Steven Mitchell stands out during USC's scrimmage

Steven Mitchell stands out during USC's scrimmage
USC receiver Steven Mitchell (7), making a catch against Trojans safety Leon McQuay (22) during the annual spring game, could be the wild card this season in the team's passing game. (Ric Tapia / Icon Sportswire via AP)

JuJu Smith-Schuster is the heir-apparent to Nelson Agholor as USC's No. 1 receiver.

Adoree' Jackson is an emerging star not only at cornerback but at receiver.


Steven Mitchell Jr. was slowed by injuries his first two seasons, so his profile as a member of USC's receiver corps will be lower going into the Sept. 5 opener against Arkansas State.

Not a problem, Mitchell said recently.

"It catches them off guard," he said, assessing opponents. "So that's definitely going to be a positive for me."

On Monday night, during the Trojans' first scrimmage, Mitchell showed the burst that made him such a threat at Mission Hills Alemany High.

He caught a short touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Kessler, made a physical catch in traffic and broke free for a long scoring play that was nullified by a penalty.

"He did some stuff over the middle, and different things, that was impressive," Coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Mitchell was one of several players that stood out during what Sarkisian estimated as a 120-play scrimmage.

Freshman safety Marvell Tell III, freshman cornerback Iman Marshall and sophomore Jonathan Lockett intercepted passes.

Kessler connected on a long touchdown pass play to Smith and another short touchdown to Mitchell.

Junior tailback Justin Davis appeared physically sound after returning Sunday from a hamstring injury, and freshman tailback Ronald Jones broke free for a long gain and also caught several passes.

Freshmen linebackers Porter Gustin and Osa Masina and graduate-transfer tight end Taylor McNamara were other first-year players who stood out.

Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said they were generally pleased with the Trojans' effort.

USC will scrimmage again Saturday, Sarkisian said.

Time to Tell


The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Tell, who came to USC from Encino Crespi High, has impressed teammates and coaches throughout training camp.

Sarkisian said Tell was "just banging on the door to play."

Junior linebacker Su'a Cravens said, "Marvell's a beast," and compared him to former USC safety T.J. McDonald, who also wore No. 7.

"He'll come down and he'll hit you," Cravens said, adding, "He's going to be one of the next great safeties out of USC."

Locking in

Lockett has been opportunistic the last several days and is making a solid push to play in a group that includes senior Kevon Seymour, Jackson and Marshall.

"It's mainly knowing the defense more," Lockett said of his noteworthy play. "Last fall, I was thinking too much. This year, I know where to be at the right time."

Lockett played on special teams and as a reserve last season. He is ready to parlay the experience into production.

"I felt the atmosphere of the games, and I feel like it's going to help me a lot this year," he said.

Darnold impresses

Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold did not have the benefit of spring practice, as Ricky Town did, but he continued to show a strong arm and good mobility during the scrimmage.

Town's decision to transfer out of USC leaves Darnold as the Trojans' lone quarterback in the Class of 2015.

Darnold's most athletic play Monday might have been when he snagged an errant snap near his ankle, ala Kessler on fourth down against Stanford in 2013, and fired a pass toward the end zone that a defensive back got a hand on at the last second.

Quick hits

With the departure of Town, the Trojans added walk-on quarterback Michael Bowman to the training camp roster. ... Linebacker Lamar Dawson suffered "cracked" ribs this week, but should be ready by the start of the season, Sarkisian said. ... After spending the first 11 practices at cornerback, Jackson will play receiver for the next six.