Trojan rookies get ready for maiden NFL campaigns

first_imgKatie Chin | Daily TrojanAs red and gold confetti streamed down onto the field at the Rose Bowl, there was a bittersweet realization for 37 members of the 2016 USC football team: This was the last time they would suit up for USC. Of the 37 players, a handful began to prepare for the NFL draft last May, where five were eventually drafted. However, not all of USC’s draftees will have the opportunity to suit up on Sundays this year. Obvious locks to make their team’s 53-man rosters included the dynamic duo of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will take the field for the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, this year. Jackson, the 18th overall pick, is competing for a starting spot this fall and will be fielding punts and kicks for the Titans. The path to the field is tougher for Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick, as he was drafted into a talented receiving corps that includes Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the league.Defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ seventh-round draft choice, was placed on injured reserve after a season-ending injury to his right knee during the preseason. Undrafted free agent and former USC offensive tackle Chad Wheeler made the New York Giants’ final roster and will be backing up first-round pick Ereck Flowers at left tackle this year. Receiver Isaac Whitney went undrafted in May but was signed by the Oakland Raiders and landed a spot on the team’s practice squad for the 2017 season. Guard Jordan Simmons was also picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Raiders but was later cut from both the final roster and the practice squad. Darreus Rogers, another receiver who went undrafted, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in May but was cut this weekend. He is considered a candidate for making the practice squad if he clears waivers, which he is expected to do. Former Trojan running back Justin Davis will stay in Los Angeles as he was signed by the Rams and earned his way to a roster spot. Davis may have a chance to take up the main backup role this season behind Todd Gurley. Elsewhere in the league, tight end Taylor McNamara was picked up by the Cleveland Browns after the draft but was waived by the team this weekend. The Browns have not released their practice squad roster yet, but McNamara is not expected to earn a spot on it.Former USC offensive tackle Zach Banner, who was a first team All-Pac-12 selection in 2015, caught a tough break on Sunday. He was waived by the Indianapolis Colts, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Banner initially made the final 53-man roster before he was waived on Sunday to make room for the five other players the Colts claimed after final roster cuts were made around the league. This came as a surprise move from Indianapolis, as Banner played in all four preseason games and was considered a likely candidate to make the roster.  The Cleveland Browns claimed Banner off waivers on Monday. Banner was not the only former Trojan to be shuffled around unexpectedly this weekend, with former Buffalo Bills sixth-round pick Kevon Seymour being traded to the Carolina Panthers. Seymour, a cornerback, was traded for former Panthers receiver Kaelin Clay and a future Panthers seventh-round draft pick. Seymour played in 15 games and started three for the Bills last year, and is currently slotted last among five corners on the Panthers’ depth chart. Carolina is a good landing spot for Seymour, who should have an opportunity to compete for playing time amidst the Panthers’ young secondary. Safety Leon McQuay III, who intercepted Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley with 27 seconds left in the Rose Bowl, was released Saturday after being drafted in the sixth round by the Kansas City Chiefs. This cut doesn’t come as too much of a surprise given that Kansas City possesses one of the better secondaries in the NFL, led by  former first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler Eric Berry. McQuay is expected to make the team’s practice squad, however, unless he is picked up by another team. Another Trojan in Kansas City is guard Damien Mama, who was picked up by the Chiefs after going undrafted and signed to the team’s practice squad on Sunday.Entering the 2016 NFL season, USC had the fifth-most active players in the league with 46 athletes represented. USC leads the way in overall draft picks, with 502 all-time, putting the Trojans just in front of Notre Dame, which has 495. USC’s 80 first-round picks also take the top spot, edging Ohio State, which has produced 77 first-round selections.last_img

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