USC Spring Football Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    USC spring football practice preview for 2017. The Trojans are heading into Clay Helton's second full season as head coach with Sam Darnold entering as the unquestioned starting quarterback.

    March 6, 2017

    USC spring football practice preview for 2017. The Trojans are heading into Clay Helton’s second full season as head coach with Sam Darnold entering as the unquestioned starting quarterback.  


    In his first full season as head coach of the Trojans, no one really knew what to expect from Clay Helton. And, at first, it didn’t look pretty. With Max Browne as the starting quarterback, USC lost three of its first four games.

    Helton then sat Browne in favor of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, and the Trojans’ season was completely turned around. They finished with a 10-3 record, and Darnold ended up leading the team to a huge 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

    Helton’s team will look to build upon that momentum as it prepares for the 2017 college football season.

    Here are three storylines to watch as USC’s spring football practice starts Tuesday.

    USC Spring Football Practice Storylines

    1. Sam Darnold’s Redshirt-Sophomore Season

    What Sam Darnold did last season was nothing short of remarkable. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was the focal point of USC’s offensive surge, and he’ll be expected to at least match that performance in 2017.

    To evaluate how tremendous Darnold’s campaign was, consider the following: he was one of the most talked about quarterbacks at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, and he wasn’t even competing. Right now, Darnold is projected as a top-three pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and another great season will cement that. It will also put the Trojans squarely in the conversation for College Football Playoff contenders.

    2. Offensive Weapons

    Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    If Darnold is going to have another superb season, he needs someone to step up and become the clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing game. There will likely be a lot of pressure on Deontay Burnett to step up and be the guy for Darnold, especially now that JuJu Smith-Schuster has moved on to the NFL. There is also the possibility for some of the younger guys to step up and get reps, and offensive coordinator Tee Martin believes incoming freshman Joseph Lewis is one of those guys who is capable of making an early impact.

    Aside from that, the Trojans will need Ronald Jones II to be as dangerous as he was last season with the football in his hands. USC uses the run to keep opponents honest and allow spacing for Darnold to deliver. If he and Aca’Cedric Ware can provide a potent rushing attack, that will make Darnold’s job a whole lot easier.

    3. Questions In The Secondary

    Iman Marshall may be back, but losing Adoree’ Jackson is huge. Combine that with the fact the Trojans are also losing Leon McQuay III, and you start to wonder who will get the nod to step up and make plays in the secondary. Like Joseph Lewis, both Bubba Bolden and Isaiah Pola-Mao are expected to compete for early playing time, and both could develop into highly effective safeties for USC. They were certainly two of the most college ready safeties in the 2017 recruiting class.

    But Marvell Tell III, Chris Hawkins and Marshall will have to step up and lead the charge for the Trojans. McQuay and Jackson were big contributors for that defense, and it will start with the aforementioned trio to help make it a seamless transition.

    USC will have about a month to prepare for its spring game, which will take place on April 15.

    MORE: Pac-12 Football Predictions, Storylines For 2017

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