The USC Trojans are expected to have a strong season, but they still have some holes to fill in their offense.
As it looks right now, the quarterback position is locked up, but the remaining positions are up for grabs.
Each position brings a separate set of skills, and with so many players that declared for the NFL draft, versatility is the best skill set to have.
For the running back position, there is only one player arriving on campus from another college and one already enrolled at USC — Keaontay Ingram and Brandon Campbell.
For the wide receiver position, there are four players joining the team — one already enrolled, one coming from another college, and two arriving in the offseason — Michael Jackson, K.D. Nixon, Kyron Ware-Hudson, and Joseph Manjack.
Let’s break down each one.
Ingram was a four-star running back out of Carthage, Texas in the Class of 2018 and was the sixth-ranked back in the nation. For the Longhorns, he was the backup his freshman year, the starter his sophomore year, and he was looking at the starting job for his junior year but experienced a large decline in touches playing behind a mobile quarterback. He went from playing in 13 games to playing in six games and only starting in three.
Steve Sarkisian was named the head coach for the Longhorns this offseason, and that could’ve worked for Ingram — but being behind Kedon Slovis might be wise for him.
He has two years of eligibility remaining on a team that has two of their three backs returning as super seniors — Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr.
Brandon Campbell is a four-star running back recruit that’s ranked 16th among his position in the 2021 class and is the third-ranked back from Texas.
247Sports’ Gabe Brooks evaluated him during his junior season in 2019 and compared him to former Michigan running back Karan Higdon, saying he’s an “athletic playmaker with impressive verified speed and agility” and “shows good burst when he decides to plant and go.”
Brooks considers Campbell a starter at any Power 5 college in the nation and sees some areas to improve on his game. It’s safe to say Campbell brings some hunger and some grit to the Trojans. As someone who has already enrolled early into USC, he is likely in the weight room and working with the coaches on most days.
On the wide receiver side of things, bringing in solid recruits should be a priority for the Trojans since two of their top guys are moving on to the league. The Trojans also have two solid receivers left with a third on the team with a lot of potential.
Michael Jackson is a three-star wide receiver ranked in the top 60 in his position and top five in Nevada.
247Sports’ Blair Angulo evaluated him in 2018 and drew the comparison to former Trojan Deontay Burnett, saying he’s a “dynamic pass-catcher who thrives on underneath routes” and he’s “elusive in the open field and dangerous after gaining possession.”
Angulo considers Jackson a sure-thing start at a Power 5 school with the potential to reach the NFL. He brings good catching ability, some speed, hops, and an ability to get open. Those traits are what Slovis needs on the field.
K.D. Nixon was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2017 out of DeSoto, Texas ranked in the top 50 in his position and in the state. At Colorado, he was a backup his freshman year, and a starter his next three years — only playing in four games last season in the back half of the season.
Nixon originally declared for the draft after his junior year but returned to Colorado for his senior year. Nixon has one more year of eligibility remaining and has already joined the Trojans.
Head coach Clay Helton described Nixon as a perfect fit during a press conference and said his experience is one reason they wanted to bring him in.
Kyron Ware-Hudson is a four-star recruit ranked in the top 25 in the position and just outside the top 10 in California.
247Sports’ Greg Biggins evaluated him in 2020 and compared him to Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, saying he’s “one of the strongest receivers in the country who can bully opposing corners” plus “has very good hands and does a nice job catching the ball through contact.”
Biggins considers Ware-Hudson a solid starter with the ability to go to the league. He brings unselfishness and a winning mentality to the Trojans. As a part of the top-ranked team in California, he has already been exposed to football at a high level and can jump right in at USC.
Joseph Manjack is a three-star recruit ranked outside the top 100 in his position and just inside the top 100 in Texas.
He wasn’t evaluated by 247Sports, but his numbers were still great in his senior year — 885 receiving yards on 37 receptions with 13 touchdowns, 869 rushing yards on 60 carries with 13 touchdowns, and 349 passing yards on 55% completion and three touchdowns. Apart from being a receiver and quarterback, he was a returner, punter, and kicker.
Manjack brings versatility to the Trojans’ team with the ability to catch passes on many different plays.
Running backs and wide receivers are hugely successful coming out of USC, and the players coming in are no different. This team is likely going to be at the top in the Pac-12 conference.
The season opener is set for September 4 in a non-conference matchup against San Jose State — who went undefeated in the regular season last year and won the Mountain West Conference.