Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The Trojans’ offense is filled with breakout prospects, alongside the bevy of big-name talent returning to the squad this season. Yet in the midst of it all, one major position feels left out of the loop in the latter portions of Fall Camp at USC.
“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,” Lane Kiffin said. “We need to continue to find ways to keep them involved in our offense.”
Going back a few days to the second fall camp scrimmage from the Coliseum, the Trojans’ trio of tight ends Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick all combined for one single reception totaling 12 yards in 68 total plays from scrimmage last Friday.
“We can’t really throw the ball to ourselves, but I feel that as the year goes on we are going to game plan and hopefully we can be big threats down the middle,” said Cope-Fitzpatrick, the sophomore tight end looking to make major contributions to the offense this season.
After emerging as major options during USC’s play-action installation period, the tight ends have fallen off the mat in the last week. Obviously Fall Camp is filled with plenty of ebbs and flows, and some of that is just out of the hands of the players at this position.
Plenty of big-name factors like the return of Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers to the receiving corps have altered production. That being said, a need for sustained contribution all over the field will only continue to help this offense moving forward, something everyone on the team seems to understand.
“I am always hard on myself. I feel like I haven’t real done a whole lot yet,” said Grimble about fulfilling his potential. “I think you guys are going to see a lot more from me.”
Not only did the Fall Camp scrimmage speak to this concern, but the type of motion packages and flanking options have given the offense a different look this past week. The consistency of using the tight ends as targets continues to vary but going back to last season, we saw a one-dimensional offense that often overlooked its biggest and some of its most reliable options.
Playing alongside the likes of preseason Mackey Award watch list tight ends Telfer and Grimble, the youngest of the bunch describes his role in the offense best. “If you don’t use it, you loose it,” Cope-Fitzpatrick said last week. “So catching the ball is one of my favorite aspects of the game.”
Lane Kiffin has stressed the importance of playing mistake-free football this Fall, and one of the easiest ways to alleviate pressure for a starting quarterback is by dumping off passes to your tight end. Luckily Grimble (the deep-play option), Telfer (the quicker route runner) and Cope Fitzpatrick (the utility man) give the Trojans plenty of options over the middle.
It is on Kiffin and the starting quarterback however, to use them.