How 'Nation's Top Corner' Recruit Iman Marshall Would Fit in USC's Secondary
National Signing Day is still more than seven months away, but USC has identified Marshall as a major recruiting target and it's never too early to start imagining the nation's top preps in cardinal and gold.
Marshall has offers from more than 25 major schools including USC, and 10 schools in the Pac-12 alone. He is reportedly in no hurry to decide. We can project that USC has the close-to-home advantage, as Marshall's high school is located barely more than 20 miles from campus.
We can also project that USC may have a recruiting advantage, as Marshall's former teammate John "JuJu" Smith is now a Trojan and may be wooing Marshall already. And we can project that if the nation's top corner commits to the Trojans, we may see a far more flexible and gambling USC defense in 2015.
The Justin Wilcox Defense
New USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox takes over this season, and head coach Steve Sarkisian has made it no secret that the defense is switching to a 3-4, as evident by the spring game.
"We’ll start everything out of the 3-4,” Wilcox told the Los Angeles Daily News. “You’ll see some four-man fronts in certain situations based on down and distance. In this day and age, you have to have both. We start everything out of the 3-4."
That doesn't mean Wilcox's defense will always stay in the 3-4 alignment. Wilcox is not so much a "system" guy as as he is a "tinker based on what talent you have" guy. You might see Wilcox play linebackers as defensive ends in a 4-3 . You might see Wilcox run the Clancy Pendergast 5-2 defense that served USC so well last season.
A potential clampdown corner like Marshall would give Wilcox the freedom to take creative risks at key points in a game, and Marshall's versatility in covering both larger and smaller receivers gives Wilcox additional flexibility in scheming.
The Trojans had the top red zone defense in the country in 2013. Marshall's large frame combined with quickness could allow the Trojans to do that again in 2015.
USC has a stacked secondary as it is, but there will be departures by the time Marshall commits to his college of choice. Most notably, current USC senior Josh Shaw will move on, and several standout juniors could also declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.
But that bench is deep, and would provide Marshall with an excellent set of running partners. Hopes are very high for Adoree' Jackson, a top-rated incoming freshman corner and a two-way threat. Jackson and Marshall could arguably aspire to form the country's top corner tandem. Sophomore All-American defensive back Su'a Cravens should still be around, barring injury or transfer. If Marshall is making his decision based on roster talent, USC can make a very solid argument.
Sarkisian and UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. will probably battle over recruits for years to come. In 2015, expect Iman Marshall to be coveted as a top target for both.