Best USC Offensive Player
C/OT Toa Lobendahn, Sr.
In a perfect world, JT Daniels steps in and instantly becomes the team’s best offensive player, and certainly there are plenty of skill guys who could and should rise up to be something special, but just as vital is the versatile 6-3, 290-pound Lobendahn will be the All-Pac-12 star at – most likely – center after spending last year at left tackle. Just fine after fighting back from a knee injury that cost him almost all of 2016, now he’ll be an anchor of what should be the Pac-12’s best line.
2. QB JT Daniels, Fr.
3. WR Tyler Vaughns, Soph.
4. OG Chris Brown, Sr.
5. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Fr.
Best USC Defensive Player
LB Cameron Smith, Sr.
Go ahead and throw at least five USC defensive player names in a bag, pull one out, and you probably have the best guy. The 6-2, 250-pound Smith has been a stead and sensational tackling machine for the Trojans over the last three seasons, with 273 career stops and a team-high 112 last year with 11 tackles for loss.
He came up with 16 tackles against Utah, 12 against Cal, and was steady throughout the season. Now he’ll be the 100-tackle rock on the inside as one of the leaders of a whole slew of sensational talents.
2. LB Porter Gustin, Sr.
3. CB Iman Marshall, Sr.
4. S Marvell Tell III, Sr.
5. DE Christian Rector, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB J.T. Daniels, Fr.
It’s not like USC doesn’t have talent at quarterback. Jack Sears was a fantastic recruit with the right size and skills to be more than fine, and Matt Fink is an accurate option who can move. But it’s the 6-3, 205-pound Daniels who needs to be the new marquee face of the franchise over the next few years as the replacement for Sam Darnold.
The next great USC quarterback from Mater Dei – the pipeline that fed the program Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley and Todd Marinovich – Daniels is deadly accurate, mobile enough to take off when needed, and careful with the ball, throwing for over 12,000 yards in his career with 152 touchdowns and 14 picks. And now the pressure is on to be special from the start.
Key Game To The USC Season
at Stanford, Sept. 8
There are several big games against the Pac-12 South to deal with – watch out for road games at Arizona and Utah – and there’s a nasty date at Texas after making the trip to Palo Alto, but with so many new parts in the offensive backfield, and as a chance to make an early statement, beating Stanford on the road so early in the season is a really, really big deal.
The Trojans beat Stanford twice last year, including in the Pac-12 Championship, and this time around, a loss could all but end any College Football Playoff hopes before the season gets started. It won’t matter much in the conference title chase – run the South table and all will be likely be fine – but USC, as always, is pushing for far more.
2017 USC Fun Stats
– 3rd Quarter Scoring: 76 – 4th Quarter Scoring 146
– Kickoff Return Average: Opponents 24.1 yards – USC 22.5 yards
– Sacks: USC 46 for 279 yards – Opponents 30 for 217 yards