USC Football Spring Camp: 5 Best Position Battles To Monitor

Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football Position Battles To Watch At Spring Camp

Quarterback Battle

Miller Moss should have a leg up on, UNLV transfer Jayden Maiava, as he proved to have a great handle on the offense during the Holiday Bowl, going 23 of 33 for 372 and six touchdowns. Although, he will be without his favorite target from that game, Tahj Washington, who caught seven passes for 99 yards.

But Lincoln Riley made it clear that the job isn’t Moss’, it will be a competition. And Maiava is more than capable of pushing Moss to the brink. He also adds the threat of better mobility.

2024 USC Football Transfer Portal Tracker

Running Back Battle

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans have a sturdy group of running backs. They picked up Jo’quavious Marks from Mississippi State in the Transfer Portal and two redshirt freshmen, Quinten Joyner and A’Marion Peterson.

Do you think Lincoln Riley has a type? They are all between 5’10” and 6’0″ and around 210 lbs.

USC Football Grabs A Top Running Back In The Transfer Portal

“Woody” Marks has the most experience as the lead back of the Bulldogs the last three seasons with 410 career carries and 1,883 yards, although his efficiency isn’t elite, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He is also a quality screen pass option.

Joyner had two good showings last season. He ran for 65 yards on four carries against Nevada. The majority of which came on an impressive 47-yard touchdown run. He got five touches against San Jose State and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Peterson will be the dark horse in the battle with only two carries under his belt. Although, he was a workhorse with 238 carries for 1,817 yards, and 28 touchdowns in 15 games as a junior in high school.

Who Is WR1

NCAA Football: San Jose State at USC Football
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC football’s top two 2023 receivers, Tahj Washington and Brenden Rice, both left for the NFL. Duce Robinson and Zachariah Branch are poised to move into their spots. Both had good seasons but did it in different ways. Robinson as a speedy deep threat, posted 351 yards with just 16 catches. Branch had 320 yards on 31 receptions.

USC also added Tufts transfer, Jaden Richardson. Richardson offers good size, 6’2″, 210 lbs, and lots of play experience. He had over 40 receptions in each of the last two seasons. Last year he had 830 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games. The only question is can he do it at a higher level

Ja’Kobi Lane and Makai Lemon will be interesting receivers to watch. Neither was much of a factor during the season, but they flashed good chemistry with Miller Moss in the Holiday Bowl.

Kyron Hudson is another name to watch for. He was slotted as a starting receiver for pretty much all of last season but didn’t exactly wow in the production department (17 receptions, 189 yards, and 2 touchdowns). However, the former Matei Dei recruit still has a ton of upside as a true possession receiver, and the coaching staff clearly has a lot of faith in him.

How Does The Secondary Shake Out

NCAA Football: UCLA at Utah
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: Trojans Land Elite Defender From UCLA

USC needs to replace both of its starting corners from last season, Domani Jackson and Christian Roland-Wallace. The top candidate to take one spot is Jacobe Covington. He flashed last season with 12 tackles and an interception. Quarterbacks could only manage a 51.0 passer rating when targeting him. He allowed 81 yards on 8 receptions, but 44 of those yards came on bad rep against Colorado. Outside of that, he allowed just 5.3 yards per catch. At 6’2″, 200 lbs he certainly looks the part. Covington missed seven games due to injury last season but was able to come back and play in the Holiday Bowl.

John Humphrey, a UCLA transfer, will likely take the other outside corner spot. He was a two-year starter for UCLA and had a fantastic season under then Bruins, now USC, defensive coordinator, D’Anton Lynn. Humphrey had 31 tackles, two interceptions, and forced two fumbles.

Mississippi State transfer DeCarlos Nicholson is another name to keep an eye on at spring camp. He is a big hitter and has good field vision, but he will need to improve in coverage to get playing time.

True freshman Marcelles Williams is getting a lot of buzz heading into the season and could easily earn himself a larger role in the defense. He was a four-year starter at California powerhouse high school St. John Bosco and is the younger brother of former USC Trojans safety Max Williams.

USC’s safety depth was solidified with Kamari Ramsey and Akili Arnold transferring. Zion Branch will be the wild card to watch at spring camp. He started the season getting solid reps but missed the back half of the season due to an injury.

Linebacker Mix

NCAA Football: Southern California at California
Oct 28, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Football linebacker Eric Gentry (18) gestures during the third quarter against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

New USC football linebacker coach, Matt Entz looks to change the school’s bad reputation at the position. Mason Cobb struggled last season, leading Power-5 linebackers in missed tackles with 29. He was also a liability in coverage, allowing 27 receptions on 32 targets and 257 yards, 219 of which were after the catch.

Eric Gentry is an intriguing player to watch. At 6’6″ and 215 lbs he is quite physically impressive. He had 46 tackles, a sack, and four total for loss, missing on just 4 tackles. He added an interception a forced fumble and five passes defended. Gentry also struggled in coverage, allowing 19 receptions on 20 targets.

They added Easton Mascarenas-Arnold from Oregon State. The 5’11”, 228-pounder racked up 106 tackles but also struggled to wrap up consistently, with 20 missed tackles. He also struggled in coverage.

The one that takes the biggest step forward in spring camp will have the edge for the starting role.

Who are you most looking forward to watching at the Spring Game on April 20th?