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Grading the USC roster: Pre-camp edition

Grading the USC roster: Pre-camp edition

With fall camp right around the corner, USC247.com grades every scholarship player on the football team and offers reasonable expectations for each player in fall camp.

For those wondering about our grading system: 

A player with an “A” rating would be among the very best players in the entire country. A player with a “B” rating would be among the very best players in their conference, but not an all-American. A player with a “C” rating is average starting player for a power five program. A player with a “D” rating is a below average starter or backup player at a power five program. A player with an “F” rating means it certainly would be an absolutely disaster if he started.

Quarterback

JT Daniels 

Pre-Camp Grade: C-

Daniels is small and fragile for a USC quarterback. He’s also slow and there’s rumors he’s out of shape. He’s not very accurate, he’s skittish in the pocket and he can’t throw a deep ball very well.

That might seem critical but that’s not uncommon for a guy who was a freshman quarterback last year.

A reasonable expectation would be for him to get into shape and show that he’s progressed beyond what he was. It shouldn’t matter if he comes out of camp as a world beater or not. He was too far from that last year for that to be the expectation. Daniels needs to be in shape and not look lost and should focus on those two things.

Jack Sears

Pre-Camp Grade: C-

Sears is more athletic than Daniels. He was also more impressive in his one start than Daniels was all year. He was actually able to get out of the pocket, make plays downfield and showed better accuracy. He probably gives the Trojans a better chance of winning. He might not be the choice, as he wasn’t last year. But he should make noise in this camp.

A reasonable expectation would be for him to be better than Daniels in August. We all know who Helton wants to pick but there’s a new offensive coordinator at USC. Sears should aim to be so impressive that he causes a disagreement amongst the offensive staff.

Matt Fink

Pre-Camp Grade: D-

Fink doesn’t have the skills to succeed at USC if he ever has to start. There shouldn’t be any expectations for him in camp. He also had knee surgery so that might end any expectations for camp at all.

Kedon Slovis

Pre-camp grade: D-

Slovis is a freshman and a complete project at quarterback. He’s facing zero expectations in fall camp.

Tailback

Vavae Malepeai 

Pre-Camp Grade: C-

Malepai is a very average tailback. He’s not very fast so he gets labeled a power back, but he’s not that big and strong either. If he’s starting at USC, it’s a down year at tailback for the Trojans. There really shouldn’t be expectations of him going into camp. He’s just what he is.

Stephen Carr 

Pre-Camp Grade: C-

Carr is more talented than Malepeai but he’s fragile and hasn’t proved he can make it through a season. That means he’s basically been worthless. His goal should be to avoid getting injured in camp and be healthy for the season. If he’s healthy, USC might have one of the more dangerous tailbacks in the conference. It’s just a big if.

Kenan Christon

Pre-camp grade: D

Christon is a young freshman with speed but he’s nowhere close to understanding what he needs to to make a real impact at USC his first year. He shouldn’t have any goals or expectations in camp besides surviving.

Markese Stepp

Pre-camp grade: D+

He’s probably a better example of a power  back than Malepeai but he’s a bit raw and shouldn’t be expected to take a jump yet. His goal should be to create distance between himself and Christon.

Offensive Line

Brett Neilon

Pre-camp grade: C+

There should be big expectations for Neilon. This publication thinks his film last year was more impressive than Toa Lobendahn’s. That’s impressive considering the age gap between the two. Neilon should be expected to establish himself as the leader of the offensive line during camp and start his campaign for conference and national recognition.

Justin Dedich

Pre-camp grade: D

Dedich is young and will provide depth. He’s probably not ready to start and play well at the college level and that’s why he has this grade. He should just focus on improving.

Gino Quinones

Pre-camp grade: D-

Quinones is not yet ready for college football. There shouldn’t be any expectations for him in this camp.

Jacob Daniel

Pre-camp grade: D-

Daniel has no chance to ever contribute in any significant way at USC. There shouldn’t be any expectations for him.

