Back in January when we didn't know what we know now, we put together our list of the Top 40 Trojans who must come through in 2016. Some of it was by position. A lot of it was guesswork. And some of it we know no longer applies.
Placekicker Alex Wood is for certain not coming back after completing his degree this spring with a year of eligibility. He shared two spots with Matt Boermeester, who now is all alone there and will have to hold off stronglegged blueshirt Michael Brown, who will also not be on our list. No incoming freshmen are there.
Neither will we list Scott Felix or Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. The official word on Felix, who was eligible to come back for a final season after starting 10 of 14 games in 2015 (only rwo of the last six), is simply that "his status for 2016 is still undetermined." And the only word on Jalen is that he's no longer a member of the team after being off the roster for most of 2015.
A number of upperclassmen -- many of them scholarship guys with familiar names who will play but also some walk-ons -- populate the NEXT UP list here. You'll be surprised they didn't make the Top 40 attached below here but they will be on the two-deep and will have to come through for a successful 2016.
One thing you'll notice. With the roster filling out now that USC is up to 82 scholarship athletes of the permitted 85 right now, there is less room for walkons to get on the field. Just four made it into the game at the Holiday Bowl -- Connor Spears, Cyrus Hobbi, James Toland and former scholarship player George Katrib. Only two of those -- Hobbi and Toland -- return.
So here we go. The NEXT UP USC list for 2016:
41) CHAD WHEELER The big returnee since our original list, whose status wasn't certain then, is the senior three-year starter at left tackle. Chad wasn't on our list after what appeared to have been a serious December breakdown of, to this point, unknown origin that required hospitalization and he missed the Holiday Bowl. Now that Chad is back, he has to figure in somewhere. Whether that's left tackle, with Zach Banner taking that spot in the bowl game, has yet to be determined.
42) JOHN HOUSTON Not sure what's up with his back injury that wasn't going to require surgery but did keep the Serra five-star outside linebacker from stepping in for Su'a Cravens this past fall. He was supposed to be able to rehab it and outgrow it without surgery so spring should be a big deal for the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who could only watch and wait last fall,
43) JALEN GREENE The athletic, multi-skilled lefty from Serra gets this spot on a team with just three scholarship quarterbacks and 15 wide receivers, where he's still listed as well as at QB now. He'll get snaps this winter and let's see how this plays out in the spring. He's made some big plays as a flanker passer. Look for more of that.
44) YKILI ROSS As a freshman redshirt, Ykili showed up on the Scout team in ways that made it clear the 6-foot-2, 185-pound multi-position player (USC's roster listed the Riverside Poly product as a corner/safety/wide receiver) will see the field this season somewhere. If we had to pick, we say that would be at safety.
45) JABARI RUFFIN This is it for the 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior outside linebacker from Downey who recorded tackles in six games as a backup and special teamer with no starts. He's at one of USC's deepest, most-talented positions so he'll have to step up his playmaking ability.
46-47) ISAAC WHITNEY/DEQUAN HAMPTON They're not the same guy, of course, but the slimmer, speedier Whitney, who missed the Holiday Bowl with a collarbone injury, and the not-quite-tight-end-sized Hampton both had their practice moments but it's now or never for the junior-college-transfer pair who are fighting for the field in a numbers-heavy position.
48) JORDAN SIMMONS Have no idea whether the 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior who has been sidelined almost his entire career by injuries will be able to play -- or where. He played on both sides of the ball in the fall and now that he seems to have finally healed up and appears to be in the best shape of his life, he's listed as both an OG and a DT. The talent is there. We'll go with the talent here over the history
49-50) JACOB DANIEL/KEVIN SCOTT If you sense a pattern here, you're right. The pair offer USC 12 feet, nine inches and 640 pounds of second-year defensive tackles. And with the numbers up front on defense, they will get their chance. Daniel posted tackles in three of the first four games, Scott redshirted as he learned the game. They'll get the chance to up those in 2016.
51) MICHAEL HUTCHINGS The senior inside linebacker from De La Salle has operated pretty much under the radar but when given the chance, as he was in the Oregon and UCLA games where he recorded eight tackles, or in practice where he's a tough out, he's come through. Look for nothing less in his final season.
