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Football news and notes every day of the summer

Who are college football's top-rated players? And how many of them are Trojans. Hint, Zach Banner (above, instructing freshman E.J. Price), is one of them.

No Ghost Notes today with the Trojans moving Thursday's player-run practice to Friday. So time to catch up with USC-related news and notes. The summer stories just keep coming.
*** TROJAN TRIO IN TOP 101: Nice job by the folks at Pro Football Focus here with their Top 101 Players in College Football and their particular ability to bring really relevant stat numbers into their analysis that has three USC players in the top 47. Some of these numbers we hadn't seen before.
Also might note that two other Pac-12 teams -- Washington and UCLA -- had three players in the Top 101, although not with as high an average as USC's. The No. 1 overall player in the nation, PFF says, is Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, a ranking USC fans and players could surely second. Overall, Alabama had a national high of six players while the Pac-12 had 13 with eight teams not getting a mention here.
UCLA's three have D-lineman Eddie Vanderdoes at a surprisingly high No. 24, QB Josh Rosen at a surprisingly low 74 and DE Takkarist McKinley at No. 93.
At No. 21 is JuJu Smith-Schuster, described as "the leader in receiving yards among Power-5 receivers a year ago." PFF called JuJu "a big play threat" and "a dominant force early in 2015, posting the fourth-best receiving grade among Power-5 receivers through nine weeks before tapering off toward the end of the season," as he fought the effects of a broken hand and double- and triple-coverage.
Zach Banner came in at No. 45 and PFF describes Zach as having "loads of potential and he started to realize it last season. He was the top pass blocking right tackle at +12.5, allowing only nine total pressures on 426 attempts and he was strong in the running game with a +15.6 grade that ranked 15th in the nation. Banner needs to cut down on his 13 penalties that tied for second in the FBS, but he is one of the better all-around tackles in the nation."
Adoree Jackson is right behind Zach at No. 47 despite the fact that "Jackson took a step back in coverage last season," PFF says, but "he still boasts a strong +9.4 grade in his two years of college. However, it’s his work on the offensive side that pushes him up the list as he has a +12.1 receiving grade on only 207 offensive snaps the last two seasons. USC has done a nice job of getting the ball to Jackson on screens and he’s taken advantage by averaging 15.7 yards after the catch on his 37 receptions while forcing 16 missed tackles and scoring five touchdowns."
Some thoughts: On JuJu, we almost hope his reception numbers aren't quite as high because of a much more diverse passing attack but the catches are more valuable which we think might be the case since at crunch time, teams will not be able to over-cover him.
As to Zach, his numbers are as big as he is -- for good and bad. Now if he eliminates the penalty numbers, he becomes an awfully valuable guy. And finally, for Adoree', we agree with the PFF folks. The thing that sets Adoree' apart is what he can do with the ball in his hands and the ability for Clay & Co. to figure out how to do that will be better for everybody.
*** USC A PLUS IN TOP 100 TRANSFERS: While the Trojans look to be a wash losing two of Athlon Sports Top 100 Transfers for 2016 and gaining another two, that's not how Athlon sees it here. USC loses No. 98 Ricky Town to Arkansas, where he probably won't play and is ticketed for the third or fourth QB slot there, and No. 81, Lamont Simmons, who will challenge for a starting corner spot at Georgia Tech.
But USC gets No. 73, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who Athlon says becomes a part of "one of the nation's finest receiving corps," and No. 19, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, the grad student nose tackle from Utah who recorded 28 tackles including six for losses last season and whose 340 pounds thickens up a thin D-line at USC.
*** NOT MUCH EXPERIENCE, NOT MUCH MATTERS: Thanks to Phil Steele's chart on team experience, we have a feeling it may not count for as much as you'd think with the bottom three Pac-12 teams -- Washington (No. 102 nationally out of 128), USC (No. 105) and Stanford (No. 123) pretty much picked to finish in the reverse order in the conference. USC for example has 15 returning starters (nine on offense, six on defense) and 20 other Trojans who have started games and still the Trojans are relatively inexperienced based on class analysis.
Here's how the rest of the league breaks down: 4-Utah, 31-Arizona, 37-UCLA, 48-Colorado, 76-Oregon State and Washington State, 87-Arizona State and Cal and 93-Oregon. What Steele did was award in descending order, points for returning starters and two-deep players by class. What these numbers seem to say is that it's better to have young talent than experienced players with lesser talent.
You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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