Going into this season, the USC football team is a team that many experts and picking to rise up the top 25 rankings as the season progresses. In order for these predictions to come true, it will require a number of players rise above their preseason expectations of play and become factors for a team that still lacks depth due to past scholarship restrictions.
With established talent all over the field, it will be up to young players on both sides of the ball to establish themselves and offer effective depth and skill at their respective positions. Whether they will be listed as starters or not, these four players must become viable options and grow throughout the year for the Trojans to live up to preseason expectations.
After signing as one of the more highly touted recruits in the Trojans’ 2014 recruiting class, Jackson has been turning heads so far in the early stages of camp. He is being featured on both sides of the ball, at cornerback on defense and all over the field as a weapon on offense.
An uber-athletic player, Jackson will be getting time on the field early and often, and will be needed to have an impact immediately on both offense and defense.
With the news that Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, there are only two scholarship tight ends remaining on the roster. Dixon, a true freshman, will be looked upon to play meaningful minutes and to spell Randall Telfer. In an offense that features two tight ends on the field at once multiple times a game, the athletic Dixon will be looked upon to contribute immediately.
After missing a majority of his first two seasons at USC due to injuries, Banner is being slated as the starter at right tackle. An imposing, physical player, Banner is going to be key in protecting Cody Kessler and opening holes for the trio of talented running backs to have success on the ground.
With the offensive line being looked at as the positional group in the state of most uncertainty going into the season, the fast maturation of Banner from week to week will make an impact on the effectiveness of the offense from the first game and on.
With cornerback Kevon Seymour out with an injury at this time, Hawkins is being looked upon to start opposite of Josh Shaw. Following a strong spring season, Hawkins has been taking first team reps in a defensive backfield lacking much depth. It will be up to Hawkins to take pressure off of Shaw and allow for the safeties to make plays all over the field by being able to play more man coverage.
With Leonard Williams and the rest of the defensive line getting pressure on the passer and Su’a Cravens playing all over the field and wrecking havoc, the progression of Hawkins to become a consistent player in the secondary will improve an already strong first-team defense.