USC Trojans football has a pretty solid offense with more weapons incoming this season — but the defense is loaded up with the bulk of the positions having starters returning.
On the offensive line, USC lost Marlon Tuipulotu to the NFL draft — a member of the All-Pac-12 first team — but there are a bunch of players who can try to fill the role he played.
The Spring roster is led by senior Nick Figueroa, who had a breakout season last year, and sophomore Tuli Tuipulotu, who is Marlon’s younger brother and who earned a spot on the Freshman All-American second team last year.
Redshirt seniors Brandon Pili and Caleb Tremblay are two key backups with experience on the field, while redshirt junior Jacob Lichtenstein is returning after opting out of the first four games last season and hasn’t seen playing time since 2018.
The incoming freshmen will have to work hard to get on the field this season because they have a lot of competition.
On the defensive line, USC has two players on the Spring roster looking for some time on the field — Ishmael Sopsher and Jay Toia.
The team will have two more incoming freshmen in the Fall — Korey Foreman, the nation’s top recruit, and Colin Mobley.
Let’s break ’em down.
Ishmael Sopsher is a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Alabama and appeared in just one game during his freshman season.
As a four-star prospect, he was ranked in the top-five among defensive tackles in 2019. 247Sports’ Barton Simmons compared him to John Jenkins and said he had “two-gap ability” and was “overpowering on the high school level.”
USC has him listed at 6-feet-4-inches weighing in at about 330 pounds.
Joining USC should be a good move for him and may motivate him to work hard for his spot.
Jay Toia is a four-star recruit from Grace Brethren in Simi Valley ranked in the top-15 in the position and in the state for the 2021 class.
247Sports’ Greg Biggins evaluated him twice, in 2018 and in 2020, and compared him to B.J. Raji. He said Toia has the ability to play both sides of the ball in college but “projects best on defense and can overwhelm an opposing center or guard with his strength and raw power.”
USC has him listed at 6-feet-3-inches weighing in at about 325 pounds.
Toia may not be able to get a lot of playing time this season on a competitive team like USC, but he has the potential to be the main figure on the line in the future.
Korey Foreman is one of the highest-rated players ever to join the USC squad — and 247Sports ranks him at No. 12 all-time. He is a five-star recruit with a near-perfect rating at No. 1 across the board.
247Sports has him listed as 6-feet-4-inches weighing in at about 265 pounds.
He has been evaluated by 247Sports three times — in 2018, 2020, and in January 2021.
In his latest evaluation by Greg Biggins, he is compared to Cameron Jordan and projected him to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft after leaving college. Biggins said Foreman “has the kind of all-around game that will allow him to play in any defense” due to being “naturally strong [and] quick off the ball.”
He is from Centennial in Corona where he helped his team reach the CIF Southern Section Division 1 state semifinals as a junior with a 9-3 record.
Despite still attending high school, he doesn’t appear to be on the team during this late-starting season that has them sitting at a 2-1 record — likely to save himself for college ball.
Colin Mobley is a three-star recruit from Hyattsville, Maryland who is ranked outside of the top-30 in his position for the 2021 class.
He had 28 offers from a long list of Division 1 schools but ultimately chose USC.
Based on film from his junior season, he appears to be a strong player on the field with an ability to read plays and use his moves to get to the ball.
247Sports lists him at 6-feet-4-inches weighing in at about 260 pounds.
The spring roster has 12 defensive linemen on the squad, with only one of them a true freshman.
Times are tough.
We also won’t get to see Foreman and Mobley on campus until Fall, so that adds two more to the mix.
Aside from those already mentioned, the Spring roster has redshirt sophomores De’jon Benton, Maninoa Tufono, Stanley Ta’ufo’ou as well as redshirt freshmen Jamar Sekona and Kobe Pepe.
The Trojans play their spring game on Saturday, April 17 at 1 p.m. on the United Airlines Field inside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.