USC Football

Fall Camp Primer: The Cornerbacks

July 17, 2019
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USC signed a combined eight players designated as cornerback in the 2018 & 2019 recruiting classes.  Can you name them all?  Don’t worry, the number has been trimmed down to six with the recent losses of Junior College transfer Jaylen Watson (academic casualty) and freshman, Trey Davis (transfer portal).  So without further ado, we give to you the cornerback group.

Dominic Davis returns for what seems like his seventh year on campus.  In reality, the (RS) senior should be considered the ultimate team player and has been a true Trojan since his arrival in 2015.  The 5-9, 190 pound speedy Davis has played running back, lined up at wide receiver, been a special-teams player and also seen duties in the secondary. 

Davis is an athlete and he’ll look to finish his Trojan career at cornerback.  With all of his six games at cornerback, Davis is the guy on the roster with the second most experience playing cornerback in college.

Sophomore Greg Johnson actually started the first four games of the 2018 season opposite Iman Marshall and appeared in 10 gamesl. A shoulder injury suffered against Oregon State led to surgery on the damaged right shoulder and cut his 2018 season short.  Johnson will battle to hold onto that starting position in 2019. Depending on who you ask, the reviews were mixed on how well he performed last season.

Johnson’s athleticism jumps out at when you see him up close.  The 5-11 and 190 pounder is such a good athlete, he could play running back if he was asked to make the switch. Johnson is another physical guy who has shown a tendency to get flagged with the PAC-12 referees.  It will be USC DBs coach Greg Burns’s  job to help him refine his technique.

Chase Williams is a redshirt freshman and saw action in four games last season, but the action was seen at nickle and safety.  Williams started at Free Safety against Notre Dame and because he only playing in four games, his red-shirt status remains in tact. 

In 2019 the 6-2, 200 pound Williams will look to lock down one side of the field as a starting cornerback, filling a void left behind with Iman “Biggie” Marshall moving on to NFL.  Williams played wide receiver in high school and was originally recruited as a wide out by the Trojans. So, he knows how to track the bal in flight. With his long arms, combined with his natural athletic ability, Williams should easily transition to cornerback from the safety position. 

Williams has also been working a few days a week this offseason with Anthony Brown from Ground Zero on his technique. Olaijah Griffin is also working with Brown a few times a week. Iman Marshall credits Brown and the work he did with him last season for his third-round selectionin the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Here’s where things start to get more interesting. After those three letterman,  the experience level drops off...significantly.

Olaijah Griffin appeared in eight games last season, seeing spot duty at cornerback and also playing on special teams. Griffin is ANOTHER defensive back who’s healing an injured shoulder and should be 100% ready to go for fall camp.  Griffin will be battling for a starting cornerback spot and when you watch him play the position, it becomes apparent he’s a natural. 

The 6-0, 190 pound Griffin is like a toy slinky with loose hips, allowing for effortless change of direction.   Coach Burns will help refine Griffin’s fundamentals and technique, so his athleticism can take over.

Next up on the What’s My Name Merry-Go-Round is redhsirt-freshman Isaac Taylor-Stuart, aka, ITS.  Taylor-Stuart may have the highest ceiling of the returning players Burns will work with. 

The 6-2, 205 pound cornerback from Helix HS in San Diego is the fastest guy on the team and can jump over the moon.  But he’s also raw.  Don’t get me wrong Taylor-Stuart is not a novice, but he’s still learning the position and sometimes struggles with his confidence and turning to look for the ball.  If Taylor-Stuart puts it together, USC will be able to potentially have two 6-2 cornerbacks starting on an island.  Something to keep an eye on with Taylor-Stuart...he is a workout warrior and he’s getting really big.  Is a move to safety in his future?

If you haven’t had enough to digest, there’s a healthy portion of youth being served up as well!  Welcome to the Land of Opportunity. Max Williams, Chris Steele, and Odanis Otey.  Each of the freshmen will enter fall camp looking to fight their way into the rotation.

5-9 , 175 pound Williams out of Serra HS in Gardena, Calif., enrolled in January and was able to take part in spring practice in a limited capacity. Williams was robbed of his senior season when he tore knee ligaments in the opening game.  Don’t let William’s small stature fool you, because he backs down from no one.  Kyle Ford often told people Williams was the toughest DB he faced. 

Willims is also ahead of schedule with his rehab, so don’t anticipate a red shirt.  He’s going to remind folks of former USC Trojan cornerback, Nickell Robey-Coleman.

5-11, 180 pound Adonis Otey from Murfeesboro, TN at one time was considered a Tennessee Volunteer and then it was thought Otey would be an Arkansas Razorback.  Eventually he chose the Trojans.

The speedy Otey will compete for a spot in the rotation this fall and on special teams.

Most following USC recruiting knows of the circuitous route that eventually led to Chris Steele signing with the Trojans last month.  There’s a reason why he was one of the most highly coveted cornerbacks in the country.  He’s really good.  The 6-2, 190 pound Steele is another physical corner that Clancy Pendergast tends to favor and will look for him to battle for quick playing time.  

Steele doesn’t lack for confidence and he’ll be the first person to tell you. While at St. John Bosco,  Steele would often gamble and the receiver would occassionally get by him,  but he has great closing speed and can close the gap quickly.  In this author’s opinion, Trojan fans should not be shocked if Steele earns a starting job to open the season against Fresno St.

It can’t be stated enough...USC has plenty of talented depth at the cornerback position.  It can’t be stated enough...USC has plenty of inexperience depth at the cornerback position.

 

 
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