Frank Martin

Pre-camp grade: D-

It’s about time to give up on Martin’s career at USC and he shouldn’t be expected to do much in this camp or this year.

Alijah Vera-Tucker

Pre-camp grade: C-

Vera-Tucker seems to be comely along and there’s a chance he could turn into a decent starter in the Pac-12. He needs to nail down a starting position in the fall and that should be his focus.

Liam Douglass

Pre-camp grade: D+

Douglass redshirted last year but stood out on the scout team and may have a future as a starter in the Pac-12. He should aim to take a starting spot in this camp, even if he falls short.

Andrew Vorhees

Pre-camp grade: C

Vorhees has plenty of experience as a starter and he would probably fit in on most teams throughout the conference. He should try to take the next leap in camp and become one of the team leaders.

Jason Rodriguez

Pre-camp grade: D-

Rodriguez is a complete project and he needs to get in football shape before he can contribute. he shouldn’t have any expectations.

Bernard Schirmer

Pre-camp grade: D-

Schirmer should not be expected to contribute right away for USC and his focus should be on adjusting to the college game this year. He’s not ready for college football.

Drew Richmond

Pre-camp grade: C+

Richmond never lived up to his high school billing at Tennessee. He was regulated to right tackle when everyone expected him to be the savior at the left tackle position. He’s also struggled throughout his career with penalties. He’s still one of USC’s best options along the line and he should be expected to take a leadership role in the fall.

Jalen McKenzie

Pre-camp grade: C-

McKenzie is trending in the right direction and should focus on trying to take over a starting spot. If he falls short, it’s okay to aim high.

Liam Jimmons

Pre-camp grade: D-

Jimmons switched positions after three years at USC. He should focus on catching up to his peers and there shouldn’t be much pressure on Jimmons while that happens.

Austin Jackson

Pre-camp grade: C+

Jackson hasn’t lived up to what he was supposed to be at all and more should be expected of him. But that being said, he might be USC’s most talented lineman. He also seems to have the left tackle spot shorn up. He might not be around for camp and early in the season because he donated bone marrow to his sister, so he should focus on being healthy.

Clayton Bradley

Pre-camp grade: C-

Bradley has been a backup offensive lineman his entire career. Maybe if others are injured in front of him, he could prove himself as a competent Pac-12 starter. That being said, he should push himself in camp to try and start.

Tight End

Jude Wolfe

Pre-camp grade: D

Wolfe has potential to grow into a good player for USC but it’s too early in his career to expect much of him.

Erik Krommenhoek

Pre-camp grade: D+

Krommenhoek is a limited tight end but he has a role at USC and he plays it well. It would be nice to see his game as a receiver improve in camp.

Josh Falo

Pre-camp grade: C

Falo is a nice receiving threat for USC. It would be nice to see him commit to becoming an overall great tight end and that should be his focus in camp. He might have that potential. 

Ethan Rae

Pre-camp grade: D

Rae has room to grow into a very capable tight end but it’s too early to expect him to be ready for the Pac-12 or too impress in camp.

Wide Receiver

Velus Jones

Pre-camp grade: C-

Jones is a decent backup wide receiver for USC and has some skills that can be utilized for the offense. He is what he is so he just needs to continue improving on the basics. It’s unfair to expect much besides that.

Devon Williams

Pre-camp grade: C-

Williams should focus on trying to become the dominant force he was expected to become when he was in high school. He should aim to jump to that level. It might be possible.

Michael Pittman

Pre-camp Grade: C+

Michael Pittman might be USC’s most talented player but he’s far away from being the best receiver in the conference or country. It would be nice to see Pittman focus on trying to take that leap to elite receiver status. That’s not an easy thing He might need some of the younger guys to compete hard and push him to get there.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

Pre-camp grade: C+

St. Brown is in a similar spot as Pittman. He’s one of USC’s best players but he isn’t an elite receiver, which is what he was expected to be in high school. He needs to focus on pushing Pittman and Vaughns for the title of best player on the team and hope that leads to even better play from all of them.

