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 Draft Scout College Football Player News: Southern California
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  As USC leaves behind a by-committee approach to its backfield, one of its most experienced running backs is planning to leave USC. Stephen Carr has decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to The Times, ending an up-and-down, four-year tenure that started with a bang as a freshman, only to taper off in the seasons that followed.

His departure clears the way for Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram to join forces with sixth-year senior Vavae Malepeai as the two top backs in a Trojans rushing attack that last season ranked among the worst in college football. USC averaged just 97 yards rushing per game during its shortened 2020 campaign, worse than all but seven teams at the FBS level. Carr played a mostly part-time role, rushing for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 46 attempts, second-most on the team behind Malepeai. But the trio of Malepeai, Carr, and oft-injured Markese Stepp, who left in January for Nebraska, never found its rhythm. A lackluster showing on the ground led USC to replace its offensive line coach and run game coordinator and retool its philosophy. In January, running backs coach Mike Jinks told The Times that USC planned to scrap its by-committee approach in favor of using "an RB1 and an RB2". - Los Angeles Times


(DS#30 RB) rSr/2022 RB Stephen CarrSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  USC wants to move away from the running back-by-committee approach it's used the last three seasons. The goal is for one main back and a change-of-pace option to take on the lion's share of carries. With just two jobs on the line, that makes running back the most crowded competition at USC. Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram was the best back throughout the spring, breaking tackles and bursting through holes. If he's the physical work horse (which is still TBD until after fall camp), how does USC complement him? Vavae Malepeai plays with a similar style to Ingram, but has been USC's starting running back the last two seasons when healthy. Stephen Carr is more of a contrast with Ingram, with speed being his primary weapon. Kenan Christon is the most dynamic option, with his combination of speed and ability to make plays in the passing game, but he missed spring competing with the USC track and field team and faces an uphill battle. - Orange County Register

(DS#16 RB) So/2023 RB Kenan ChristonSouthern California
News Source: Orange County Register
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  A week after entering the NCAA transfer portal, former Texas Longhorns tight end Malcolm Epps committed to the USC Trojans on Monday. Epps is now the third former Longhorns player to land with the Trojans, joining running back Keaontay Ingram and safety Xavion Alford. Former Texas assistants Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar are both at USC, along with former Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington. The 6'6, 253-pound Epps arrived at Texas out of Spring Dekaney in the heralded 2018 recruiting class as a consensus four-star prospect ranked No. 227 nationally and as the No. 10 tight end, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Despite the classification as a tight end out of high school, Epps arrived as a bit of a tweener and began his career at wide receiver, playing in two games during the 2018 season when starting wide receiver Collin Johnson suffered a knee injury, catching one pass for 18 yards. - Burnt Orange Nation

(DS#999 TE) rSo/2023 TE Malcolm EppsSouthern California
News Source: Burnt Orange Nation
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  Munir McClain, the USC receiver suspended last fall amid a federal inquiry into apparent unemployment fraud on campus, has re-entered the NCAA transfer portal, six months after opting to withdraw his name the first time. His decision to leave USC marks the messy end of a relationship that swiftly soured last fall, when federal agents first arrived on USC's campus asking questions about the sophomore receiver.

McClain was first suspended from USC's football team last September as he emerged as one focus of a federal probe into unemployment fraud. McClain told The Los Angeles Times last fall that he applied for and received pandemic unemployment assistance benefits last summer. By late October, federal agents were on USC's campus, questioning his USC teammates about McClain and whether they were approached about fraudulently filing for unemployment benefits. Some were given subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. - Los Angelese Times


(DS#999 WR) So/2023 WR Munir McClainSouthern California
News Source: Los Angelese Times
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  The most physically dominant skill position athlete in the conference at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds. London abandoned basketball this winter to focus on football and enters '21 as our pick for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. His 40-yard dash time a year from now will be crucial to his ultimate draft position, but we won't be surprised to see the DK Metcalf comparisons surface at the Combine. - Oakland Tribune

(DS#2 WR) So/2023 WR Drake LondonSouthern California
News Source: Oakland Tribune
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  Drake London hadn't ventured away from the slot much at all until this spring. Turns out, his talent still translates on the outside. No offensive player was more dominant during 15 practices than London, who seems well on his way to being one of the nation's top receivers in 2021. - Los Angeles Times

(DS#2 WR) So/2023 WR Drake LondonSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  For the second straight season, USC has produced a first-round draft pick on its offensive line. On Thursday, Trojans lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker was selected by the New York Jets with the No. 14 pick in the NFL Draft. He follows his predecessor at left tackle, Austin Jackson, as first-round picks in consecutive years. Jackson was selected 18th overall in 2020 by the Miami Dolphins. The Jets traded up for the opportunity to select Vera-Tucker. New York traded the No. 23 overall pick and two third-round selections to the Minnesota Vikings to move up to No. 14 and pick the Trojan to protect quarterback Zach Wilson, the former BYU standout they selected with the second pick Thursday night.

