With USC’s recruiting class of 2013 now signed, sealed and delivered, here’s a look at where the newest Trojans might potentially fit into the depth-chart in a possible 3-4 look under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Bigelow was as big as any get in the Class of 2013 for the Trojans, and he’s certainly developed enough physically where he can step right in and enter the rotation at defensive end. Playing in front of him will be two standouts to learn from in Uko and Williams -- a Freshman All-American in 2012. Townsend Jr. and Tavai are two more defensive ends who you’re sure to see plenty of. The most interesting anticipated move to watch will be that of Woods to nose tackle, where he’ll likely start at one of the most crucial positions in the 3-4 defense.
Pullard -- the team’s No. 2 tackler in 2012 -- has really developed into a leader and there’s little doubt that he’ll step in as one of the starting inside linebackers. On the other side, Dawson -- who has started since the end of his freshman campaign -- is the logical choice. Sarao is more than ready to take on a more significant role in 2013 after shining at times this past fall, while Hutchings, an incoming freshman, is certainly capable of cracking the two-deep early. He’s also one of those players who can make an immediate impact on special teams.
Powell -- a fantastic pass rusher with a quick first step -- comes in as an outside linebacker, where he figures to serve in a reserve capacity in his initial season. Breslin, who led the team with 13 sacks last season, is back and has all of the tools to flourish atop the depth chart at his new position. Kennard, returning from a torn chest muscle, looks like a natural fit in the 3-4, with Ruffin, Greene and Starr likely to serve as backups.
With the graduation of each of USC’s starting safeties, both spots are wide open. Wright and Shaw are veteran players capable of playing either position, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both starting. But if Bailey makes the switch to the secondary from his linebacker spot -- as has been the rumor -- he’ll certainly factor in right off the bat. McQuay will enter the discussion at free safety, as will Cravens at strong safety, and both came to USC with the idea of making their presence felt from day one. Bowman, a physical hitter who arrived on campus a year ago from Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce College, is another player who will challenge for playing time at strong safety.
With the loss of Nickell Robey and the last-second decommitment of Jalen Ramsey, the Trojans definitely still lack depth at cornerback, although the addition of Hawkins will certainly bolster it to a certain extent. Still, this is another position sure to be marked by intense competition this spring. Seymour showed flashes of standout play at times last fall, and this is likely his chance to step into the spotlight. On the other side, Harris has the most starting experience, but Hawkins, Shelton and Brown all figure to get more than their share of reps as the team searches for a more consistent level of play than what was seen here in 2012. Shaw -- a part-time starter this past season -- is also certainly a capable contributor once again, although all indications during bowl game preparations pointed toward him making a move back to safety in 2013.