USC football: Which true freshmen will have a chance to play in 2023?

With National Signing Day in the books, it’s time to look ahead to next season

With National Signing Day in the books, it’s time to look ahead to next season. Out of USC’s 21 additions from the program’s 2023 high school recruiting class, who will have a chance at seeing the field as a true freshman? Here are three names to watch. 


Even with a crowded wide receiver room, it’s a near a lock that Branch will play one way or another this fall — he’s that good. Branch is a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 receiver in his class, per 

“I don’t see any scenario where he’s not an instant impact guy,” recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said

At 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, Branch has been compared to Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill as a prospect. 

Another wide receiver who could play as a true freshman is Makai Lemon


On the defensive side of the ball, Curtis looks like the most likely true freshman to see the field for a few reasons. For starters, the Trojans really struggled at the linebacker spot a year ago. Even with USC’s transfer portal additions of Mason Cobb and Jamil Muhammad, plus last year’s starters Eric Gentry and Shane Lee coming back, there’s still a potential need at LB for USC. Cobb is a sure fire starter, but there should be competition for the other linebacker spot. Expect Curtis to be in that competition. 

The 4-star linebacker enrolled at USC last month so he’s already getting familiar with what the Trojans staff looks for at his position.’s composite ranks Curtis as the No. 9 linebacker in his class. He’s talented, already enrolled and plays a position of need. That’s a recipe for early playing time. 


Similarly to USC’s linebacker spots, there will be competition for playing time on the Trojans’ defensive line and Shelby, the nation’s No. 8 2023 edge rusher, deserves a serious look.

Purdue transfer Jack Sullivan and Texas A&M transfer Anthony Lucas are strong starter candidates for USC next season. Solomon Byrd will also play after featuring prominently a year ago. Muhammad may get some run on the edge too.

Could Shelby earn reps as a rotational piece in his freshman season behind that group? It’s possible. He’ll compete with Korey Foreman, Solomon Tuliaupupu, Romello Height, Devan Thompkins and the Trojans other true freshmen.


If USC wins the Duce Robinson sweepstakes. He would slot in as the Trojans’ starting tight end the day he walks on campus. 

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