"Who doesn't want to block for someone like that?" Vera-Tucker asked rhetorically during a Zoom call with reporters following the selection. He added that he spoke to the Jets a few times during the draft process. "Whatever the coaches need me to do, (I will) come in and do and build a great relationship with the O-line because communication is key up front." Vera-Tucker considered leaving school following his sophomore season in 2019 after starting all 13 games at left guard and earning All-Pac-12 second-team honors. But he decided to return to USC to develop himself further as a draft prospect in his junior season. - Orange County Register


(DS#2 OG) rJr/2021 OG *Alijah Vera-TuckerSouthern California
News Source: Orange County Register
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  The past few seasons, the USC run game has had too many cooks in the backfield. Since the end of Ronald Jones II's junior year in 2017, the Trojans have employed a by-committee approach at running back only to finish in the bottom-quarter of Pac-12 rushing attacks each time. After bottoming out in 2020, averaging the fewest ground yards per game in the conference, USC is looking for a different approach in 2021, searching this spring and during the summer for a pair of leading backs. Or, as position coach Mike Jinks puts it, 1A and 1B. "It's exciting," senior back Vavae Malepeai said of the opportunity. "We all just focus on what's in front of us and where our feet is. It's a matter of enjoying the process and making sure we trust the process."

So far at spring camp, there have been four contenders for the two jobs. Malepeai and fellow senior Stephen Carr are the two returners, while Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram and freshman Brandon Campbell have entered the fray. Of the four, Carr had the best performance at the spring game two weeks ago. He had eight carries for 53 yards and a touchdown and a catch for an extra 13 yards. Overall, Carr has looked healthy for the first time in years, with an explosive burst at the line of scrimmage. "I feel like I understand more of what I'm doing on the football field," Carr said. "I'm playing more comfortable, not thinking as much, making full-speed decisions." - Orange County Register


(DS#30 RB) rSr/2022 RB Stephen CarrSouthern California
News Source: Orange County Register
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  USC quarterback Mo Hasan, who had taken the majority of second-team snaps this spring, will miss the upcoming season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during USC's spring game Saturday. Hasan revealed the season-ending injury in a post on Twitter and announced he would soon undergo surgery. Hasan opened spring practice as the most experienced of the three vying to be Kedon Slovis' backup. But shortly after he threw the first touchdown of USC's spring game, Hasan limped off the field, leaving freshmen Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss to take the lion's share of snaps. An MRI that night revealed his season was over before it had started. With Hasan out, USC has no choice but to entrust one of its two freshmen with the backup role. - Los Angeles Times

(DS#999 QB) rSr/2022 QB Mo HasanSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  Few Pac-12 corners play a more smothering, aggressive style than Steele, but that tight coverage has translated less to turnovers than it has penalties so far in his USC career. The junior has one interception through two seasons, but caught plenty of calls last season from officials, who flagged him for six coverage penalties over six games. "I've been a little over-physical with my hands at times," Steele admitted Thursday. He's planning to put those hands to better use this season. Steele missed the first week of spring due to health and safety protocols, but his progress in that area was clear upon his return to practice last week. On Tuesday, he closed the session with a leaping interception on a fade to receiver Drake London in the corner of the end zone. "I think I've always had kind of a bad rep of not making plays on the ball, just having a lot of pass breakups," Steele said. "So this year, I definitely want to make a lot more plays on the ball, get some interceptions." - Los Angeles Times

(DS#15 CB) So/2023 CB Chris SteeleSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  Their leader at safety left for the NFL. A starting cornerback followed. Their usual nickel corner was out for spring. The replacement tore a knee ligament last Tuesday. So as USC began scrimmaging on Saturday afternoon, with its secondary in somewhat rough shape, Isaiah Pola-Mao walked up from his usual perch at safety to line up in the slot, settling into his new, albeit temporary place at nickel. There aren't many other options at cornerback.

