The 2014 NFL draft is already fading in the rear-view mirror, and the next crop of Trojans are set to begin their professional careers. Three young men from USC received a coveted phone call over the weekend, giving the Trojans 483 total draftees in school history. Despite a low output this year, USC still has produced more draft picks than any other university.
In addition to those drafted, a handful more signed with teams after the draft's conclusion as undrafted free agents.
While those Trojans officially close the book on their collegiate careers, the building blocks for USC's 2014 campaign are still being put into place. And with guys like Marqise Lee, Marcus Martin and Devon Kennard having left lasting impressions at USC, Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff are tasked with replacing them.
Looking just at spots vacated by draftees, here's a look at the Trojans on deck who are tasked with stepping in the shoes of former starters.
WR Darreus Rogers
There's a huge, huge hole opposite Nelson Agholor where Marqise Lee once lined up, and it is likely that sophomore wide receiver Darreus Rogers will get the honor of filling it.
Rogers hauled in 22 receptions for 257 yards in 2013 and is the most experienced receiver other than Agholor on roster. Victor Blackwell and George Farmer are next on the depth chart, but little playing time for Blackwell and never-ending injuries for Farmer mean those two have an uphill battle to fight if they want to crack the starting rotation.
Giving Rogers a run for his money will be incoming freshmen Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith, among a few others. This pair of blue-chip signees will come in looking for playing time, and given their skill sets, they could spend time going between the wide receiver corps and the secondary.
That said, Rogers would probably have to greatly regress to lose his starting job.
USC's wide receiver tradition has been rich in recent years, with students like Lee and Robert Woods stealing the show on Saturdays. Now, it is time for Agholor and Rogers to do the same.
C Max Tuerk
USC's offensive line is undergoing a serious face lift this year, and though there is much uncertainty for this position group, one thing is certain: Max Tuerk is a real gem.
Tuerk has played all over USC's O-line already, spending time at every position except right guard. This spring, he made yet another position change to center, and he's transitioned quite well.
Not only is he quickly adapting to his new role, but he's also forging a strong bond with his quarterback, Cody Kessler.
But because USC is looking light on depth at right tackle, it's possible that Tuerk moves yet again back to right tackle.
If that happens, then early enrollee Toa Lobendahn will be the one filling former center Marcus Martin's shoes. Lobendahn got second-team reps behind Tuerk in the spring before moving over to left guard.
Pass-Rushers J.R. Tavai and Scott Starr
This is a bit tricky, as defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's scheme uses different terminology to describe his outside linebackers/defensive ends. For simplicity's sake, we will consider the two athletes who will fulfill the roles as pass-rushers: J.R. Tavai and Scott Starr.
Devon Kennard led USC in sacks in 2013 (nine) and was an absolute beast of a pass-rusher. So whoever ends up getting the start in the fall will have to be immediately productive to live up to expectations.
Through spring, Tavai and Starr have competed for the job, and both performed exceptionally. Tavai might have a slight advantage, however, as he spent time in the lineup last season when Morgan Breslin was sidelined with injury. He turned heads with how fluidly he filled in for Breslin, alluding to what we can expect from him in 2014.
That said, Starr also blossomed in the spring and will continue to be formidable competition during fall camp.
They have much to live up to in replacing Kennard, as he was a pivotal piece in what made USC's defensive line so formidable last season.
For a complete look at USC's post-spring depth chart (which also touches on who is in the mix to replace the undrafted Silas Redd, Xavier Grimble, Kevin Graf, George Uko, Morgan Breslin and Dion Bailey) click here.
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