As is the case most years, USC football will be well represented not only when draft day comes in late April, but also this weekend at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
After sending eight athletes to the NFL Combine last year, USC will have six former players working out in front of scouts through the weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium. Included among those in attendance are quarterback Sam Darnold, wide receivers Steven Mitchell Jr. and Deontay Burnett, running back Ronald Jones II, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive lineman Rasheem Green.
Like when he was playing in cardinal and gold, Darnold will certainly command most of the attention out of the Trojan draft prospects this weekend, if not the entire group of prospects working out in Indianapolis. In fact, he has already made headlines without performing a single workout due to his announcement Tuesday that he would not be throwing throughout the weekend.
Although all the other top quarterback prospects such as Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and former Oklahoma Sooner Baker Mayfield will be throwing in this year’s combine, there is precedent for Darnold’s decision. In 2014, both Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel elected to wait, as Darnold is, until their pro day workout to throw passes in front of scouts. Clearly, it didn’t hurt their draft stock too drastically as both would go on to be first-round picks in the ensuing draft.
Beyond the 2017 Rose Bowl MVP, the balance of the USC contingency will have a lot to prove in front of the NFL scouts this weekend. According to his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Darnold as his top pick while the rest of the Trojan combine invitees are listed as being drafted outside of the first round.
Jones II, the Pac-12’s second leading rusher from this past season, is projected to go off the board early in the second round while Nwosu, a USC defensive captain who tied for 10th in the FBS in sacks, is expected to hear his name called later in the second round. Furthermore, co-sacks leader Green is projected to be an early third-round pick in Miller’s projections.
No two players have as much to prove heading into this weekend as Trojan wideouts Burnett and Mitchell Jr., as they are expected to be fifth-round and undrafted prospects, respectively. Putting up an impressive stat-line of 86 catches for 1,114 yards and nine scores in 2017, Burnett finished the season in the top three among Pac-12 receivers and well within the top-20 nationally.
For Mitchell Jr., he will have to work hard to convince scouts that a track record of injury will not impact his NFL value. Never topping 650 yards in any of his four seasons at Southern Cal, Mitchell Jr. suffered a major knee injury in his 2016 campaign that cut his season short at seven games and proved to limit his snaps at times this past season.
A year ago, USC similarly sent two receivers to the scouting combine: Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers. The former was selected in the second round while the latter ended up not being drafted.
Jones II will work out on Friday while Darnold, Mitchell Jr. and Burnett will perform on Saturday, and Green and Nwosu will check in on Sunday.