The USC coaches have shown that they will play freshmen and newcomers and there will be several opportunities next year for incoming players to make an impact.
This will become a huge need if T.J. McDonald declares for the NFL draft. Even if he doesn’t, both McDonald and Drew McAllister will be seniors, so the coaches will want to have someone else ready to go in 2013. The Trojans are in the final group for Pierce (Calif.) College safety Gerald Bowman. He was thought to be an early lean to USC, but the Oklahoma Sooners have made quite an impression lately and this looks like a close battle to land him.
The Trojans are set at the starting spot with Lamar Dawson, but there is no clear backup right now, as former walk-on Will Andrew and seldom-used Dallas Kelley are next in line presently. Incoming recruit Scott Starr (Norco, Calif./Norco) could come in right away in the spring to establish himself not only as the top reserve to Dawson, but also to help secure a role on special teams.
The interior of the Trojans defensive line will be heavy on youth and light on experience. That leaves the door open for a true freshman like Ellis McCarthy (Monrovia, Calif./Monrovia) to come in and immediately earn a spot in the rotation. One of the biggest keys for an interior lineman in terms of playing early is the ability to hold up physically, and McCarthy appears capable of doing that. Right now the Trojans lead Oregon and California for McCarthy.
Nick Perry is expected to leave early for the draft, so that means the Trojans will have two experienced ends -- Wes Horton and Devon Kennard -- as well as a redshirt freshman in Greg Townsend who appears ready for a role. Ed Orgeron loves to go two-deep at all his line spots, so that means someone like Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove) could arrive in the fall with a shot right away at playing time. Armstead is still in regular contact with the USC coaches despite his recent decommitment but he is also considering schools such as Notre Dame, Cal, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Alabama and Auburn.
Once again, the NFL draft will have a big impact on the Trojans if Matt Kalil decides to leave school early. Even if he doesn’t leave, an incoming tackle will have a shot right away at a spot on the two-deep. The Trojans are still in on some of the best tackle prospects on the west coast, including Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol) and Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes). Getting at least one of these tackles -- if not two -- will be one of the top remaining priorities for this class.