Our countdown of USC’s most intriguing players to watch in spring practice continues. Note: This is a list of guys who have the most to gain and are best positioned to do so.
For each player, we examine the depth chart, back story, outlook, key questions and how their role could swing in spring.
10. JORDAN IOSEFA
Profile: 6-2, 215, sophomore
Current pecking order: He is the favorite to replace Michael Hutchings at weakside linebacker. John Houston and perhaps Olajuwon Tucker and Tayler Katoa also figure to be in the mix.
Background: Iosefa was an afterthought for some in USC’s 2016 signing class (likely because of a three-star rating). He looked anything but last fall in training camp, where his impressive play was lauded by Coach Clay Helton and prompted a move to middle linebacker. He earned a frontline role on special teams and was used in spot duty at inside linebacker throughout the season. All things considered, you could argue he was USC’s top true freshman in 2016.
Outlook: Expectations are growing for Iosefa. As safety Chris Hawkins noted in our recent podcast, "He needs to have a good spring for us to be very good ... because he's going to be in a spot where Mike was outstanding last year." Like Hutchings, Iosefa’s natural position is probably at MLB. (The two inside spots are considered interchangeable in Clancy Pendergast’s system.) Iosefa is the kind of player that looks a little better every team you see him, and we expect to see a lot of him this spring as USC will be low on inside backers until the other freshmen arrive in the summer. Iosefa’s game experience is minimal for someone who might be an every-down player. But Clancy Pendergast has praised his football IQ — unlike Steve Sarkisian, Pendergast doesn’t do that with just anyone — and says he really benefited from watching Hutchings. That should enable Iosefa to play fast and free. He’s still very young — he doesn’t turn 19 until after the third game of the season — so there’s a lot of room for him to mature physically.
Key questions: Does the staff want him to play at this weight? How well does he work with Cam Smith? How good is he and is he ready to start?
Swing potential: Iosefa can separate himself from the pack with a big spring or end up in an open competition in training camp.
17 FOR '17
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