USC begins its 2013 football campaign in just under four months as a team with new faces in the huddle, new coaches on the sidelines, and new schemes on the field.
While we are well acquainted will some of players that return with the promise of dazzling us all once again, there are a few troops in the ranks of Troy that deserve a little face time before the season rolls around. And you’ll want to get to know them now; once these guys are given the spotlight, expect them to hold on to it.
5. WR Steven Mitchell
With Robert Woods having departed Troy for the NFL, a competition has opened up for receptions that aren’t targeted for phenom Marqise Lee. While it’s largely expected that Nelson Agholor will fill the role left by Robert Woods, expect Mitchell to compete. Despite being slightly undersized, Mitchell has the ability to get down the field quickly and to create space for himself. He can even hurdle defenders. Much like Lee, Mitchell can cause all sorts of match-up nightmares for opposing defenses in open space and gives the Trojans another home run threat that could be comparable to a Ronald Johnson.
4. TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
JCF found himself with an increase in responsibility this spring when starting tight ends Xavier Grimble (fractured chest) and Randall Telfer (knee) exited spring camp with injuries. If utilized, the Grimble-Telfer tight end duo could be one of the strongest in college football, so being without them this spring was quite worrisome for Lane Kiffin and Clay Helton. But Cope-Fitzpatrick stepped up, shouldered the weight of being the starting tight end for the latter weeks of camp, and showed the coaches that he is ready for more responsibility in 2013. Currently listed at 248 pounds, the sophomore displayed improved blocking skills as well as soft hands in the passing game. Telfer and Grimble should be back and ready to go come August, but should either be unavailable–or if Kiffin wants to add another weapon to his offense–Cope-Fitzpatrick could be an impact player this fall.
3. WR Darreus Rogers
As with Mitchell, Rogers is another wideout looking to earn a spot in the starting rotation, especially after having had a delayed start to his career at USC. He signed with the Trojans in 2012 but was not cleared by the NCAA in time to participate in the fall. In December, he got to practice with the team before their Sun Bowl appearance, and Kiffin really liked what he saw then. Now, he’s at USC and participated in spring ball, and you could say that he has the best hands on the team. With the Trojans needing a possession receiver to take over for the loss of Robert Woods, don’t be surprised if Rogers gets his reps as a split end, as he plays with the control of Windrell Hayes and Keary Colbert.
2. DL Kenny Bigelow
Of the incoming freshmen that participated in spring ball, five-star defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow was one of the top performers. He got moved to nose tackle and after having a bit of a slow start in the transition, he started to flourish in his new role. In one of USC’s spring scrimmages, he recorded a pair of sacks, one of which Kiffin described as a “coming-out play” for the freshman. His ability to plug up the middle will be something to pay close attention to as USC employs its new scheme for the first time.
1. RB Justin Davis
Davis has easily been the most dynamic Trojan through this spring, and the one who has come in and made the most of his time as an early enrollee. Before camp even ended–and before Silas Redd was sidelined with a knee injury–Kiffin remarked to the media that the freshman could be the No. 1 tailback this fall. He is sleak yet physical back, who thrives as an upright runner, allowing him to get downhill quickly. At the very least, he will be a solid compliment to Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan, as David is more of a combo-back to Redd’s physical running style and Morgan’s speed.