Both USC and Penn State are lead by young, hyper-talented offenses that should come back even stronger next season. Both teams have had upsetting loses, as well as highly impressive upsets, as USC beat Washington and Penn State took down Ohio State. For now, though, the two young squads will duke it out on one of the biggest stages in college football and prove who has the better young squad.By: Derrik Klassen
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC, 6’2”, 220, #9 (Junior)
After a slip in production this season, Smith-Schuster has lost some of the chatter around him. Smith-Schuster is a tall, physical wide receiver with plenty of speed to make his size tougher to handle. Smith-Schuster is not terribly savvy, but his athleticism and ability to find the ball make him a tall order for any cornerback to cover.
Darreus Rogers, WR, USC, 6’1”, 215, #1
While not as flashy as his teammate, Rogers is a consistent producer for the Trojans. He is their “Ol’ Reliable”–the guy who can catch any pass, anywhere, anytime. Rogers works the short to intermediate area well and understands how to find space against zone coverage. He is a steady player that any team in the NFL could use.
Chad Wheeler, OT, USC, 6’6”, 310, #72
Wheeler will be pushed up out of necessity. He is a decent mover who has enough strength to survive, but he lacks a dominant trait. He is more of an all-around quality player than a guy who is going to make glaringly positive plays. If anything, Wheeler could stand to play with more confidence and demand that he wins plays, instead of hoping that he can.
Zach Banner, OT, USC, 6’9”, 360, #73
Banner’s build is unlike anything in recent memory, in regards to tackle prospects. His weight may sounds like a positive upon first glance, but Banner struggles to keep up with speed and does not have the redirection skills to handle counter-moves well. He can swallow people in the run game, assuming he gets to his spot, but he is not the type of lineman who can cover any sort of ground.
Justin Davis, RB, USC, 6’1”, 200, #22
Do not let Davis’s spot on the depth chart be a deterrent. Davis is a balanced, nifty runner who has enough strength in his lower body to eat contact and keep moving. He is a fairly athletic runner who can make defenders pay at the second level, though he is not a dominant runner who should be counted on to consistently make plays. Davis has a spot in the league as someone’s backup.
Leon McQuay, S, USC, 6’1”, 195, #22
McQuay is asked to do a little bit of everything. That said, McQuay’s best fit is as a downhill safety who can play aggressively versus the run, cover the hook/curl/flat area and be used as a blitz piece. McQuay has a nose for the ball and seems to always be in on plays, even if just to assure a gang tackle is finished. He’s no superstar, but he is a nice player for the Trojans.
Adoree Jackson, CB, USC, 5’11”, 185, #2 (Junior)
The media spent an entire season hyping up a defender who scores as an offensive weapon and special teams player, but they may have been looking at the wrong player. Jackson, a three year starter at cornerback, is still more athlete than football player, but he has slowly honed his skills at cornerback over time and has grown especially fond of finding the ball down the field. As a special teamer, Jackson has incredible athleticism that gives him return value.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State, 6’6”, 252, #88 (Junior)
The Nittany Lions have produced a few NFL tight ends in recent memory and Gesicki is next in line. He sports an NFL-ready body and has impressive movement skills for the position. Gesicki can work the middle of the field and create space for himself when covered by linebackers or safeties. At the catch point, Gesicki has the strength, size and coordination to consistently win the ball.
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State, 6’1”, 205, #12 (Junior)
Godwin’s reception and yardage numbers have dropped a bit this season, but Godwin became a much better scorer. Instead of being a generator of yardage, Godwin became on of Penn State’s best finishers on offense. His ability to contort his body and fight for the ball at the catch point is admirable, considering he does not have a huge frame. Godwin should have a great test versus Jackson.
Others to Watch
Trace McSorley, QB, #9 (RS Soph)
Saquon Barkley, RB, #26, (Soph)
Daeshon Hamilton, WR, #5 (JR)
Brandon Bell, LB, #6
Malik Golden, S, #11
Evan Schwan, DE, #94