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USC depth chart: a quick take

The USC depth chart released Sunday pretty much followed the chalk. No real surprises. But that doesn't mean there's nothing here to raise an eyebrow just a hair.

We said no surprises with the release of the USC depth chart Sunday. Not that there weren't some names in places where you might have squinted a bit as you looked at who and where.

But this is pretty much the way it was trending in practice. And it's why they practice. So they can make these calls.

Let's do this position by position:

QUARTERBACK: Saturday's announcement took this one off the table. Good to see a position with no "OR" even if there weren't any closer calls. Max Browne then Sam Darnold. You have to have order here. Freshman Matt Fink has been an improving No. 3 while walkons Thomas Fitts and Holden Thomas give USC those extra arms all those receivers need. 

WIDE RECEIVER: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers and then the tandem of Steven Mitchell OR the fast-closing Deontay Burnett. Will it be a clean sweep for seniority here? Or will Deontay's athleticsm and sure hands move the sophomore in here? Just one of many questions to answer at a position with numbers, with experience and with a lot of young talent. Has that hurt the place of two much-improved senior JC transfer Isaac Whitney, No. 4 behind Jalen Greene OR freshman Michael Pittman, whose work they REALLY like this fall? Maybe. On the other side, De'Quan Hampton is No. 2 ahead of a pair of freshmen who have flashed -- Josh Imatorbhebhe OR Tyler Vaughns. Just so many guys here. Then in the slot, farther behind Steven and Deontay are freshmen Trevon Sidney OR Velus Jones. Add North Carolina transfer Jackson Boyer to this mix. Two problems at this position -- make that three: JuJu is the man, there's only one football and this team wants to be a run-first, downhill-running bunch.

TIGHT END: A bigger, stronger Taylor McNamara holds his place at No. 1 but all three of these guys -- with good-hands sophomore Tyler Petite and the athletic Daniel Imatorbhebhe sharing the "OR" at the second spot. But really, you can shake these three up and two of them could be on the field at any time. Don't forget freshman Cary Angeline who could afford to put on some weight but the 6-foot-7 Pennsylvanian can run and catch it. No. 5 here is walkon Alec Hursh.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Zach Banner is back on the right side after and that's a good move for the power run game. Chad Wheeler's situation with plantar fasciitis is really in doubt with him in a boot this close to Sept. 3. And even though he's not listed there, look for Chuma Edoga to flip to the left side if Chad doesn't come around. That's smart. The other possibility: one of two guards who were tackles in high school Jordan Simmons or Chris Brown. Young guys like Nathan Smith, E.J. Price and Clayton Johnston have gotten more work there than they probably ever expected but not going to happen when the lights go on -- not at first anyway.

GUARD: Viane Talamaivao is locked in next to Zach on the right side with Chris Brown OR Damien Mama on the left side. A rejuvenated Jordan Simmons is behind Viane and pushing him. What a luxury to have four guys, all of whom could start and all of whom have played. Heck of a start. Jordan Austin on the right side with freshman Frank Martin are paired with Roy Hemsley and walkon Richie Wenzel on the left side.   

CENTER: Two starters here. Toa Lobendahn has come all the way back from his ACL because if he didn't he wouldn't be there first. Nico Falah, who jumped in last year and has kept it going, would be. Redshirt freshman Cole Smith gives USC a third option here, so much so that Khaliel Rodgers has been able to move to nose tackle.

RUNNING BACK: There is a pecking order that goes 1-2-3-4 as you'd expect -- Justin Davis, the senior leader, followed by the Texas sophomores, the dynamic Ronald Jones and the slashing Aca'Cedric Ware followed by Dominic Davis, shring that No. 4 spot with newly scholarshiped James Toland, although it's not that cut and dried for Dominic who might appear anywhere at any time in this offense.

FULLBACK: Yes, there is a fullback. Reuben Peters, another new scholarship guy and former linebacker, is there followed by freshman walkon Chris Edmondson, another Texas guy.

Now for the defense:

NOSE TACKLE: Not a bad way to start with a pair of big, tough, mature guys who weren't here two months ago. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, the Utah grad student transfer, and nine-time O-line starter Khaliel Rodgers, both in the neighborhood of 320 pounds and with a mean streak, are 1-2 there and have changed the entire outlook for this USC defense. Sophomore Jacob Daniel backs them up with walkon Connor Rossow.

D-END: Rasheem Green appears twice here, as the "OR" with just-returned Noah Jefferson on one side and as the "OR" on the other side with Malik Dorton. Essentially you're talking three starters for the two spots or if you combine them with the nose, that's a five-man rotation for three D-line front line spot. Behind Jefferson's tackle are Christian Rector and Kevin Scott. On Dorton's side are Josh Fatu and Liam Jimmons. Not bad numbers for a position that wasn't supposed to have any depth.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: On the youngish Predator side, you have sophomore Porter Gustin with three more joined by two "OR's" -- Don Hill with a pair of freshmen with great promise -- Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy. On the opposite side where the veterans line up, it's the pair of Uchenna Nwosu and Jabari Ruffin.

