Going into 2012, the wide receivers at USC were the talk of the town. Robert Woods had just set a Pac-12 record for receptions in a season and Marqise Lee took center stage in what was a near magical end of the 2011 season for the Trojans.
And as expected, Woods and Lee excelled. The pair combined for just short of 200 catches and the true sophomore Lee wound up being USC’s first recipient of the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top receiver.
Now, with both Matt Barkley and Robert Woods long gone and training for USC’s March 27th Pro Day, the receiving corps is seemingly predominantly in the hands of Lee, with a dash of Nelson Agholor thrown in to taste.
But if Tuesday evening’s practice at Howard Jones Field was any indicator, the Wood’ departure hasn’t necessarily emptied the cupboard. And considering that Lee will see his fair share of double and triple coverage in 2013, that’s a welcome sight for offensive coordinator Clay Helton.
Darreus Rogers(right), the Carson product that greyshirted in 2012, may have made the biggest impression of the newcomers on offense. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Rogers is your prototypical possession receiver, and his play on Tuesday fit that mold.
He was consistently in the right place, and if there was any apparent focal point for Rogers for Rogers to work on after just his second practice as a Trojan, it might be his quickness and his ability adjust to variance arm strength between USC’s three young quarterbacks. Though, with receivers, quicknes and cohesion is often a product of repetition, confidence and chemistry, three factors that Rogers can only improve on with time.
In addition to Rogers, the player with the most to gain this spring, and perhaps team-wide, is junior George Farmer. The Serra speedster, famed for out-sprinting De’Anthony Thomas in high school, has yet to find himself healthy or productive.
Wide receivers coach Tee Martin likened Farmer to a Ferrari in the fall, alluding to his injuries, claiming that “everything has to work right for that Ferrari to run the way you want it to run”. And Martin has been exactly right, as the oft-injured Farmer has totaled just five receptions in his two years at USC, four of which coming being Lane Kiffin’s experimental freshman tailback in 2011.
On Tuesday, Farmer looked to be healthy and shifting gears up and down the field. The smoothness to his stride paid homage to his days as a Serra Cavalier, and along with Agholor, he routinely had the most reps during passing drills.
As for De’Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell, both had a signature moment on Tuesday, with Blackwell streaking down the left sideline on a seam route and Flournoy snaring in a fade down the right sideline.
It’s clear that Kiffin and Helton have set tiers at receiver, with Lee at top, followed by Agholor and Farmer, and then Rogers, Flournoy and Blackwell. Last fall, the Trojans’ widely-publicized competition for the third receiver role wound up without a runner up of sorts, as Flournoy had just one catch in 2011, while Agholor had 19 and two scores.
Now, it’s still early, but it’s safe to say that the receiving corps is off to a good start in terms of depth.