USC Trojans Season Opener Preview
Let us get started in breaking down the USC season opener. Today I will be giving you a preview of each teams new look and who I believe will come out on top.
USC is looking to get the new season started off with a much-needed win. Even though the season has yet to begin, it is crunch time for the Trojans. With most of the pressure being placed on head coach Clay Helton, who seems to be coaching for his job after last seasons disaster.
Helton’s first two seasons in charge were very successful, coming out with a Rose Bowl win and a PAC-12 Championship. This only made last year’s 5-7 record even more painful, the teams first losing season since the year 2000. Athletic Director Lynn Swann has gone on record saying the expectations for the season are a PAC-12 Championship and National Title contention.
It will not be very easy considering Fresno State is coming in with back to back bowl wins in the past two years. Not to mention, a team record-setting 12 wins in the previous season.
JT Daniels returns for his Sophomore season and has just been officially announced as the opening day starter.
On the other side, Fresno State will be looking to have a new starter after losing its star quarterback, Marcus McMaryion, from the previous year. They will be going with Jorge Reyna, who hasn’t started a game yet in his college career. He may have a chance to get a nice start considering the USC secondary will only have one returning starter this year.
The Trojans will have great options at running back. Stephen Carr will get the start. Last year he finished with 81 touches for 384 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was coming off of back surgery and not a full spring training. This year the former five-star recruit will be coming off a full spring. It will be very interesting to see what this flashy runner can pull off with a full camp.
Their second option is Vavae Malepeai. The team leader in rushing touchdowns from the previous year with eight. He split training reps with Carr this past camp. This is a back you have to watch at the line of scrimmage with his impressive strength and size. Rushing for 501 yards off of 93 touches, he and Carr make for a great one-two punch.
Markese Stepp has been impressing coaches in spring training. Coaches have warned that he still needs work to polish his pass-catching and blocking abilities. He is a very powerful back who could see a couple of handoffs coming his way in the red zone.
The receiving corps is definitely the strong suit for this team. Some have regarded it as one of the best in the nation. With the arrival of Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell‘s air raid offense, expect the receivers to be utilized to their utmost potential. The air raid offense mainly runs out of a four-receiver shotgun formation.
The Trojans will have two of the bright spots of last years disappointing offense returning in Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns. Pitmann Jr. had 41 catches for 758 yards and six touchdowns. Vaughn added 58 catches for 674 yards and six touchdowns. Throwing a healthy quarterback into the mix will really let this offense shine.
It won’t be without a fight though. The two players to watch on defense in this game will be in the Fresno State secondary. Jaron Bryant and JuJu Hughes led statistically one of the best defenses last year. They have both played almost all 28 games under head coach Jeff Tedford, having a very impressive 22-6 record in the process.
Hughes led the team with 78 tackles, four interceptions, and eight pass breakups last season. Bryant was not far behind with 50 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble, and 12 pass breakups. Bryant was very impressive the year before with multiple interceptions for touchdowns since 2012. Also, Bryant became the first player in NCAA history to have two blocked field goals returned for touchdowns in the same quarter.
The Bulldogs secondary did take some losses in graduating starters and draft declarations. They filled up some of this void in the depth by bringing in seven freshmen to the secondary. Fresno State will have some players getter acclimated but watch out for these two studs to try and shut down the very hyped Trojan receiving corps.
Both teams will be working with brand new offensive coordinators, so expect to see them working out some kinks early on.
For Fresno State that will be a little more difficult of a task, taking into consideration that they had to replace all three starting receivers along with the quarterback position.
This will be a good game to see what each team is made of considering the high expectations they are faced with on both sides. One team coming off a record-setting year and another highly respected team coming off of one of their worst seasons in almost 20 years.
There is a lot on the line but it will come down to whoever wants it more. The player to look out for in this matchup will be JT Daniels. Let us see if he is able to pick up where he left off last season and improve from that.
If you ask me, I think that the Trojans will wake up from the hangover of last season and pull out a win for the home crowd in their newly renovated stadium.
Who are you watching for on the Trojans in this first matchup?