INSIDE LINEBACKER: Not the way we thought this was going to turn out but it looks like Clancy Pendergast has chosen to pair up last season's middle linebacker, Cameron Smith, coming off a Freshman All-American season, and senior Michael Hutchings, who took over for him in the spring and summer. Now the two are together after some recent experimenting. But they'll have plenty of support. Olajuwon Tucker, Jordan Iosefa and Grant Moore back Cam in that order. Behind Michael are talented sophomore Osa Masina and another senior, Quinton Powell, John Houston and Christian Herrera. That's nine to play two. USC will take those numbers.

SAFETY: There's an "OR" joining seniors Chris Hawkins and Leon McQuay here at strong safety but with McQuay coming down to defend the slot, look for both of them on the field together much of the time. At the free safety, there's Marvell Tell, the sophomore so highly thought of returning from a hamstring. Backing up at strong safety are Matt Lopes, C.J. Pollard and Davonte Nunnery. At free, Ykili Ross, John Plattenburg (still under concussion protocol) and Deion Hart. Again, numbers with which USC is not familiar when they're all healthy.

CORNER: Start with Adoree' Jackson on one side, Iman Marshall on the other. Jonathan Lockett is an "OR" with Isaih Langley behind Adoree' with Keyshawn "Pie" Young while on Marshall's side, you have Ajene Harris "OR'ed" with freshman Jack Jones backed up by Jalen Jones and Kevin Carrasco.

And finally, special teams:

PLACEKICKER: Matt Boermeester has won this spot with his improved accuracy on his booming left leg. Michael Brown OR Reid Budrovich behnd him.

PUNTER: As well as Aussie Chris Tilbey has been booting it lately, Budrovich is there with him with an "OR."

SNAPPER: Zach Smith back for his fourth season. Holder Wyatt Schmidt is his backup along with the amazing Jake Olson.

HOLDER: Schmidt backed up by Budrovich.

PUNT RETURN: Adoree' here with athletic frosh Jack Jones.

KICKOFF RETURN: Adoree' again with Steven Mitchell and Jack Jones.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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WR--Darreus Rogers

Jalen Greene OR

Michael Pittman Jr.

Isaac Whitney

Jackson Boyer

WR--       Steven Mitchell Jr. OR

Deontay Burnett

Trevon Sidney OR

Velus Jones Jr.

Milo Stewart


TE--        Taylor McNamara

                Tyler Petite OR

                Daniel Imatorbhebhe

Cary Angeline

Alec Hursh


RT--        Zach Banner

                Chuma Edoga

                Nathan Smith


RG--       Viane Talamaivao

                Jordan Simmons

Jordan Austin

Frank Martin II


C--          Toa Lobendahn

                Nico Falah

                Cole Smith


LG--        Chris Brown OR

                Damien Mama

                Roy Hemsley

                Richie Wenzel


LT--         Chad Wheeler

                E.J. Price OR

Clayton Johnston


WR--       JuJu Smith-Schuster

                De’Quan Hampton

Josh Imatorbhebhe OR

                Tyler Vaughns

Jake Russell


QB--       Max Browne

                Sam Darnold

                Matt Fink

                Thomas Fitts

Holden Thomas


FB--        Reuben Peters

                Chris Edmondson


TB--        Justin Davis

                Ronald Jones II

Aca’Cedric Ware

                Dominic Davis OR

                James Toland IV

                (Vavae Malepeai—inj)





OLB--     Uchenna Nwosu

                Jabari Ruffin


DE--        Noah Jefferson OR

                Rasheem Green

                Christian Rector

                Kevin Scott


NT--        Stevie Tu’ikolovatu

                Khaliel Rodgers

                Jacob Daniel

Connor Rossow


DE--        Malik Dorton OR

                Rasheem Green

                Josh Fatu

                Liam Jimmons

                (Kenny Bigelow Jr.—inj)


OLB--     Porter Gustin

Don Hill OR

                Oluwole Betiku OR

                Connor Murphy

                (Matt Bayle—inj)


ILB--       Cameron Smith

                Olajuwon Tucker

Jordan Iosefa

Grant Moore

(Joel Foy—inj)


ILB--       Michael Hutchings

Osa Masina OR

Quinton Powell

John Houston Jr.

Christian Herrera


CB--       Iman Marshall

                Ajene Harris OR

                Jack Jones

                Jalen Jones

                Kevin Carrasco


SS--        Chris Hawkins OR

                Leon McQuay III

                Matt Lopes

                C.J. Pollard

                Davonte Nunnery


FS--        Marvell Tell III

                Ykili Ross

                John Plattenburg

                Deion Hart

                (Jamel Cook—inj)


CB--       Adoree’ Jackson

                Jonathan Lockett OR

                Isaiah Langley

                Keyshawn “Pie” Young

                (Yoofi Quansah—inj)





P--           Chris Tilbey OR

                Reid Budrovich


PK--        Matt Boermeester

                Michael Brown OR

                Reid Budrovich


SNP--     Zach Smith

                Wyatt Schmidt

                Jake Olson


HLD--     Wyatt Schmidt

Reid Budrovich




KOR--    Adoree’ Jackson

                Steven Mitchell Jr.

                Jack Jones


PR--        Adoree’ Jackson

                Jack Jones


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