USC Football: Grading Each Early Enrollee's Spring Performance
Newcomers are helping define the new era of USC football.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff welcomed five early enrollees from the Trojans' Pac-12 best 2014 recruiting class, and a few of the additions are making an instant impact.
The Trojans are getting much needed support on the offensive line from two freshmen parlaying their spring into spots in the rotation. The cast of newcomers should also give Sarkisian depth, once play begins in August.
Recruiting information and rankings via 247Sports.com.
OT Jordan Austin
One area in which USC needs depth more than any other is on the offensive line. Jordan Austin could provide some as a result of his early arrival and extra practice time.
A 3-star recruit out of Claremont, Calif., Austin was the lowest rated of USC's early enrollees, per 247Sports.com. However, he's made an impression through the first half of the spring.
Offensive line coach Tim Drevno told reporters that he was "really impressed" with Austin's early performance, Evan Budrovich of Conquest Chronicles tweeted.
QB Jalen Greene
Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra recruit Jalen Greene was not expected to challenge for the starting quarterback job.
Indeed, returning starter Cody Kessler and redshirt freshman Max Browne are embroiled in an ongoing competition while Greene integrates into speed and physicality of the college game.
Sarkisian told Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com that Greene gives the Trojans an option if they run into "the worst-case scenario," with Kessler and Browne.
You have to plan for the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is you get an injury, a guy might decide to leave. It's easy to look at the best case. I plan on the worst case. In the worst case we're still on stable ground.
Greene is unlikely to have his number called in 2014, but this spring is an opportunity for him to be prepared for whenever that time arrives.
DE/OLB Don Hill
Don Hill—a 3-star defensive end and outside linebacker recruit from Boise, Idaho—flipped his commitment from Washington to USC shortly after Sarkisian accepted the Trojans' head coaching vacancy.
Hill is healing from an ankle injury this spring and not participating in practices.
OL Toa Lobendahn
Toa Lobendahn is quickly working himself into the first string of the offensive line. He played some center early in the spring, a position left vacant by the early departure of Marcus Martin, but last week stepped in as a first-team guard, per FoxSports.com's Rahshaun Haylock.
The 4-star La Habra, Calif., product's ability to switch positions is a huge boon for Drevno, who told Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register he will tinker with the lineup as the season approaches.
"We’ll rotate guys around and see where the best fit and chemistry is," he said.
Whether Lobendahn is a starter, once the offensive line is at full strength, remains to be seen. But he's capitalized on his spring opportunity and ensured himself a prominent place in the Trojans rotation, regardless.
DL Claude Pelon
“I’m sure he would tell you the same," Wilcox added. "But he has showed flashes."
The Trojans are without All-American Leonard Williams during spring practices, and the line is replacing George Uko, an early entry into next month's NFL draft. Pelon has opportunities to make his mark with the unit, but cracking the first string is a challenge.
As the only early enrollee with experience beyond high school, expecting Pelon to have the most significant, immediate impact would be understandable. He must show those flashes more consistently to work into a defensive line rotation that includes emerging Texas Tech transfer Delvon Simmons.