LOS ANGELES — USC lacks a consistent kicker, is woefully inexperienced at wide receiver and can’t promise consistency at cornerback yet.
But it does have an intangible that won’t be gained through 30 practices before the season opener against Western Michigan. Whatever happens on the field this year, the Trojans will not implode because of massive ego problems or the hidden agendas that can sabotage teams.
Quarterback Sam Darnold is the poster child for stability with his laid-back personality. That contrasts past seasons, when Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush were treated like rock stars and sometimes shunned teammates.
But quarterback is just one position. The go-to receiver, Deontay Burnett, is mild-mannered and humble. Burnett is unlikely to throw a temper-tantrum during practice the way JuJu Smith-Schuster did last season when he stormed away from the practice field because he was frustrated with the offense after just one game.
It also might help that Burnett played alongside so many college prospects at Serra High, like former USC star Adoree’ Jackson, that he never really was in the spotlight himself. So paying his dues in college was second nature with no sense of entitlement.
The Trojans’ much-hyped tailback, Ronald Jones, is about as low-key as Darnold. About the most controversial thing Jones said in his first two years is he was homesick for his native Texas because he missed Whataburger, an average-at-best hamburger chain.
The defensive leader, Chris Hawkins, is a star with the media for his honest comments. But he has been through so much adversity, including getting benched last season, that he keeps his feet firmly planted and even looks after the freshmen. Hawkins walked to the team dining facility Wednesday night with incoming freshman receiver Randal Grimes, which is not what you usually see from a fifth-year senior.
Another leader, linebacker Cameron Smith, is no-nonsense. His only notoriety came before last season when he was awarded the cherished No. 55, reserved for a linebacker the program considers special. But after some protests from former No. 55’s, notably Willie McGinest, USC coach Clay Helton switched Smith back to No. 35.
Some might wonder if cornerback Jack Jones could be a firecracker, with his love for trash talk and brash comments, such as saying he wants to win the Heisman Trophy.
“Jack is such a competitor, that’s just part of his game,” wide receiver Michael Pittman said. “But we get along fine….