Ohio State football: USC Trojans to watch not named Sam Darnold

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Sam Darnold /

Outside of the USC signal-caller, there are a number of USC players Ohio State fans need to keep an eye on at the end of the month.

You can’t be a fan of Factory of Sadness without noticing that Sam Darnold plays for USC — Ohio State‘s opponent in two weeks. With the Cleveland Browns poised for the top pick in the NFL draft, Darnold’s name will be considered with that pick.

He will certainly be under the microscope in the Cotton Bowl. However, Darnold isn’t the only USC Trojan worth keeping an eye on in their match up against the Buckeyes.

Outside of the quarterback, who else on the USC roster deserves a little bit of the attention during the Cotton Bowl?

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Running Back Ronald Jones

Jones is an easy pick here as who else to pay attention to. Jones leads the team in total yards with 1,651 yards from scrimmage and has scored 19 touchdowns this season. Jones has been a workhorse for the Trojans, piling up 242 carries, well ahead of Darnold’s 67 and Stephan Carr’s 63.

If the Trojans run the ball, it’s going to be given to Jones.

All-American and All-Pac-12 voters certainly noticed Jones. He has earned some All-American honors from Pro Football Focus and was a first team All Pac-12 selection at running back.

For a Buckeye defense that has seen its fair share of top running backs, Jones is another tall test. The Silver Bullets limited the likes of Jonathan Taylor, Lexington Thomas, and Saquon Barkley. It’ll be interesting to see how USC can get their own star back going against one of the best big game run defenses in the country.

Wide Receiver Deontay Burnett

The Trojans receiver paced the team in every category in the passing game. His 74 catches, 975 yards, and nine touchdowns are tops in the passing game. Burnett ended the season fifth in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game and the second highest total receiving yards in the league.

There isn’t another clear top target in the receiving game for Darnold. But Burnett’s season is a bit off balance.

The start of the season could not have gone better for Burnett, recording 39 catches, 507 yards, and five touchdowns in five September games alone. This stretch included huge games against Western Michigan, Stanford, and Texas.

The rest of the season slowed down to the tune of 35 catches, 468 yards, and 4 touchdowns in the next eight games. In fact, he ended the year with a one catch, nine-yard dud against Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

Defensive Linemen Rasheem Green and Christian Rector

Green was a first-team All-Pac 12 performer is the Trojans’ version of Nick Bosa. Green leads the Trojans in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (11.5). For comparison’s sake, Bosa has seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this season.

Rector wasn’t too far behind Green en route to a second-team All-Pac 12 season. He tied Green with 11.5 tackles for loss and was second on the team with 7.5 sacks. The pair will be a challenge for the right side of the Buckeye line.

While Billy Price, Jamarco Jones, and Michael Jordan have all been great, Demetrius Knox and Isiah Prince have been solid and inconsistent at times.

Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu

Leading tackler Cameron Smith might be the more logical choice. However, Nwosu is the more dynamic player on the Trojan defense. Nwosu’s 7.5 sacks tied him with Rector for second on the team. He has also recorded 71 total tackles, 9.5 for a loss.

Next: Buckeyes by the numbers

What makes Nwosu so special is not just the speed off the edge he can bring, but his skills in coverage. His 13 passes defended led the Trojans. Not too many linebackers can make that claim.