The reigning Rose Bowl champion Trojans enter the 2017 season with lofty expectations after last season’s dramatic sprint through the finish line. USC concluded last season with a nine-game winning streak, capping it off with a dramatic 52-49 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.The blazing finish to the 2016 campaign has accelerated the USC hype train to the highest gear. A Pac-12 preseason media poll pegged the Trojans as favorites for the conference title, and they enter 2017 ranked No. 4 in the preseason Coaches Poll. Only Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State are ranked ahead. In order to meet these weighty projections, USC will need top-tier contributions from established veterans on both sides of the ball in the upcoming season. After losing numerous key players to graduation and the NFL Draft, the Trojans will also seek breakout performances from their new additions in order to aid the effort toward a national championship run.Here are some of the marquee players who will need to tackle big roles for the Trojans this season:Sam Darnold, redshirt sophomore quarterbackIt’s no secret that USC’s central asset comes at signal caller. Since being named the starter before Week 5 of the 2016 season, Darnold has transformed the Trojan offense into a high-powered unit capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. The quarterback was named Rose Bowl MVP after his 453-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Grandaddy of Them All in January.As a redshirt freshman, Darnold threw for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 67.2 percent of his passes. His standout first season as the starting quarterback has earned him national acclaim: In addition to being the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, Darnold has been touted for several other honors, including the Maxwell (top player) and Davey O’Brien (top quarterback) awards. Whispers of Darnold being the top prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft have already begun following his breakout debut campaign.As Darnold goes, this Trojan offense will go in 2017. If he plays up to his projections as the top quarterback in the nation, USC fans can expect to see their team make a deep postseason run. “We’re just focusing on ourselves,” Darnold said. “We’re just going to continue to work hard … and good things are going to come from that.”Ronald Jones II, junior running backFollowing running back Justin Davis’ graduation, Jones will be called upon to spearhead the Trojan’s rushing attack this fall. During his sophomore season, Jones tallied 1,082 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground. In a Week 8 contest against Cal last season, Jones gashed the Golden Bears’ defense for 223 yards and a score. “I’ve just been working hard in practice this offseason, trying to build up my stamina so I can take on more carries,” Jones said. Jones has undoubtedly put his rushing ability on display during his first two seasons at USC, but many will keep an eye on Jones’ development as a pass catcher and blocker in the season to come. Already on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award (top college running back), Jones would be even deadlier if he contributes to the Trojan air attack.“[Catching passes] is not completely natural for me yet,” Jones said. “I’m working on the hands, though — they’re coming.”Deontay Burnett, junior wide receiverBurnett turned in a heroic performance during the Rose Bowl, hauling in 13 receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns. One of the scores came late, and it tied the contest at 49-49 with 1:20 remaining in regulation. As a sophomore, Burnett developed a strong rapport with Darnold and was a key cog in the Trojans’ passing game. He caught 56 passes for a total of 622 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season.As USC’s primary option out of the slot, Burnett can once again expect a high volume of offensive opportunities during his junior campaign. Daniel Imatorbhebhe, redshirt sophomore tight endEntering the 2017 season as a preseason watch list selection for the Mackey Award (top tight end in the nation), Imatorbhebhe is looking to follow up a strong freshman campaign with another successful season.Acting as a potent red-zone threat at tight end, Imatorbhebhe hauled in 17 receptions for 250 yards and four scores last year. In USC’s crucial win over then-No. 4 Washington, Imatorbhebhe posted career-highs in receptions (5) and yards (78) while also scoring a touchdown. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Imatorbhebhe also has the physical frame to be an effective blocker for the Trojan offense. While Imatorbhebhe has been dealing with several minor injuries this fall camp — most recently a hip flexor issue — he is expected to be healthy and ready for the Trojans’ season opener against Western Michigan. Viane Talamaivao, senior offensive guardAny time an offensive line loses a pair of All-American tackles during the offseason, there is going to be a fair share of question marks leading into to the season. USC lost All-American linemen Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler (both are now in the NFL). Damien Mama, a starter on last year’s offensive line, also left the team to enter the draft.Talamaivao returns this season as the most experienced player on USC’s offensive front. A four-year starter and former freshman All-American, Talamaivao is about the only sure thing on the Trojan offensive line at the moment. With an offensive line that currently looks like it could be playing musical chairs throughout fall camp, Talamaivao brings some security to an uncertain situation up front. Freshmen to watch on offenseWhile Jones is set to be the main tailback for the Trojan offense, USC may have found a nice accessory for its backfield in freshman Stephen Carr. Due to his impressive build (6 feet, 210 pounds) and running ability, Carr opened many eyes during fall camp after arriving as a high-profile, four-star recruit. At a team scrimmage on Aug. 5, Carr rushed for a pair of touchdowns and sparked plenty of conversation about what his usage will be this season. USC is looking toward its youth as a possible remedy for some of the unknowns it has on the offensive front. Freshmen Austin Jackson and Andrew Vorhees have both seen practice time on the starting units this offseason. Cameron Smith, junior linebackerSmith will be the undisputed quarterback of the Trojan defense in 2017. The Trojans’ leading tackler last season (83), Smith will maintain middle linebacking duties for Troy this fall. Smith was named to the Butkus Award (top linebacker) preseason watch list, and he will be expected to act as the hammer and leader of the defense after the graduation of linebacker and team captain Michael Hutchings. “I’m just so excited to be back out [at practice] preparing for the upcoming season,” Smith said. “All of the [preseason hype] really doesn’t mean much to us … we’re just focused on Western Michigan first.”Smith is one critical piece of a Trojan linebacker corps that includes a pair of other selectees for the Butkus Award watch list: senior Uchenna Nwosu and junior Porter Gustin. Rasheem Green, junior defensive end Last season, the Trojans dominated the line of scrimmage defensively largely thanks to nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year, the Trojans’ defensive line will be led by junior lineman Rasheem Green. The junior led the team with six sacks last season. USC will again depend on a veteran like Green to establish a pass rush up front in 2017. He has also shown an ability to chase down the ball carrier, as he recorded 55 tackles in 2016. Iman Marshall, junior cornerback Marshall made his presence felt almost immediately in January’s Rose Bowl Game: On the first play from scrimmage, Marshall intercepted Penn State sophomore quarterback Trace McSorely to set the tone for a strong Trojan start.In total, Marshall intercepted three passes as a sophomore in 2016, matching his three interceptions as a true freshman in 2015. With the departure of Jim Thorpe Award-winner Adoree’ Jackson from USC’s secondary, Marshall is expected to take the reigns of the Trojan pass defense. Expectations for Marshall’s 2017 campaign are generally high, as he was named to the preseason watch list for the Thorpe Award (top defensive back in nation). Whether Marshall matches these high expectations or not will greatly determine the effectiveness of USC’s defense in shutting down opposing passing attacks. Fresh faces up frontReplacing the production of a Rose Bowl MVP like Stevie Tu’ikolovatu with one player is unreasonable. However, USC is hoping that one of its most-touted acquisitions from its 2017 recruiting class can someday mold into an elite defensive tackle, like Tu’ikolovatu was for the Trojans. Freshman defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu has received a solid amount of reps with the first-string defense this fall. Many believe that Tuipulotu has the ability to instantly contribute to the Trojan defensive front. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, Tuipulotu brings a veteran, physical build as a true freshman. Michael Brown, redshirt freshman placekickerThis offseason, USC dealt with the loss of placekicker and Rose Bowl hero Matt Boermeester due to a violation of the student code of conduct. Boermeester is no longer on the team and is no longer enrolled at the University. That leaves placekicking duties this season to the leg of Brown.Brown, a former five-star kicking prospect, redshirted last season. During his career at Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, Calif., Brown hit a career-long field goal from 57 yards out. Brown’s performance in replacing Boermeester may be a vital component to USC’s success in 2017, especially if his number is called in late-game situations.Chris Tilbey, redshirt junior punterHead coach Clay Helton constantly stresses the importance of winning the battle for field position. At the center of that mantra is the left leg of Tilbey, who is now entering his second season as the Trojans’ punter. As a sophomore in 2016, Tilbey averaged 38.3 yards per punt. He recorded three punts of 50-plus yards and pinned opponents within their own 20-yard line on 18 occasions. The former Aussie Rules player will look to continue setting his defense up for success this fall.