USC Trojans’ Top 10 Returning Players in 2024 Include Jonah Monheim, Miller Moss

    The USC Trojans and Lincoln Riley will need these top 10 returning players to step up in 2024 if they are to compete in the Big Ten.

    The USC Trojans transition to the Big Ten in 2024 as the team evolves under Lincoln Riley. With a handful of receivers and quarterback Caleb Williams leaving for the NFL, the Trojans will need these top 10 returning players to step up in the fall to compete in a loaded conference.

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    USC Trojans’ Top 10 Returners in 2024

    Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes on each team’s roster page to open spring camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.

    10) Mason Cobb, LB

    The 2024 campaign will be Mason Cobb’s second season with the Trojans after transferring from Oklahoma State before the 2023 season. It will be the veteran linebacker’s fifth season in college football, and his consistent tackling and production should solidify the USC linebacker group more than it did a year ago.

    Cobb led the Trojans with 85 tackles last season while also finding seven tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery, and one pass defended. The USC linebacker’s production has been consistent after putting up 96 tackles and receiving a second-team All-Big-12 selection in 2022.

    9) Jayden Maiava, QB

    Jayden Maiava has given up a starting job at UNLV to join the Trojans despite Miller Moss looking likely to be the starter. It is an interesting decision for Maiava (who had committed to Georgia before flipping his commitment to USC), who is confident he can challenge for the starting job.

    The preseason noise is that there is open competition between the two QBs, and if Maiava sits as the backup, there won’t be many better backup passers in the country.

    In 2023, Maiava completed 224 of his 353 passes for 3,085 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, leading the Rebels to their winningest season since 1984. After redshirting in 2022, the quarterback was named 2023 College Football Network Freshman Quarterback of the Year.

    8) Jamil Muhammad, DE

    Jamil Muhammad impressed in his first year at USC in 2023, having spent the first three years of his career at Georgia State. The Panthers transfer led the Trojans with 6.5 sacks a year ago, and his impressive stat sheet included 46 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss, and two forced fumbles.

    The dominant defender will be USC’s best pass rusher again in 2024 as he looks to repeat his success. Muhammad has the potential to thrive in defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn’s scheme and have even more production in the fall.

    7) Jaylin Smith, DB

    Jaylin Smith is one of the most interesting USC defenders heading into 2024. After playing most of last season at nickel, Smith excelled in the Holiday Bowl, winning Defensive MVP and recording an impressive 12 sacks from safety.

    Whether the versatile defensive back plays nickel or safety, he will be impactful in the fall. Smith is a veteran presence who has generated 123 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception in his three-year career.

    6) Eric Gentry, LB

    Eric Gentry has been a productive force over his three-year college career, but his second season with USC saw a dip in production. Starting his career with Arizona State, Gentry transferred to USC in 2022 and has 162 tackles, 13 for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and three forced fumbles on his resume.

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    Under Lynn and new linebackers coach Matt Entz, Gentry is expected to gain weight and play closer to 220 pounds in 2024 as he looks to dominate in year four.

    5) Jo’Quavious Marks, RB

    Jo’Quavious “Woody” Marks will have a significant role in the USC offense as the Trojans’ lead back. The running back group lacks experience outside Marks, who should put up impressive numbers in 2024.

    Marks proved an effective rusher and receiver in his four years with Mississippi State, and he looks to cement a more expansive role in Riley’s offense. Marks had 624 plays for 3,108 yards and 27 touchdowns from scrimmage in four years with the Bulldogs. USC likes to use receivers out of the backfield, and Marks should be more than adequate in this role.

    4) Miller Moss, QB

    Moss is expected to be the season starter at USC despite Maiava breathing down his neck for the starting job. After a dominant display in the Holiday Bowl, the position is his to lose. He waited three seasons with the Trojans before being considered a starter, so Moss will feel he has earned the right to start.

    Throughout his three-year career, Moss has completed 66 of his 92 passes for 914 yards, nine touchdowns, and a single interception. Most of his playing time came in relief of Caleb Williams late in games. However, 23 completions for 372 yards and six touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl displayed Moss’ big arm and impressive playmaking ability.

    3) Bear Alexander, DL

    Bear Alexander has — for now — decided to stay at USC, despite reports he was flirting with entering the spring transfer portal. The wrecking ball defensive lineman transferred to the Trojans from Georgia before the 2023 season and is expected to enhance his development in his junior year.

    In 2023, Alexander played in all 13 games, having an immediate impact with 48 total tackles, 6.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, four QB hurries, and four pass breakups. The former five-star probably possesses the best pure talent on the USC roster, but he must now become a dominating force on the Trojans’ defensive line.

    2) Zachariah Branch, WR

    Zachariah Branch was one of the top return specialists in the country as a freshman in 2023 and showed impressive flashes as a receiver. The electric pass catcher caught 31 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and had a rushing score.

    It is now expected that Branch will develop into a key WR weapon with the receiving corps depleted heading into the season. The lightning playmaker, who also runs track for the Trojans, has the talent to become USC’s WR1. He has legitimately special traits that can expose defenses.

    1) Jonah Monheim, OL

    Jonah Monheim is the standout player on the USC offensive line, having started 34 games throughout his career. With 18 games at right tackle, 12 games at left tackle, and four at right guard, Monheim has been the ultimate versatile option.

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    One of the best offensive linemen in the country, Monheim is expected to start at center in 2024, and the team captain looks to continue impressing NFL scouts and using his intelligence to help out Moss and the rest of the offense.

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