarter for Zach Banner. While rotating defensive linemen in and out of the line up is common place in football, the Trojans have taken to using multiple offensive line combinations.
“I think they have a ridiculous amount of depth up front and it’s good to see them using guys,” said Smith. “Coach (Bob) Connelly has talked to me about some of that.
“He says I can come in and play early, but clearly I still have to get a lot bigger. But I was good to see young players getting a chance even on the line.”
Smith, although rated as one of the top offensive linemen in the country, has never followed college football.
“This is actually my first season watching college football, so it’s kind of new to me,” said Smith. “To me, it looked like they played a great game putting up 55 points.
“I looked at some of the steps of the offensive linemen made and went off of that. Seeing (Chad Wheeler) get out in space and blocking was nice. That’s the best part of the game.”