Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football Preview 2013: Tight Ends

Practice may be closed to media and fans during the regular season, but that does not mean we will stop giving Trojan faithful an inside look at all things USC Football.

Following a trip down memory lane with the hogs to kick off our offensive preview, we switch gears to the Tight Ends position, one of depth and under-appreciated value in recent years.

In the midst of final preparation for Fall Camp, let’s take a look at a position that definitely will be discussed at length this upcoming season. The Trojans will be lead by dual-returning starters Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer.

INITIAL THOUGHTS FROM KIFFIN:

“Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer are exceptional tight ends. They can block, they can catch, they are very coachable and they do all the little things well,” said Kiffin.

This dynamic duo have been highly sought after since high school. Promising campaigns last season and a change in offensive scheme have placed both starters on the John Mackey Award Watch List, highlighting the nation’s best tight ends.

QUICK 2012 RECAP:

Last season Grimble (29 receptions, 316 yards, 10.9 average, 5 TDs in 2012) and Telfer (12 receptions, 100 yards, 8.3 average, 4 TD plus 1 BLK FG last year) put up tremendous averages when given the football. The seemingly identical prospects in terms of size, production and versatility bring a great set of skills to the field, including blocking at the line of scrimmage, and vertical ability in the red zone.

Over the course of their careers, both players have combined for 18 TDs while at USC. In his best statistical game last season, Telfer caught three passes for 26 yards and a score in an injury-riddled junior year. Grimble played in every game last season, doubling his reception total from the previous year in 2011.

HEALTH ISSUES: 

Ranking third on the team in 2012 with 29 catches, the redshirt junior tight end Grimble had to sit out the last half of spring ball after suffering a stress fracture of his first rib. Much like his TE partner, Grimble has since looked rather productive in player-run practices.

Life on the football field has been rather fulfilling for Telfer. His efforts were rewarded with the players’ choice for the Bob Chandler Award last season, honoring the underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character.

In terms of on the field production, Telfer is recovering rather nicely from surgery on his torn meniscus but will most likely be limited in the early portion of Fall Camp as more of a precautionary move than anything else.

With the medical retirement of Christian Thomas this past March, on top of Junior Pomee’s removal from the team due to some off-the-field troubles, the Trojans will need their third scholarship player to remain a healthy and productive option waiting in the wing.

HELP ON THE WAY:

Sophomore Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (2 receptions, 12 yards, 6.0 average in 2012) adds young talent to the tight end corps. The Trojans are thin at the position, having only three scholarship players, making health vital for the 2013-2014 season.

October 4, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Southern California Trojans tight end Randall Telfer (82) gains control of the ball to score a touchdown during the first half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Currently at 248 pounds heading into fall, Cope-Fitzpatrick has gone through a physical transformation appearing bigger, stronger and more agile than two years prior. Following an impressive performance in the Spring Game and solid strength workouts this summer, the third-string tight end is rapidly gaining confidence in himself as fall camp approaches.

OUTLOOK: Following a rather quiet campaign last season, production from either of the Trojans’ starting tight ends will be vastly sought after this fall. Both returning starters will receive an equal opportunity to hit the field due to their complimentary skill sets.

That being said, the physical Cope-Fitzpatrick will receive some playing time in third-and-short situations, due to his large frame and soft hands.

All three signal callers for the Trojans have talked about the importance of finding their security blankets down the middle. These opportunities for play-action situations will certainly open up the field for the Trojans pass-catching tandem. Something fans have not witnessed since Fred Davis’ Mackey Award-winning campaign back in 2007.

Tags: Fall Camp Football Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick Randall Telfer USC Trojans Xavier Grimble

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