In these bowl practice sessions Steve Sarkisian has given a lot of work so far to younger players to see where they're at in their development, give one player on offense and one on defense who you think can shine with extended practice reps.
Offense: I'm interested to see what Ajene Harris can do when healthy. He made quite an impression during summer workouts and fall camp in his transition from high school quarterback to college receiver, and was on his way to early playing time before nagging injuries slowed his first-year progress. Steve Sarkisian has shown that he likes to utilize the slot receiver role in a variety of ways and the versatile Harris could end up being a dependable option.
Defense: Jonathan Lockett is a guy who continues to impress when I see him on the practice field and I think he's going to start to emerge for a larger role in the cornerback rotation. Lockett is one of those guys who is always around the football and this offseason could also be important for him to add some bulk in preparation for a larger workload.
Offense: I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw out of offensive lineman Chris Brown over the course of the last two weeks. He's been hidden to a certain extent throughout much of the season on the scout team, but at 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds, he moves pretty well, and it looks like he has a little mean streak to him. He's been spending his time at guard, but with fellow freshmen Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama already entrenched at those spots, I'd like to see what he can do at tackle.
Defense: I continue to be impressed with cornerback Jonathan Lockett. He just has a nose for the ball, and he made two interceptions this past weekend that were really impressive. I think he still needs to add just a little more bulk to his frame, but he appears to have the tools and instincts to become a real contributor down the line.
Offense: I would point immediately to offensive lineman Chris Brown, the former Los Angeles Loyola stud. During summer workouts and into fall camp, there was nothing to indicate that Brown couldn't be a major player at offensive tackle with a year to mature. It would appear that it was a good move by Steve Sarkisian and offensive line coach Tim Drevno.
Defense: The thought here is cornerback Lamont Simmons from Jacksonville, Florida. Simmons has drawn recent praise from Sarkisian during bowl practices. Given the fact that Adoree' Jackson has made the expected impact that he has and the return of Kevon Seymour and the return of Josh Shaw, redshirting Simmons has been ideal in order let him mature and adjust to college life and the challenges of college football in general.
Of the USC players who missed all of the season, or most of the season, due to injury, who are you most looking forward to seeing return to the line-up in 2015?
GP: It seems like the “promise” of Kenny Bigelow has been around for so long and USC fans have yet to see him deliver that potential on the field. Bigelow has been keeping a good attitude as he rehabbed the knee injury this fall and was around the team quite bit, if he can get back to form and provide a quality option in the middle of the D-line it would be a welcome bonus for the Trojans defense.
JC: The player that I'm most looking forward to seeing return to the field is tailback Tre Madden, especially with the potential loss of Buck Allen to the draft. A tough ball carrier, Madden really was looking good in fall camp before he suffered his turf toe injury, and being the workaholic that he is, I'm confident that he's going to return to form in a hurry. He's also one of those lead-by-example players who will have a very positive influence on the Class of 2015 running backs who will be arriving on campus.
GK: There are a number of candidates like defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, but I am really looking forward to seeing the return of outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin. I think the Trojans really missed his physicality and nastiness to his game. There is the thought here that maybe mobile quarterbacks might not have found the edge as many times in crucial situations as they did if Ruffin would have been able to go.