52) MATT LOPES The redshirt junior from Palos Verdes got off to a great start with 11 tackles the first two games but a broken foot knocked him out of the second half of the season. Technically a walkon, he's scholarshipped as the son of USC senior associate AD Steve Lopes but the big-hitting Lopes is no one's idea of a walkon just trying to hang in there. He can hang.
53) JAMES TOLAND The redshirt junior running back from Indio is going to be on the field one way or the other. A tough runner, a great practice player and as the year went on, a special-teams tackler who recorded stops in five of USC's final six games, Toland has been invaluable as a walkon and will remain so no matter how the roster fills out.
54) DON HILL After missing his first year with an achilles tear, the redshirt sophomore outside linebacker/DE from Boise, at 6-3 and 245 pounds, found his way to the field, recording four tackles the final two games. If that improvement keeps on keeping on, he can have a spot for himself on the depth chart out there next fall.
55) MALIK DORTON At 275 pounds, he's a little undersized to play with his hand on the ground inside but with the lack of numbers up front, and with the way he showed up on the practice field in the fall, the tough and quick Dorton will have a chance to matter here.
56) AJENE HARRIS Maybe he should be higher here but after missing 2015 with double hip cartilage surgery that he seems to have come back from faster than expected, the redshirt sophomore wide receiver from Crenshaw has the hands and the moves and the expected speed again to force his way into a crowded position -- possibly even this spring although that would be an amazing recovery after his August surgery.
57-58-59-60) ROY HEMSLEY/COLE SMITH/CLAYTON JOHNSTON/JORDAN AUSTIN We're putting the two first-year guys and two second-year ones together in this O-line pod here because of the depth and experience ahead of them. Only Max Tuerk moves on leaving eight veterans with playing experience for them to push on the practice field to be the next man up. With a year or two behind them, there's a better chance of that happening now.
61) CHRISTIAN RECTOR The redshirt freshman from Loyola showed up big at times on the Scout team and we'll have to see where the 6-5, 260-pounder ends up size wise as a probable defensive end with his hand on the ground. Looks like he has the skill set.
62) CYRUS HOBBI Looks like he's back and giving the walkon tight end spot more depth as the former scholarship O-lineman works at his craft catching the ball in the winter throwing sessions now that he's down to 245 pounds. USC can use him.
Now we'll name some of the walkons who look like a good chance to return although nothing is ever a sure thing. One place USC will need someone to step up is as the holder with Conner Sullivan graduating after two seasons as does his backup Cody Kessler. Not sure who that will be or whether a walkon competes here.
Another difference going forward is that with 15 wide receivers on scholarship, USC won't have the same need for WR walkon help the way the Trojans did a couple of years ago when the likes of Christian Tober, Robby Kolanz, David Mellstrom and Katrib, who made it possible for USC to practice while making it to the field for games.
One wide receiver who will carry on is North Carolina transfer Jackson Boyer, a-6-3, 195-pounder who played a great deal on special teams for the Tar Heels.
A tight end who may or may not be here is Caleb Wilson, an outstanding receiver who was able to attend this past year on a parent scholarship with his dad, Chris, the D-line coach now departed. It looks like Caleb, who is doing the winter throwing, goes through the semester through spring.
A group of at least 14 more walkon underclassmen who dressed for the Holiday Bowl, led by long snapper Jake Olson, could be a part of spring football if they all return.
Here's our original 2016 Top-40 list on the "Must Come Through" scale.
1) Max Browne
1a) Sam Darnold
2) Zach Banner
3) Ronald Jones
4) Adoree' Jackson
9) Marvell Tell
10) Justin Davis
11) Olajuwon Tucker
12-13) Damien Mama/Viane Talamaivao
14) Rasheem Green
15) Chris Hawkins
18/19) Darreus Rogers/Steven Mitchell
25) Chris Tilbey
29/30) Alex Wood/Matt Boermeester
31) Aca'cedric Ware
32) John Plattenburg
33) Dominic Davis
34) Kenny Bigelow
35/36) Nico Falah/Chris Brown
37) Deontay Burnett
38) Leon McQuay
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