Southern California made news on Sunday with the announcement that it will start a true freshman at quarterback in the season opener for just the second time in school history.
A look at the depth chart also showed all three Trojans from Hawaii can expect to see significant playing time in 2018.
Junior linebacker Jordan Iosefa, a 2016 Saint Louis alumnus who made two starts at inside linebacker and five at outside linebacker last year as a sophomore, is the projected starter again at outside linebacker to start the season.
Iosefa, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, held onto the starting job despite being sidelined midway through spring practice with a knee injury that required surgery.
He missed two games last season with a concussion but still managed to post 31 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.
Right behind him on the depth chart as the backup outside linebacker is true freshman Kana’i Mauga, the reigning Star-Advertiser All-State player of the year out of Waianae.
Mauga (6-2, 240), who graduated early and enrolled at USC in January, has already elevated himself to the No. 2 spot outside in USC’s 3-4 defensive scheme. He was able to get a lot of work in with the starters in the spring with Iosefa sidelined. Iosefa is one of two USC linebackers also able to play both inside and outside, which gives USC options to try to get Mauga on the field.
On offense, redshirt sophomore running back Vavae Malepeai, who holds Hawaii’s all-time career rushing record in high school, is listed as one of three potential starters for the Trojans. Malepeai (6-0, 215), a 2016 Mililani alumnus, is competing with sophomore Stephen Carr and senior Aca’Cedric Ware for playing time.
Malepeai has yet to start a game with the Trojans but played in 13 of 14 games last year rushing for 261 yards on 49 carries. He is still looking for his first collegiate TD after rushing for 71 touchdowns in three years of high school.
USC opens its season Saturday at home hosting UNLV.