For some during USC’s 2013 Spring Camp, it was a time of struggle, as a number of Trojans went down due to injury, or did not have the spring that they intended to. For others, it was business as usual, a time to remind the coaches why they should retain their starting spot. But for others still, spring camp served as a coming out party, a time to break out of the shadows and emerge as a valuable asset to Troy.
Five players in particular made spring camp theirs, and as a result, we can expect to feel their presence during the 2013 season.
But before we take a look at the most impressive unprovens of spring camp, who were you most impressed by this spring? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below.
No. 5: Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
When starters Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer went down with a fractured chest and a knee injury respectively, Cope-Fitzpatrick found himself thrust into an increased roll this spring. He could have faltered with the sudden influx of responsibility, but instead he embraced it, and it paid off. The sophomore tight end showed that like Grimble and Telfer, he can use his six-foot-five frame to throw big time blocks, and that he can also be relied on to make receiving plays. If either Grimble’s or Telfer’s injuries should keep him out for an extended period of time this fall, Cope-Fitzpatrick is a viable option that the coaches can place confidence in.
No. 4: Demetrius Wright
Demetrius Wright has been in Troy for some time, hanging back in the shadow of former standout safety T.J. McDonald. Thus far in his career, he has amassed on 28 tackles, but with McDonald graduating, the stage had been set for Wright to make himself a starter. Then Su’a Cravens came to USC a semester early, and Wright saw his position threatened. Even going into the spring game, the coaches made it clear to Wright that if he wanted to start he had to earn it, and they demoted him to second-string right before the game. The safety responded to the message in a big way: he had three tackles (one for loss) and two interceptions. He stood out to the coaches, and Kiffin even had him in consideration for player of the game. Wright ended his spring on a high now, and will continue to make a case for himself this fall, when Cravens returns. The Trojan secondary has often been a headache for USC, and Wright needs to continue to show the coaches that he will not be a source of them.
No. 3: Anthony Sarao
Anthony Sarao quietly made an impact for USC in 2012, recording 40 tackles as a backup linebacker. For his efforts, the coaches often ran him with the starters this spring, ahead of former starting linebacker Lamar Dawson, who underwhelmed much of last season. To his credit, Dawson made up for it this spring; Kiffin often lauded him as the most improved player this offseason, and named him the MVP of practice on more than one occasion. Sarao capitalized on Dawson’s struggles, and now finds himself outright battling with Dawson to start at the Will linebacker position in defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s new 5-2 scheme. Expect Sarao to work tirelessly in the fall to earn that starting spot, and to perform at a high level when called upon on Saturdays.
No. 2: Jaheel Pinner
USC hasn’t had a strong, reliable fullback presence since Stanley Havili left three seasons ago, and the offense has suffered for the lack of it. Soma Vainuku showed in the 2012 season that he has a serious case of the drops, and that beyond blocking, he couldn’t be relied upon for much. The Trojans find themselves without a definitive starter at this position for 2013, but Pinner is steadily proving that he could be the man for the job. Now a sophomore, he has a year of experience under his belt and looked a lot more comfortable with his role in the offense this spring. He has even shown that he has pretty good hands, adding a dimension back to the position that has been sorely missed.
No. 1: Justin Davis
The player that has had the most significant spring camp this year has to be, without question, Justin Davis. This freshman running back entered a crowded corps packed with experienced players like Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan, and has made such an early impact that his name is being tossed around as a possible starter. It helped that both Redd and Morgan sat out most of the spring because of injuries, but even before then, Davis showed that he can pound it up the middle with the best of them and that he doesn’t shy away from a little bit of contact. Furthermore, aside from wide receiver Marqise Lee, Davis probably has the best hands of any offensive player. He holds on to the ball, and this is something that we know Lane Kiffin values more than anything. Davis will likely compete with Redd in the fall camp for the No. 1 RB spot, but even if he doesn’t become THE starter, this duo will certainly compliment each other well.