Not after USC lost Max Williams for the year to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Greg Johnson, who opened last season as the starting nickel, isn't expected to return from his own knee injury until fall either. Until Saturday, USC didn't even have its top corner, Chris Steele, due to health and safety protocols. "Isaiah's been in the system," USC coach Clay Helton said. "He understands it, and it just helps him grow also and puts some tools in his toolbox by being so versatile." Pola-Mao will likely revert to safety when Johnson returns in the fall. But for now, his move to nickel will open up plenty of chances for the four safeties who signed on early to fight for playing time. - Los Angeles Times


(DS#4 FS) rJr/2022 FS Isaiah Pola-MaoSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  A USC defensive backfield already dealing with depth issues has been dealt another blow. Max Williams, a redshirt sophomore nickel back, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday during spring practice, presumably ending his 2021 season before it begins. His father, Maxzell Williams Sr., confirmed the diagnosis on Twitter. "As a parent, one of the worse feelings in the world is when your child is hurting," Williams Sr. tweeted. "We've been down this road b4 and back to the road to recovery." Williams suffered a season-ending ACL injury as a senior at Gardena Serra High. The injury lingered into the start of his USC career, but once it healed, Williams quickly emerged as an option in the Trojans' secondary rotation. Williams' injury marks another setback for a USC secondary that was already running thin. Greg Johnson, who started at nickel back last season, is still dealing with a knee injury that will keep him out of spring. Starting cornerback Chris Steele hasn't been available through the first week of spring for undisclosed reasons. - Los Angeles Times

(DS#23 CB) rFr/2024 CB Max WilliamsSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  Helton has voiced a desire to improve efficiency in the Trojans' running game, and senior transfer Keaontay Ingram and freshman Brandon Campbell may be able to help with that. Ingram accumulated 1,811 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in his previous three seasons at Texas, in addition to catching 67 passes for six touchdowns. Campbell ran for 1,555 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019 at Lamar Consolidated High in Texas. "What I've seen from both Keaontay as well as Brandon Campbell has been a unique running skill set," Helton said. "They have a great feel, great patience as runners. They both are extremely explosive, and I've been impressed with their patience in the lane, letting things set up and then exploding." - Orange County Register

(DS#6 RB) Jr/2022 RB Keaontay IngramSouthern California
News Source: Orange County Register
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  It's from that realization that Slovis opens spring focused on finding his stride ahead of a third collegiate season that could be his last before the NFL comes calling. While Slovis still led the Pac-12 in passing yards (1,921) and touchdowns (17), his development was notably stunted by the circumstances of the pandemic. The shortened season ended on an especially difficult note, as Slovis had three passes intercepted in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon, the last of which ended with him sustaining a shoulder injury. That injury has since healed, and Slovis should have no limitations this spring. The pertinent question now is whether that confidence has returned. "Even though I felt good and I thought I got to a place [in 2020] that would be sustainable for football season, it wasn't really a place that I felt confident as a thrower," Slovis said. "I think more than anything, confidence is everything." So this offseason, Slovis set about rebuilding his own. After training with the same local coach since sixth grade, Slovis began working at the 3DQB training facility in Huntington Beach, where Tom Brady, Drew Brees and other top NFL quarterbacks have fine-tuned their mechanics. - Los Angeles Times

(DS#4 QB) So/2023 QB Kedon SlovisSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  Memphis wide receiver Tahj Washington participated in Tigers spring practice Tuesday. On Wednesday, he entered the NCAA transfer portal, the USA Today Network confirmed. The redshirt freshman started 10 of 11 games last season and his 43 catches for 743 yards and six touchdowns were all second-most among Tigers receivers behind Calvin Austin III. Washington was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. His 52-yard catch-and-run on fourth down against Central Florida extended the Tigers' winning drive as they won 50-49 in the biggest comeback in school history. The Texas native had three 100-yard receiving games last season, including a season-high eight catches for 105 yards against Florida Atlantic in the Montgomery Bowl. Washington is the sixth starter from the bowl game to the transfer portal or graduate. In total, 12 players have transferred since the season ended, including five players who opted out during the year. - Memphis Commercial Appeal

(DS#59 WR) rFr/2024 WR Tahj WashingtonSouthern California
News Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal
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