USC spring football preview: Starting safeties return

USC spring football preview: Starting safeties return
USC safety John Plattenburg intercepts a pass in front of Arizona receiver Josh Kern during the second quarter of a game on Nov. 7. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

USC starts spring practice on Tuesday.



Coach: Ronnie Bradford

Key returners: Senior Leon McQuay III, fourth-year junior Chris Hawkins, junior John Plattenburg and sophomore Marvell Tell III

Returners: Redshirt freshman Ykili Ross

Joining in the fall: Freshmen Jamel Cook and Keyshawn Young

Outlook: USC returns starting safeties Chris Hawkins and John Plattenburg, as well as experienced senior Leon McQuay III and sophomore Marvell Tell III.

Hawkins, a former cornerback, intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles, returning one 94 yards for a touchdown last season.

Plattenburg also intercepted two passes. He was sidelined against Utah because of an illness and competed for the remainder of the season for the starting position.

McQuay, a nine-game starter in 2014, was a backup safety and was sidelined for three games because of a knee injury. He started in place of Plattenburg against Utah and held onto the position against California.

Tell suffered a shoulder injury against Utah and was sidelined for several games before he started against Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference championship game and Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.

Ross, a highly regarded recruit in the 2015 class from Riverside Poly, redshirted last season after he suffered a shoulder injury near the end of training camp.

Cook, from Miami Central High, and Young, from Miami Senior, will join the team as freshmen in training camp.

The defensive backs will be coached by Bradford, a first-year assistant who held the same position at Louisiana Tech for the past three seasons.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Twitter @LindseyThiry