We have a new winner for the most talented team on the Notre Dame schedule. There are NFLers littered all over the Trojan team, both on offense or defense. The shortcomings come from the coaching staff, who have failed to turn talent into results on the scoreboard.
Regardless, this team is exceptionally talented and on any given Saturday, they can cause headaches for the Irish. The major question left to answer for USC, will they have more wins or players drafted this cycle?
DE Drake Jackson (6040e, 250e)
Body beautiful with some insane flashes, Jackson is a frequent member of early first round mock drafts entering the fall. Since Jackson stepped foot on campus, he became a mainstay for a talented Trojan front.
Jackson fits the mold of a potential high volume pass rusher on the next level, boasting a good assortment of linear explosiveness and flexibility. He has some reps that aren’t ordinary, showing the talent to bend the outside track with high regularity. There is some scheme versatility to Jackson also, showing some sound ability to work in zone coverage as a dropper.
Currently, Jackson is a huge projection as a first rounder. The raw tools are there but his play strength and pass rush plan are currently a major work in progress. His production has been semi scatter shot, mostly due to his usage with the team.
Evaluators are still sorting this edge group after Kayvon Thibodeaux. Jackson certainly has the athletic skill set to be the next guy but it currently looks like a bit of a shot in the dark. Either way, Drake Jackson is a talented pass rusher with first round ability but looks more like a day two player currently.
WR Drake London (6050e, 210e)
Prototypical boundary receiver size with a basketball background, London is a springy athlete who brings some intriguing alignment versatility. Despite boasting traditional X receiver size to work outside the numbers, London played a large percentage of snaps inside in the slot in 2020.
As a big slot, London boasts a sturdy frame, with extremely soft hands and an absurd catch radius to win outside his frame. With a basketball background (playing at USC early in his career), London has shown the ability to climb the ladder and win at the highest point. That type of athletic profile and alignment versatility presents an appealing combination for the Trojans. Throw in some notable projection as a YAC player, possessing absurd physicality in post catch situations and you have an intriguing wide receiver profile to create some chunk plays.
The major issue is London is deep speed, limiting his ability as a multi level threat. London rarely ever threatens vertically, showing little talent to stack and press cornerbacks down the field.
For a team that envisions London as a big slot/move piece threat who can make a ton of plays post catch then London has an opportunity to hear his name called somewhere on day two. He will, however, not be for everyone.
QB Kedon Slovis (6026v, 203v)
From unheralded three-star recruit to one of the more productive quarterbacks in college football over the last couple seasons, the rise of Kedon Slovis was not something many pundits expected. Taking over for a widely inconsistent J.T. Daniels, Slovis provided a steady hand for one of the more talented skill positions in the nation.
Slovis wins with outstanding mental approach, showing a clear understanding for how to attack leverage and locate matchups pre snap. His feet in the pocket are phenomenal, keeping a proper throwing platform while navigating the pocket effectively. Slovis has shown the ability to layer the football to varying levels of the field, showing outstanding touch to the intermediate-deeper levels of the field.
He is a solid athlete who has shown the ability to move the chains when nothing opens up downfield.
After a phenomenal freshman campaign, Slovis did not look like the same player for a majority of the 2020 haphazard campaign, citing a shoulder injury as a potential cause. The 2021 college football season will be huge for him.
There might not be a more volatile draft valuation than Slovis, who could eventually go top ten or see himself fall completely out of round one if the questions are not answered.
DB Isaiah Pola-Mao (6040e, 200e)
The nephew of former Trojan and Pittsburgh Steeler legend Troy Polomalu, Pola-Mao plays with similar reckless abandon as Troy. The first thing that is going to pop out for a player like Pola-Mao is his absurd size/length profile.
This type of size is uncommon on the backend. Pola-Mao plays with some notable physicality, laying some massive shots in the run game. His length is a huge help working against the pass, showcasing some abnormal range on the backend.
Whether playing single or two high, Pola-Mao is able to cover a ton of ground working to the sideline. As a two high safety, his talent is accentuated best, rotating down to rob some shorter zones with high regularity.
He also has some upside in man coverage, boasting quick feet and looseness on top of his length.
That overall profile should make him highly effective working against tight ends and bigger slot receivers who win off physicality. The inconsistencies lie most in the run game, where Pola-Mao comes out of control too often, missing far too many tackles in the open field.
In pass coverage, he is much more reactive than proactive currently. His eyes are mostly in the correct spot, locating routes developing in front of him. There are just times where he is a tick slow to declare to make a play.
From a physical perspective, it is all there for Pola-Mao to develop into a starter on the next level. 2021 offers a huge opportunity to rise amongst an insanely talented safety group.
CB Chris Steele (6010e, 190e)
Physically gifted press man corner with traits. Began career at Florida but came back to the Sunshine state. May be the most physically gifted defensive back at USC since Adore Jackson.
RB Keaontay Ingram (5113v, 225v)
Texas transfer with a next level frame, explosiveness and contact balance. Needs a rebound season, eliminating some nagging injuries and ball security issues.
DL Nick Figueroa (6050e, 280e)
Underrated defensive lineman with alignment versatility. Can rush from multiple sports; ideal fit as an odd front five technique.
LB Kana’i Mauga (6020e, 240e)
Physical downhill thumper who sorts well, comes to balance and strikes. Needs to improve in pass coverage.
OL Andrew Vorhees (6055v, 328v)
Battle tested offensive lineman with experience at both offensive tackle and inside at guard. Short arms will force him inside almost exclusively.
RB Vavae Malepeai (5106v, 218v)
Rock solid and dependable runner with solid floor but no special traits. Special teams will have to be a huge sticking point for him. The more he can show in the passing game, the better.
WR K.D. Nixon (5080e, 185e)
Diminutive slot receiver with some explosiveness in short areas. Needs space manufactured to have an impact. Ability as a returner needs to be a plus to stick.
OL Brett Neilon (6020e, 295e)
Undersized center with plus movement skills. Needs to win with his movement. Neilon will not be for every team; extremely scheme dependent.
Fourteen players later and we can see just how talented the Trojans are. How that translates onto the field in 2021 remains the biggest question. If this team is hitting on all cylinders, however, expect a back and forth affair with the Irish.
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