Munir McClain

Pre-camp grade: D-

McClain shouldn’t have any expectations his freshman season and should just try to make it through camp..

Bru McCoy

Pre-camp grade: D+

McCoy has the ability to be a very, very good receiver. But as a freshman, he just needs to make it through camp trust his coaches to put him in position to do well. If he’s eligible and he has a role, he might be one of USC’s best freshmen.

Drake London

Pre-camp grade: D-

London is a very solid athlete and has good potential but as a freshman he shouldn’t be expected to do much.

Tyler Vaughns

Pre-camp grade: C+

Vaughns is in a similar position to Pittman and St. Brown, although it feels like he’s been regulated to third place by Trojan fans. He should be looking to prove everyone wrong and trying to take the top spot from his other receivers.

Kyle Ford

Pre-camp grade: D-

Ford is still dealing with high school injuries that could set him back.

Defensive Line

Stanley Ta’ufo’ou

Pre-camp Grade: D-

Ta’ufo’ou is not ready for college football and should have no expectations in fall camp.

Nick Figueroa

Pre-camp Grade: D+

Figueroa should be expected to gain momentum in camp and push for real starting time. This grade might end up looking silly if the USC coaches put him in the right situation but there are still questions about whether or not he’s ready for college football.

Marlon Tuipulotu

Pre-camp grade: C

It’s time for Tuipulotu to take a jump and establish himself as the high guy he was expected to be. That’s what he should focus on in this camp. I think there’s potential for this grade to be much higher than it is now.

Jay Tufele

Pre-camp Grade: C+

Tufele has done some good things early on in his USC career. Everyone will looking for him to take the next step and become a dominant force in the trenches. That should be his goal for this camp.

De’jon Benton

Pre-camp grade: D-

Benton shouldn’t be expected to anything for USC this year and his expectations for camp should be close to zero.

Christian Rector

Pre-camp grade: C+

Rector has played well at times USC throughout his career and should be expected to become a force along the defensive line for the Trojans. If he took a jump in his leadership ability during camp that would be a big plus.

Connor Murphy

Pre-camp grade: D

Murphy shouldn’t be expected to do much in camp or make much of a contribution to the team.

Brandon Pili

Pre-camp grade: C

We’ve heard enough about how big and athletic Pili is and it’s time for him to prove it. He should be expected to take a big jump in camp, otherwise he’s trending towards being an average defensive tackle.

Trevor Trout

Pre-camp grade: D

Trout shouldn’t be expected to contribute and shouldn’t have expectations in camp. He’s still a project and has been dealing with injuries.

Caleb Tremblay

Pre-camp grade: D+

Tremblay has a chance to make an impact in this team but it’s yet to be seen if he can really make an impact in college football. He should aim high and try to start on this team.

Jacob Lichenstein

Pre-camp grade: D+

Lichenstein should be expected to take a big jump in camp and he should focus on becoming a solid option as a starter for USC.

Drake Jackson

Pre-camp grade: D+

Jackson is too young and raw for big expectations but if put in the right situations he could have some star-like moments.

Inside Linebacker

Palaie Gaoteote

Pre-camp grade: C+

Gaoteote’s position on the team feels a little bit like Brett Neilon’s. He didn’t get every opportunity in the world but when he did, he shined. He should focus on taking a jump in the offseason and working towards becoming a future star.

John Houston

Pre-camp grade: C

Houston is an average Pac-12 starter and what more can be expected of him at this point of his career? He should focus on trying to lock down his starting spot.

Ralen Goforth

Pre-camp grade: D-

Goforth is too young to be expected to do anything but survive in camp.

Kana’i Mauga

Pre-camp grade: D

Mauga shouldn’t be expected to do much yet. He should just continue focusing on trying to make an impact on the team somehow and in some way.

Juliano Falaniko

Pre-camp grade: D

Falaniko isn’t yet ready for college football and shouldn’t be expected to do much at USC right now.

Maninoa Tufono

Pre-camp grade: D+

Tufono is one of the best recruits USC signed in the 2019 class. he should focus on passing some of his less talented elders on the depth chart.

