Looking at USC's secondary picture with CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart pursuing NFL
USC will have a new cornerback tandem next year and a mostly new secondary in general.
Redshirt junior cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart announced Saturday that he is declaring for the NFL draft, joining fellow starting CB Chris Steele and primary nickel Greg Johnson.
Meanwhile, safety Chase Williams -- who started most of the season -- is in the transfer portal and it remains unclear what fellow veteran safety Isaiah Pola-Mao is planning to do regarding his final year of eligibility after a tough 2021 season that saw him lose his starting job down the stretch.
Taylor-Stuart finishes his Trojans career with 2 interceptions, 7 pass breakups and 80 total tackles.
He was part of a rotation at cornerback in 2019, splitting time with Steele opposite starter Olaijah Griffin, was behind both Steele and Griffin in 2020 and then became the primary starting field corner in 2021.
Taylor-Stuart was a five-star prospect in the 2018 recruiting class out of Helix HS in San Diego, ranked the No. 32 overall national prospect, but he never quite lived up to that stature during his time with the Trojans.
His raw physical abilities are not in question, but Taylor-Stuart struggled with ball awareness and making plays even when in tight coverage downfield. Per PFF, he allowed 26 completions on 38 targets for 440 yards and 3 TDs this season.
He is one of seven Trojans to have announced plans to declare for the NFL draft, along with WR Drake London, RT Jalen McKenzie, Johnson, Steele, LB Kana’i Mauga and OLB Drake Jackson. Ten other scholarship players have entered the transfer portal since the end of the season.
As for the Trojans' secondary in 2022 ...
USC returns intriguing third-year cornerback Josh Jackson Jr., who impressed the first part of the season in limited action as a converted wide receiver before missing games down the stretch due to injury, and fourth-year cornerback Jayden Williams, who has some experience as well. Five-star prospect Domani Jackson and four-star Fabian Ross will be coming in as freshmen in the summer, and 2021 four-star signees Ceyair Wright and Prophet Brown are still developing. Neither saw much playing time on defense this season.
At safety, Calen Bullock looked like a future star at times as a true freshman while tallying 2 interceptions and 40 tackles, Xavion Alford emerged down the stretch of his redshirt freshman season with 3 interceptions and hard-hitting redshirt freshman Chris Thompson Jr. also flashed potential when healthy. USC has four-star Rivals100 safety Zion Branch joining the program this summer, and 2021 four-stars Jaylin Smith (at nickel), Anthony Beavers and Xamarion Gordon will continue to develop. Max Williams, who missed the season following his second torn ACL, will also be in the mix at nickel now that he's fully healthy.