USC begins spring practice March 3. We’ll preview each position group before workouts begin.
Key departure: Gerald Bowman
Key returning players: Rising junior Leon McQuay, sophomore John Plattenburg
Outlook: McQuay and Plattenburg are the only scholarship safeties on the roster.
Junior Su’a Cravens was a freshman All-American safety and played the position the first two games of last season before he moved to linebacker.
McQuay lost his starting position to Plattenburg before the Holiday Bowl, but he made two key plays at the end of the game to solidify USC’s 45-42 victory over Nebraska.
In 13 games, McQuay notched two interceptions, broke up six passes and forced a fumble.
Plattenburg played in 10 games and had four pass deflections.
Third-year sophomore cornerback Chris Hawkins took reps at safety during bowl practices and could move there during spring workouts.
Third-year sophomore walk-on Matt Lopes also played last season.
Sophomore receiver JuJu Smith, who is also listed as a safety, said during bowl practices that he wanted to play defense. He made 71 tackles in his senior season at Long Beach Poly High.
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