It’s now or never for top USC prospects Korey Foreman, Raesjon Davis and Domani Jackson

USC defensive lineman Korey Foreman at spring football practice.
USC defensive lineman Korey Foreman (0) at spring football practice at Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields on the campus of USC.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

They were three of the most touted defensive prospects in the state of California in recent years, each sold at some point as a symbol of a revival at USC.

Korey Foreman was the No. 1 recruit in the nation when he committed to the Trojans in 2021. Raesjon Davis was the fourth-best prospect from California in that same class. The following year, Domani Jackson was the top recruit in the state. During the final, frustrating months of the Clay Helton era, their decisions to sign with the Trojans were rays of hope.

The mood has brightened since at USC. But the former top prospects whose arrivals once promised a brighter future now enter a pivotal stretch. None of them has found their footing yet at USC, for one reason or another. But they still have a chance to make a major impact for a retooled Trojans defense.


For Korey Foreman, the next few weeks feel especially critical.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Corona Centennial defensive end’s commitment was commemorated at USC with a campus billboard, the hype for his arrival rocketing past any prospect in recent memory.

But when Foreman arrived at USC, he struggled to acclimate. He tried to lose weight. Then add it back. Then lose it again. He switched to edge rusher. Then back to defensive end. During two seasons, Foreman has averaged just shy of 15 snaps per game, the majority of which have come on passing downs. Last year, he didn’t tally a single sack.

In exactly one year, USC and UCLA will leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten. The schools have embraced detailed game plans to help them thrive.

Aug. 2, 2023

Snaps could be much harder to come by for Foreman this season, given how much USC has added up front. Anthony Lucas gives USC another five-star lineman, while Purdue transfer Jack Sullivan adds deep experience up front that USC desperately needs in the rotation. The depth makes for a particularly critical camp for Foreman, who could be in danger of sliding down the rotation.

“There’s going to be a huge opportunity for Korey to step up and do his thing,” defensive line coach Shaun Nua said. “I think he’s committed himself to getting his mind-set right in the offseason. We will see. ”

Those changes start with Foreman stringing productive practices together through camp. Minor injuries limited his availability since he arrived as a freshman.

When Nua came in as coach, he said, “I don’t think Korey could finish two practices in a row.”


“That’s been the climb for Korey,” USC coach Lincoln Riley added. “He’s certainly come a long ways. He’s right now practicing the most consistent, with the least amount of busts that he ever has. Our continued optimism with Korey is that he does continue to get better. We see no sign of that stopping, and there’s no telling where that ceiling is, which is a lot of fun.”

The same could be said of Jackson, whose five-star pedigree has him firmly in the mix for one of USC’s two open corner spots.

He never had a chance to compete for snaps as a freshman after sitting out most of the previous season with a serious knee injury. The injury lingered into the fall, and his progress slowed. He played just 45 snaps as a freshman, but he appeared in seven games, burning a potential redshirt. It took almost 16 months until he felt like himself again.

But Jackson says he made his biggest changes during the offseason. He wanted to stop overthinking, so he resolved to “know the [USC] defense, inside and out.”

Too often, he found himself overwhelmed by concepts as a freshman. He spent extra time drilling them with cornerbacks coach Donte Williams.

USC lineman Anthony Lucas at USC spring practice.
USC lineman Anthony Lucas at USC spring practice.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“Coming in, it was a lot,” Jackson said. “I was told at Mater Dei to just get in front of the dude, don’t let him go down the field. But here, you’ve got to learn techniques. Cover 2, Cover 3, Man. Press technique. A whole bunch of techniques that I never really knew. This offseason, I took that super seriously. Locked into the playbook, and now I’m good.”

Earning a starting spot may not be that simple, though.

Ceyair Wright and Jacobe Covington led the way as starting corners in the spring, while Christian Roland-Wallace was a four-year starter as an outside corner at Arizona. There may not be a closer competition on USC’s defense this camp than at corner.

Riley says Jackson is “right in the middle of that battle.”

Davis will have to wait a bit for the same shot at inside linebacker. The junior injured his hand during one of USC’s first practices and has been limited ever since.

He should be back by the second half of camp. Still, it’s unfortunate timing for Davis, who Riley says “feels like a guy that’s starting to surge.”

That wasn’t the case when Riley and his staff first arrived.

“He was just kind of there,” inside linebackers coach Brian Odom recalled. “He was a little bit immature as a freshman. He was almost a little bit lost in terms of the coaching change.”

USC wants to establish itself as the West Coast power again in the Big Ten, but Oregon could make it difficult if it’s invited to join.

Aug. 3, 2023

But Davis started to find himself late last season. That momentum appeared to carry over into this one, until bad injury luck struck.


“He’s in the best shape, by far, of his life,” Riley said. “His body is much more developed than where he was when we came in. He’s stronger, faster, a little more confident.”

The question now, in all three players’ cases, is whether that progress will finally be enough to make a real mark on USC’s defense.