Gustin, Rector, Jackson, Johnston & Jones

“Basically unblockable”. That’s how Clay Helton described DE Porter Gustin in his latest presser. The weight room fanatical 6-5, 255 pounder mysteriously ruined his 2017 season by coming back too quickly from toe surgery.  Why that was allowed to happen by USC’s team medical advisors will never be explained.

The 2014 Parade All-America (that was the first prestigious prep All-America team I remember paying any real attention to) has been a fixture on the Trojan D since his freshman year. Last season’s loss is this season’s big-impact Trojan gain. Gustin’s a real force off the edge for the Trojans at the “predator” position  —  a hybrid DE/OLB who gets after the QB in this age of zone-read, spread-it-out predictability. His game against the run, especially laterally, can still use some work.

You throw in Texas-game-winning Christian Rector, who sometimes took Gustin’s predator spot last season but is heavy enough to play 3-technique too, and USC has bookends who can really squeeze a pocket.

The Trojans are looking to seriously upgrade their 0-line play and with Toa Lobendahn moving to OC (if he can stay healthy), the left tackle spots seems to be a battle between Phoenix soph Austin Jackson and redshirt junior Clayton Johnston from nearby Anaheim Servite. Helton says Jackson is “really coming on” and he is also impressed with the versatility of Johnston, who can play on either side of the center.

“Both are doing very well,” said Helton. “It’s gonna be one of those (competitions) that’s gonna go through fall. It’s been great to see Austin’s experience as a true freshman transfer over to the spring. Clayton has great athleticism and the ability to go right or left. He’s played both. He’s very comfortable at both. Some guys get stuck at one because of right hand/foot dominance or left hand/foot dominance. Clayton has the knack to be able to do both which raises his stock to be able to get more snaps. He got a lot of great experience last year. Clayton can be a special sixth man. We’ll see how it shakes out.

“A guy that’s really getting open a lot for us now is Velus Jones (6-0, 190, redshirt soph WR from Saraland, Ala). He’s having a really, really good camp right now and has shown that speed. The light is on for him now. We’ve got to get our deep ball accuracy a little bit better at the quarterback position. Again, I think that just comes with rep after rep after rep…”