As a USC Trojans football fan, there is usually a lot to look forward to, but this year’s excitement may be a little different coming off the season they had last year.
One of the most exciting players to look forward to is junior quarterback Kedon Slovis — and because he’s probably in everyone’s No. 1 spot, he’s not on the list.
But there are still a handful of other players to look forward to.
5 Players USC Football Fans Should Be Excited About In 2021
No. 5 — Keaontay Ingram
The senior tailback was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and received 30 offers before going to Texas. He had a lot of potential, but injuries plagued his college career — so hopefully his luck will change with the Trojans.
Jon Wilner of Mercury News has Ingram ranked No. 2 on the list of transfers to look out for in the upcoming season.
The thing is, he may not be the No. 1 option at tailback. Redshirt senior Vavae Malepeai is likely the one head coach Clay Helton and his offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is going with — but anytime Ingram sees the field, it should be fun to watch.
The Trojans also have incoming freshman Brandon Campbell, redshirt freshman Matt Colombo, junior Kenan Christon, and redshirt senior Quincy Jountti ready to get on the field. Redshirt senior Stephen Carr would have been a sure thing in the backfield, but he decided to transfer to Indiana to play his final season.
No. 4 — Isaiah Pola-Mao
The redshirt senior safety is pretty much going to step into the role now-professional Talanoa Hufanga played last season. Pola-Mao is the one for the job, putting up 40 tackles, an interception, and team-highs with five deflections and three fumble recoveries last season in the shortened six-game season.
The sky is the limit for him, and he should have a breakout season as the main guardian in the open field.
The safety spot is still pretty competitive — they are all ones to look out for.
Redshirt senior Greg Johnson is someone else quarterbacks have to look out for downfield, and the fact that he played so well last year will mean a lot of attention for the position.
Incoming freshmen Calen Bullock and Anthony Beavers Jr. are going to be ready at the safety position too — it’s going to be a whole team affair.
No. 3 — Drake London
The junior wideout is the new No. 1 receiver for Slovis, and that role is perfect for him. London put up over 500 yards on over 30 receptions in six games last season.
He is going to be able to step up for the Trojans when they need yardage — it’s not up for debate.
Don’t get me wrong — the receiving corps as a whole is one for the ages, but London is in line to lead the team in targets.
K.D. Nixon — the redshirt senior transfer from Colorado — as well as redshirt sophomore Bru McCoy, sophomore Gary Bryant Jr., and freshman Michael Jackson III are all most likely going to see touches in different sets, and that’s going to be a great mix.
No. 2 — Drake Jackson
The junior outside linebacker is a machine, and teams trying to stop him need to be put on notice right away. Jackson finished the season with 20 tackles, including five-and-a-half for loss and two sacks, plus an interception last year in six games, and he’s set for a breakout season before likely going pro.
The linebacker position is pretty stacked with options, including redshirt senior Hunter Echols.
The inside linebackers of junior Ralen Goforth and senior Kana’i Mauga are going to help Jackson out a little bit, so watch out for them, too.
No. 1 — Chris Steele
This man is on a mission this season, and the junior cornerback is going to step up to the challenge of any receiver lining up in front of him. Just like the handful of pro corners that can hold their own one-on-one, this defense should have no problems on his side of the field.
Steele finished the season with 26 tackles, four deflections, and an interception last year, and he’s due for more before he hopes to go pro.
The cornerback battle on the other side of the field is going to be interesting to see because all of the options are solid, too — from redshirt junior Isaac Taylor-Stuart and redshirt sophomore Adonis Otay to incoming freshmen Prophet Brown and Ceyair Wright.
No other starter has been announced yet, and they’ll likely play to the matchups throughout the season.
My list isn’t complete without mentioning a few more names: redshirt freshman safety Xavion Alford that transferred from Texas, and the defensive line duo Tuli Tuipulotu and Nick Figueroa — to be exact.
Alford is excited to be a part of the team, and he’s going to show off if he gets some time on the field.
Tuipulotu has the “it” factor, and he’s going to be a problem for offensive linemen just like his brother Marlon was.
Figueroa has the JUCO player mentality, and he knows the grind that comes with being a part of a team like USC, so he’s going to be a big part of that defense and he’ll find his way on a pro team after the season.
There are tons of players to add to this list, and it’s important to give every single one of them their props for grinding on and off the field — but the list can’t go on forever.
To cap off the article, I want to highlight the preseason All-Pac 12 list Anthony Treash of PFF compiled for offense and defense.
Spoiler alert: Steele and Pola-Mao weren’t mentioned. Let’s allow them to take offense to that.
Slovis and London received first-team nods, Bru McCoy received a second-team nod, Nixon and Tuipulotu received third-team nods, and Tahj Washington, Andrew Vorhees, Jackson, and Figueroa received honorable mentions.
The redshirt freshman Washington is the Trojans’ newest addition via transfer from Memphis. He finished last season with over 700 yards on more than 40 receptions in 11 games.
He marks the fifth transfer going to USC this offseason.
Photo Credit: Spatms | Wikimedia Commons