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USC football players can change the narrative at the 2024 NFL combine

If you followed Trojans Wire’s coverage of USC football last season (and I did, before I came aboard as a writer), one theme which was impossible to miss was that the Trojans were soft in 2023.

Here’s a snippet from a piece written in October of 2023:

USC was supposed to be tougher this season. The Trojans were supposed to be stronger and more robust on defense. This is Year 2 of Alex Grinch. Players were supposed to be more familiar with the system. The strength and conditioning program was supposed to take effect and create tougher, more durable players. The understandable weaknesses and limitations of Year 1 were supposed to give way to a better product in Year 2.

That development from Year 1 to Year 2 did not happen. As a result, the players representing USC in the 2024 NFL scouting combine have a ton to prove. Let’s look at these NFL prospects:

TAHJ WASHINGTON

 Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Tahj Washington has been really good at USC. Will it translate into a good draft spot? Remember: Amon-Ra St. Brown wasn’t a top-100 pick. Yet, he has been a huge part of the Detroit Lions’ resurgence.

Will Tahj Washington be similarly underestimated in the NFL draft? A strong combine could ensure he is a top-100 pick and goes on Day 2 rather than Day 3 as St. Brown did.

CHRISTIAN ROLAND-WALLACE

 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Roland-Wallace was not helped by Donte Williams in terms of NFL development. Can he find a way to show NFL scouts that he is better than what he was in 2023? That’s the task for him at the combine.

CALEN BULLOCK

: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Calen Bullock could have flourished under new defensive back coach Doug Belk, but he was instead weighed down by the subpar coaching of Alex Grinch. Bullock could dispel a lot of doubts with a big combine performance.

JARRETT KINGSTON

 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a year in which USC’s offensive line underperformed relative to expectations, Jarrett Kingston has as much to prove as any USC combine prospect, if not more. It’s go-time for a lineman with a lot on the line.

SOLOMON BYRD

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC’s defense was bad in 2023. Can Solomon Byrd show that his skills transcend his team’s limitations? The combine gives him that opportunity.

MARSHAWN LLOYD

 Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kiel McDonald, Lloyd’s running back coach in 2023 at USC, just went to the Chargers. Could the Bolts pick Lloyd? That would be really interesting.

BRENDEN RICE

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

NFL scouts will wonder if the son can measure up to the father — not in terms of being as good, but at least in terms of showing he has the football IQ and natural instincts of a quality wide receiver.

CALEB WILLIAMS

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

No NFL draft prospect faces more scrutiny than Caleb Williams. All eyes will be watching him at the combine. One key point: Will the injured finger which affected him in 2023 be a lingering concern, or will Caleb show that’s a thing of the past?

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire