1. Uchenna Nwosu | Senior | Linebacker | Harbor City (Calif.)
Spratling: “My pass rush is getting a little bit better.” And with that
2. Sam Darnold | R-Sophomore | Quarterback | San Clemente (Calif.)
Weber: Sam Darnold has a dual challenge this spring: That Rose Bowl record-breaking performance in front of the entire nation and all that's come with it as a Heisman front-runner and projected top NFL pick should he leave early not to mention that Archie Griffin Award as college football's most valuable player . . . well, he has to forget all that. There's no looking back right now, Sam realizes. "It was pretty neat," he says of all that recent history. "You can't act like it didn't happen." But it doesn't matter now, the redshirt sophomore says of his responsibility to lead USC football back to the promised land, not just with his quick arm and feet, but with his head and voice and cool competitive
Velus Jones | R-Freshman | Wide Receiver | Saraland (Ala.)
Eure: Each practice,
4. Jamel Cook | R-Freshman | Safety | Miami (Fla.)
Martinez: Jamel Cook isn't your typical redshirt freshman. If Cook had not broken his foot before getting to campus last summer, he would have almost certainly burned his redshirt. Instead, USC was able to tuck him away on the roster and recruit like he wasn't good enough to play last season. Cook is showing this spring that he most certainly was good enough to play when 100-percent healthy. At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, Cook can legitimately play the slot as a nickel safety. Playing that position this spring, his length and ball skills have led to more pass
5. Rasheem Green | Junior | Defensive End | Gardena (Calif.)
Abraham: Last season Rasheem Green started every game except the opener for the Trojans, leading the team with 6 sacks and a pair of blocked field goals. The true junior has grown each season as a player, but year two under Clancy Pendergast's and Kenechi Udeze's tutelage could provide a huge leap forward for the former five-star prospect. Udeze says the 285-pounder is "ready to take the next step" and that he "has to become a pro, which means being consistent in everything he does." Green has shown that consistency this spring and has emerged
6. Vavae Malepeai | R-Freshman | Running Back |
Martinez: Vavae Malepeai is another redshirt freshman USC had the luxury of stashing away last season. Malepeai came on like gangbusters in fall camp showing the tenacity of a power back between the tackles, but the skills of an all-purpose back catching the ball. Visions of Malaefou Mackenzie immediately come to mind, and this spring, Malepeai has done nothing to cast doubt on those comparisons. He continues to show excellent vision and surprisingly good lateral quickness bouncing runs to the outside. If he can stay healthy, Malepeai should prove to be a key piece to the offense next season. With Aca'Cedric Ware injured and Ronald Jones skipping contact drills this spring, Malepeai's versatility has been on display. Limit his carries to third downs and you have a bigger running back that can easily slip out of the backfield to move the chains.
7. Deontay Burnett | Junior | Wide Receiver | Gardena (Calif.)
Weber: Deontay Burnett is Sam Darnold's partner here, just as he was in that Rose Bowl record comeback that everybody says they must put behind them in order to not live on their laurels. Deontay certainly isn't living on his rep or record-setting Penn State game. Despite his size, Clay Helton calls the 6-foot, 170-plus pounder from Serra "the smallest horse in the stable but the one with the biggest impact" as he continues a spring where he has yet to drop a pass and daily shows the chemistry with Sam that produced three touchdowns in that January game that we won't mention any more. As quiet as he is, Deontay's practice presence and ability to just do everything right and his willingness to stay late working on the Juggs gun, for example, make him the Trojans' go-to guy in so many ways.
8. Marlon Tuipolutu | Freshman | Defensive Tackle | Independence (Ore.)
Eure: Based solely on looks, you wouldn’t be able to guess that Marlon Tuipulotu signed his letter of intent a couple months ago, let alone that he hasn’t even reached the legal age. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle looks anything but 17 years old while practicing - and he’s catching coaches’ eyes. Helton described Tuipulotu as a real asset to the team not only because of the aforementioned qualities, but also because he has learned the playbook faster than the average early enrollee. “He’s just one of the more football instinctive kids that I’ve seen,” Helton said after one practice. Tuipulotu’s athleticism and “quick twitch” is what has earning him first-team reps over senior Josh Fatu. Tuipulotu has been disruptive in the backfield, stopping the run as well as getting in the quarterback’s face. Yet, Tuipulotu can’t quite fully shed his freshman status just yet. Some of his youthful moments have included tracking down the
9. John Houston | R-Sophomore | Linebacker | Gardena (Calif.)
Spratling: Cameron Smith has moved over to the MIKE linebacker position vacated by the graduation of Michael Hutchings, leaving the WILL linebacker spot open for competition between John Houston Jr. and Jordan Iosefa. While Smith is the linebacker that you seem to always see in the hole to meet the ballcarrier when the ball is to his side, Houston has stood out because of his ability to make plays from sideline to sideline, tracking down plays going away from him with his elite athleticism for a linebacker. After primarily being a special teams player last year, Houston is showing this spring that he's ready to step into a more prominent role on the defense.
10. Chuma Edoga | Junior | Offensive Tackle | Powder Springs (Ga)
Weber: Chuma Edoga has all the talent -- and a new commitment -- to be the kind of offensive lineman USC always believed he could be. But there's a difference this spring. He's the guy. Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler, the two veterans the 290-pound