Anything that could have possibly gone wrong for USC last year did. The loss of left tackle Matt Kalil proved to be more impactful than anyone anticipated, and the Trojans suffered a huge domino effect because of that one player, really.
The offense was still able to put up points thanks to Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods, but the defense really struggled, even with legendary coordinator Monte Kiffin running things. The offense couldn’t adequately protect Matt Barkley, and while the Trojans didn’t really appear to be vastly overmatched in most games, they weren’t able to put anything together in their most important contests.
All of that being said, there are some big changes happening in Southern Cal, namely the loss of Matt Barkley (QB) and star WR Robert Woods. Without Barkley–for the first time in four years–the Trojans will have a new QB throwing passes to Biletnikoff award winner Marqise Lee, arguably the top receiver that is draft eligible right now, and inarguably the top prospect on USC’s roster.
9 WR Marqise Lee (6’0″ 195 pounds, JUNIOR)
Marqise Lee is a blue chip WR prospect who possesses nearly every tool you look for in an elite player at his position. Speed, quickness, ability after the catch, route running, you name it. The only attribute you won’t find with Lee is elite size, but he plays a lot bigger than his listed 6’0″ 195 pounds. Lee isn’t afraid to go up and get a ball at its highest point, even in heavy traffic, and he is probably the best WR or maybe player in general at the collegiate level right now at making plays after the catch.
His combination of speed and elusiveness makes him a lethal weapon at not only WR, but as a return man as well. Lee has proven already in his two years at USC that he can be a more than capable return threat, but NFL teams are drooling at the thought of getting him the ball in any capacity.
The only problem with Lee is that he will tend to rely too much on his athletic abilities, and can get lazy at times in his route running. The fact that he can run past anyone or use his athleticism to get separation caused some miscommunications between he and Matt Barkley in 2012.
When all is said and done, I think Lee is a sure-fire top 10 selection barring injury or some serious off-field concern, of which we have none at this moment. At the next level, Lee has the ability to be an elite receiver, capable of being a possession receiver, deep threat, as well as a beast after the catch. He looks like a potential dominant playmaker at the next level.
25 RB Silas Redd (5’10″ 200 pounds, SENIOR)
The recruiting process for getting Silas Redd to USC will go down as one of the craziest and maybe even saddest in college history, but all is well that ends well. With the Jerry Sandusky case unfolding and punishments being handed down from the NCAA, players from Penn State were allowed to transfer last season without having to sit out a year for redshirting. After a 2011 season where he rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns, Redd decided to leave Happy Valley and join the star-studded crew that ranked #1 in the nation in last year’s pre-season.
With the addition of Redd to the USC offense, the team was supposed to be the most potent offensive attack in the nation with little to no hiccups. That obviously wasn’t the case as USC stumbled to seven wins and a disappointing bowl game loss to Georgia Tech, but Redd put together a pretty decent season splitting time with Curtis McNeal.
Coming over in his first year from Penn State, Redd rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns, and both of those figures led the team in their respective category. Redd is an explosive back with good vision who runs low and has a knack for making big plays. He’s not the fastest back, but he has good acceleration and can really make plays. This is a guy I really like and I think he can have a big senior season.
86 TE Xavier Grimble (6’5″ 255 pounds, RS JUNIOR)
Grimble is developing into a pretty good red zone threat coming into his junior season, and looks like he could be one of the top TE prospects in the Pac 12 this season. The honorable mention All Pac 12 selection from 2012 finished his sophomore season with just 29 catches for 319 yards, but he had five touchdowns and has nine touchdowns so far in his USC career.
This is a solid all-around TE prospect who is really developing into a nice player, and he looks like he could be set for a breakout season as a junior and might emerge as an early-entry candidate for the 2014 NFL Draft.
18 LB/S Dion Bailey (6’0″ 200 pounds, RS JUNIOR)
Bailey led the Trojans last year with four interceptions playing as an outside linebacker in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense, but he will move back to the safety position in his redshirt junior year as the Trojans transition back to a 3-4 defensive look. This is a bit of a tweener prospect who is going to have to prove he is fluid enough to be a full-time safety after a sophomore season where he led the team in INTs and co-led the team with 81 tackles. Certainly this is a guy who knows how to make plays on the ball and fly around the field, but we need to see more of him at safety before we get too excited.
91 DE/OLB Morgan Breslin (6’2″ 250 pounds, SENIOR)
Breslin came over to USC last year from Diablo Valley Junior College, and he absolutely lit it up. He had 62 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks in his first year with the Trojans, earning honorable mention All-American status as well as being selected to a variety of All-Pac 12 teams. Breslin’s size isn’t much of a concern being only 6’2″ because he is a tweener moving forward to the next level who can rush the QB from a three-point stance or standing up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, a role that could prove to be a more natural fit for him.
Prior to his arrival at USC, Breslin racked up 28 sacks in two seasons at Junior College, and carried that production over to the FCS level with relative ease. He’s not great against the run at this point, and might not be able to translate to the NFL as a down lineman full time. Scouts are eager to see how he handles playing the OLB position this season, but the early returns on Breslin are very positive. He is very quick off the ball and plays with chip on his shoulder.
Other USC Prospects to Monitor
96 DE/OLB Devon Kennard (6’3″ 260 pounds, SENIOR)
10 LB Hayes Pullard (6’1″ 235 pounds, JUNIOR)
26 S Josh Shaw (6’1″ 190 pounds, JUNIOR)
90 DT George Uko (6’3″ 285 pounds, JUNIOR)
13 QB Max Wittek (6’4″ 235 pounds, RS SOPHOMORE)