Jordan Iosefa

Pre-camp grade: C

Iosefa is a com patent Pac-12 starter. He should focus on trying to become more than that in this camp.

Solomon Tuliaupupu

Pre-camp grade: D

Tuliaupupu is a bit behind because of injuries and he needs to play catch up.

Outside Linebacker

Hunter Echols

Pre-camp grade: C-

Echols is pushing for a starting spot and should focus on becoming a solid starting Pac-12 linebacker.

Eli’Jah Winston

Pre-camp grade: D

Winston probably isn’t ready for college football yet and should just be expected to improve in camp.

Abdul-Malik McClain

Pre-camp grade: D

McClain needs more time before he could be considered a viable starting option at a pac-12 school. He should just be focused on improving.

Tuasivi Nomura

Pre-camp grade: D-

Nomura has no chance of contributing to USC this year unless there’s an absolute disaster. He should just focus on improving.

Cornerback

Olaijah Griffin

Pre-camp grade: D+

Griffin is a green cornerback who gets exposed way too often. He should be expected to take a jump in this camp because USC needs him too. If he doesn’t, it might be time to give up hope.

Chris Steele

Pre-camp grade: D

Steele would probably have graded out higher if he played safety, a position that suits him much better at the college level. The speed of the college game will be hard for him to adjust too it’ll be tough to expect him to perform right away. He’s a freshman, so he should be expected to just make it through camp.

Isaac Taylor-Stuart

Pre-camp grade: D-

Taylor-Stuart is not ready for college football at all. He should be expected to improve on how lost he is and that’s about it.

Chase Williams

Pre-camp grade: D-

It would be absurd to expect Williams to be a strong defensive back for USC right now. I don’t think there should be any camp expectations for him at all.

Greg Johnson

Pre-camp grade: D-

Johnson is a mess at cornerback and might want to even consider switching positions at this point in his career. He shouldn’t have many expectations coming out of camp.

Adonis Otey

Pre-camp grade: D-

Otey should not be expected to contribute at a high level early in his career and just making it through camp is a decent goal for him.

Dominic Davis

Pre-camp grade: D-

Why is he still a cornerback? He would actually fit this offense well as a slot receiver and tailback. There’s no reason to even discuss his expectations as a cornerback.

Max Williams

Pre-camp grade: D-

He’s another freshman who’s a project. If he starts, there’s trouble coming. He shouldn’t have expectations at all for camp. He’s also been dealing with injuries that could set him back.

Jayden Williams

Pre-camp grade: D-

Williams is a project at defensive back who shouldn’t be expected to do much his freshman year or in camp.

Safety

Talanoa Hufanga

Pre-camp grade: C

Hufanga is a capable starting safety who should focus on becoming more than that.

Isaiah Pola-Mao

Pre-camp grade: C

We’ll see just how good Pola-Mao is soon enough if he stays healthy. USC needs him to play at a higher level than he’s graded and he should be expected to reach for that goal.

Dorian Hewitt

Pre-camp grade: D-

It would be absolutely shocking if Hewitt is ready for this level of football already. he should focus on improving.

Kaulana Makaula 

Pre-camp grade: D-

Makaula should just focus on improving because he’s not ready to play in the Pac-12.

Briton Allen

Pre-camp grade: D-

Allen isn’t ready for college football and should just focus on recruiting.

CJ Pollard

Pre-camp grade: D-

USC might need Pollard to step up but it doesn’t feel likely that he’s the solution for them at safety considering what’s happened at USC his entire career.

Raymond Scott

Pre-camp grad: D-

Scott at defensive back is a disaster waiting to happen. There’s no need for expectations.

Special Teams

Overall Position Grade: C

We’re not going to grade all the kickers, long snappers and punters because none of them are anything above average. It’s very clear that USC doesn’t have excellent players at those positions. The return game always feels like it has potential because of the types of athletes USC has but that doesn’t always lead to results. I expect USC to be a team that can cause issues with blocking field goals.







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