Los Angeles, CA --
With the USC Trojans spring game close approaching, and two highly touted recruiting classes joining the team the past few years, there are some interesting position battles shaping up in the team's camp. Here are the ones Trojan fans should be looking out for:
RB Charles Bowser 5-7 216 (Sr) Vernon Kilpatrick (Malibu CA) 4.5 of 4.5 [Power]
RB Max Olson 5-10 224 (Fr) Fontana (Fontana CA) 2.0 of 4.5 [Power]
Bowser struggled a bit in his junior year after a solid sophomore year, and there have been some lingering backroom concerns that Bowser might not be the best fit with Riley Sharp. Olson, for his part, looked good in the 2023 spring game - he'll start for the second team offense on the Gold Team, and with a good performance has a chance to take third down duties and perhaps even a starting job. Bowser will line up next to Riley Sharp on the Cardinal Team.
TE Quinn Branham 6-4 212 (So) Elmira (Elmira OR) 3.0 of 4.0 [Receiving]
TE Sean Graham 6-6 234 Fr Seneca (Seneca SC) 2.0 of 5.0 [Receiving]
Branham got the start as a freshman and put up a solid 26 receptions for 323 yards and 2 TD. USC did end up recruiting the #5 TE in the nation, Graham, however, and it looks like he's getting the start with the first team offense on the Cardinal Team in the spring game. If he plays well don't be surprised if he's starting on Saturdays this year. Branham will catch passes from Kevin Bacon on the Gold Team.
OT Solomon Levesque 6-2 321 (So) West Covina (West Covina CA) 3.5 of 3.5 [Run Blocking]
OT Robert Mackey 6-5 282 (Fr) Kamehameha (Honolulu HI) 2.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking]
OT Javari Hightower 6-3 273 Fr Glendale (Glendale CA) 1.5 of 5.0 [Pass Blocking]
While Anthony McGregor is penciled in at left tackle, Coach Jumbo has let it be known that right tackle is completely up for grabs. Levesque was alright, but not inspiring, as a freshman starter, and with the team likely to pass more than it runs it seems like they might want to switch to a more pass blocking-based tackle. We'll see if one of the two freshmen can unseat Levesque; if Hightower is unable to win the job, he seems likely to be redshirted. Hightower will be the one blocking for Sharp on the Cardinal Team, while Mackey and Levesque will line up to block for Kevin Bacon on the Gold Team.
DE Terrell Francis 6-6 240 Sr East Fork Lutheran (Whiteriver AZ) 3.0 of 3.0 [Blitz]
DE Kamar Lott 6-4 263 Fr Lake Stevens (Lake Stevens WA) 1.5 of 5.0 [Blitz]
Francis is a 3-year starter who has put up 7.5 sacks, 2.5 sacks, and 8 sacks in his three seasons starting. However, he has always struggled against the run, and that is where Lott comes in. Francis now defends the edge where converted-safety Raekwon Rowe patrols as a linebacker, and that is where the #4 DE recruit in the nation has an opportunity. Lott is renowned as an all around DE who can both pass rush and blitz, and he has 25 pounds of extra bulk on Francis already. If he doesn't take the starting job from Francis, he may be able to earn some snaps as a rotational rusher for 2024 at the very least. Lott is starting with the first team defense on the Gold Team, so we'll see if he can get around McGregor.
FS Raekwon Rowe 6-0 193 Jr De La Salle (Concord CA) 3.5 of 3.5 [Zone Coverage]
OLB Cory Jenkins 6-4 229 (Fr) Hilltop (Chula Vista CA) 2.5 of 4.0 [Coverage]
OLB Gabe Hooper 6-3 219 Jr Valley Christian (San Jose CA) 3.5 of 3.5 [Coverage]
OLB Kamar Brandon 5-11 221 Fr Shorecrest (Seattle WA) 1.0 of 5.0 [Blitz]
Coach Jumbo has let it be known that the spot where everything is most up for grabs is at OLB. In the team's hybrid 4-3, Rowe is the only returning starter at OLB following the graduation of Gregory Gibson, and it sounds like even his spot is up for grabs this spring. Jenkins was a favorite under-the-radar recruit of the coaching staff from last year's class, Hooper has stuck around for a couple of years as a backup, and Brandon was a last minute swipe from Washington State in this year's recruiting class. Rowe will likely have a spot in the team's defense this year no matter what, but two of the others could claim a starting spot in the base defense. Jenkins and Hooper will start the base defense on the Gold Team with Rowe playing the bandit for the Gold Team, while Brandon will start opposite unlikely starter Thierno Hyde on the Cardinal Team in a 3-4 look. We'll see if any of them stand out.