USC Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 16, 2021

USC Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The USC Trojans will go into the 2021 college football season with plenty of expectations with Kedon Slovis returning at quarterback. 

    But Slovis may not be the main draw at his position during Saturday's Spring Game since it will be the first time we see heralded freshmen Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss. 

    Since both players were highly touted recruits and quarterback is always under the spotlight at USC, the competition to replace Slovis in 2022 appears to be underway. 

    As for the 2021 starters, the players charged with protecting Slovis will be under a microscope, beginning with the returning players on the offensive line. 

    Attention will also be paid to the player projected to line up next to Slovis in the season opener. Texas grad transfer Keaontay Ingram could provide a huge boost to the ground game, and he will receive a chance to show what he brings to the unit on Saturday. 

Top Storylines

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    How Has Kedon Slovis Improved? 

    Slovis helped set high expectations for 2021 by leading the Trojans to a 5-1 record and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

    Slovis has 5,423 passing yards and 47 touchdowns in his two years as the starter, but he also has 16 interceptions and was taken down on 38 occasions. 

    If Slovis displays improvements when it comes to avoiding mistakes and eluding pressure, he could be an even more dangerous quarterback than he has been. 

    The junior should be pushed by Dart and Moss, but there is no expectation that his job is under pressure entering the fall. 

    Slovis gets his top receiver back in Drake London, and Bru McCoy should make a progression up the depth chart after his 236-yard freshman season. 

    If the Trojans develop a few more wideouts beneath London and McCoy, Slovis should have a wide array of targets to tear apart Pac-12 defenses with. 

    If he looks crisp on Saturday, Slovis should generate more buzz about his junior campaign that could put him in the mix as a long shot Heisman Trophy contender.


    Who Replaces Alijah Vera-Tucker? 

    The Trojans bring back four starting offensive linemen, but the one who departed left a major hole on the unit.

    Alijah Vera-Tucker was a First-Team All Pac-12 selection and is expected to be an NFL draft selection in two weeks time. 

    Redshirt freshman Courtland Ford is one of the options Helton has to replace Vera-Tucker alongside four upperclassmen. 

    Andrew Vorhees, Brett Neilon, Liam Jimmons and Jalen McKenzie come into the season with the most experience on the interior. 

    Even with that much experience, the Trojans need to do a better job of protecting Slovis, who was sacked on 15 occasions over six games. He suffered three sacks in five of those contests. 

    If Ford, or another tackle, provides stability on the outside, USC should be in a good position to stave off pressure and allow Slovis to work comfortably in the pocket. 

Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss, QB

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    Orlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    USC quarterback is one of the most glamorous positions in college football. 

    So, of course, some of the attention given to the position this spring has been on the two players competing to be next in line behind Slovis.

    Dart and Moss both come into the program as four-star recruits. They were separated by seven spots on 247Sports' overall player rankings. Dart was 68th and Moss was No. 75. 

    Saturday is important for both players because it will be the first time we see them run a significant number of plays in the USC offense. 

    Helton said during spring practice that both players reminded him a bit of Slovis when it came to their urgency, per The Athletic's Antonio Morales

    "Both of them have shown sparks of brilliance," Helton said on Saturday. "And both of them have shown (they're just) coming out of high school, which is going to happen. But I've been really pleased with their sense of urgency. It reminds me a lot of Kedon when he got here. Just their sense of urgency to be great."

    Both players should have plenty of time to develop before they become starter-worthy, but they have to show improvements in case an injury occurs, as it did in 2019 when Slovis took over for JT Daniels, who then transferred to Georgia. 

Keaontay Ingram, RB

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Ingram may not fall under the typical prospects tag since he played three seasons at Texas, but he is one of the most fascinating players to follow in USC's spring game. 

    The grad transfer earned over 100 carries in each of his first two seasons at Texas, but he only had 250 yards on 53 attempts in 2020. 

    Ingram's success next to Slovis could be vital for USC's offense since it jumps into Pac-12 play in the second weekend of the campaign against the Stanford Cardinal. 

    If Ingram takes off in the USC offense, it will ease some pressure on the group of wide receivers expected to fill in larger roles behind London and McCoy. 

    Even McCoy may need a small adjustment period upon being the No. 2 target after spending his freshman season further down the depth chart. 

    If the quarterback-running back combination delivers on high expectations, USC could control the Pac-12 South again and make a charge toward a high national ranking, especially with the Oregon Ducks not on the regular-season schedule. 


    Statistics obtained from