defensive backs – Press Enterprise

defensive backs – Press Enterprise

Injuries and youth put a ceiling on the potential of USC’s defensive backs in 2019, when the Trojans ranked 96th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game. But with another year of experience across the secondary, there is reason to be optimistic about the USC pass defense in 2020.

Here’s a breakdown of where USC stands at defensive back:

Key returnees: Briton Allen (So.), Olaijah Griffin (Jr.), Dorian Hewett (So.), Talanoa Hufanga (Jr.), Greg Johnson (Jr.), Kaulana Makaula (R-Fr.), Adonis Otey (R-Fr.), Isaiah Pola-Mao (Jr.), Chris Steele (So.), Isaac Taylor-Stuart (So.), Chase Williams (So.), Jayden Williams (So.), Max Williams (R-Fr.)

Key losses: N/A

Newcomers: N/A

Biggest unanswered question: What role will the nickel back play in new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s new scheme? Last year, the nickels practiced with the cornerbacks. This year the group, headlined by Greg Johnson, Max Williams and Chase Williams, is working with safeties coach Craig Naivar.

So, with no access allowed at training camp this year due to the pandemic, it’s unclear how exactly the nickel spot will be utilized in this defense. But it’s expected to be different than last season.

Why 2020 production could be better: Last year’s crop of USC defensive backs included no seniors, and no juniors. It was an exceptionally young group, even though it included several players who arrived at USC as highly touted recruits.

Now everyone is a year older. Hufanga and Pola-Mao are juniors and seem to be perfect fits for Orlando’s defense, which calls for aggressive safeties. USC’s trio of cornerbacks – Steele, Griffin and Taylor-Stuart – have also grown and are drawing rave reviews in camp. And last year, USC’s defensive backs were ravaged by injury. Even a return to the mean health-wise would give the Trojans a significant boost.