The Trojans have battled a fair share of injuries throughout the early portion of Fall Camp. The biggest name on the list is Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner who is sidelined with a day-to-day shoulder bone bruise now moving towards his fifth day on the shelf.
“Marqise’s game is a little bit off right now,” said Lane Kiffin. “He’s still got to get a lot of work. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not relying on his athletic ability to take over, and that we are still putting him in a lot of situations so that he can continue to improve as a receiver as he goes into his third year here.”
In the Trojans most recent practice featuring 19 injured players, any immediate contribution would be welcomed given the amount of repetitions available for the taking. Here are some of the main strengths and weaknesses each of the Trojans’ main receiving options have presented thus far through camp.
Game-Changing Talent: Nelson Agholor
“We got some of the best receivers in the Pac-12 and Nelson is super fast and speedy,” said cornerback and fierce competitor Kevon Seymour. Agholor presents a unique skill set for the Trojans, with an incredible burst on the deep route combined with sharp route-running talents that rival the likes of professional slot receivers.
Consistent Playmaker: Darreus Rogers
“Rogers catches almost everything that comes his way,” according to quarterback Max Wittek. ”I never have to worry when the ball is coming his way, I just throw it up and let him fly.” Rogers has risen up the depth chart for the Trojans following as impressive a two-week stint as any. For his efforts, the lengthy receiver currently sits at No. 3 on the depth chart and is poised to make a serious impact this season.
Mr. Persistant: Victory Blackwell
“I see that Blackwell gets so fired up when I throw him the rock,” said his high school teammate Wittek. “He continues to get better by paying more attention to detail, which is exciting to see.” Blackwell is a high-effort receiver who can sometimes run himself into trouble by losing concentration.
Smooth Route Runner: De’Von Flournoy
Flournoy is a route-running magician who prides himself on breaking in and out of cuts with absolute precision. Best known for those hips that don’t lie, Flournoy has shined in red zone situations, making elusive cuts and strong movements in tight spaces. What will make Flournoy truly special is an increased attention to detail, allowing the Trojans more flexibility with his positioning in the offense.
Walk-On Monster: Robby Kolanz
“A lot of guys don’t expect him to do well out there, but he has a lot of talent and catches damn near everything that comes his way,” says Wittek. Kolanz caught the eye of every Trojan at practice, earning MVP honors from Tuesday following an outstanding performance. While not flashy, Kolanz has a great set of hands which will help him succeed in the offense.
Walk-On Wildcard: Aaron Minor
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, freshman Aaron Minor has the physical tools to possibly become the Trojans next Dwayne Jarrett. Already making some sensational catches with the scout team in Fall Camp, Minor has caught the eye of the national media as an up-and-coming player in the receiving corps.
Final Note: Safety in Numbers
While the Trojans may be shorthanded in practice, receivers continue to emerge from the ranks, giving quarterbacks plenty of options to catch the rock. With the top receivers out, the rest of the corps has stepped up to show not only what they can do, but also to give the young quarterbacks valuable target practice.
“You do take those players for granted,” said quarterback Wittek about losing the top tier of players during practice. “When you have guys like Nelson, Lee, D-Flo, Vic, Darreus, who can stop on a dime and go 90 yards for the score, its pretty special.”
Despite the current lack of depth at the wide receiver position due to injury, the Trojan quarterbacks continue to play turnover-free football this Fall Camp.
While playing right into the script laid out by Kiffin, all three of the Trojans quarterbacks embrace the challenge of playing with the next talented guy in line. “When they are out, it forces us quarterbacks to be more focused with the ball,” said Wittek about losing weapons. “It really pushes us to really stride and make better decisions in practice.”
Kiffin has noted thathe believes all five of USC’s scholarship receivers will receive playing time this season, and if that ultimately comes to fruition, opposing defenses will be hard pressed to shut down the Trojans diverse arsenal of aerial threats.