New and veteran receivers will battle to replace Nelson Agholor when USC football kicks off spring camp on March 3.
Returning starters: JuJu Smith (So.), Darreus Rogers (Jr.)Returning players: Ajene Harris (So.), Steven Mitchell (So.*), George Katrib (Sr.),Adoree’ Jackson (So.)Newcomers: Isaac Whitney (EE-Jr.)Departures: Nelson Agholor (Jr.), George Farmer (Jr.*), Victor Blackwell (Jr*)
Nelson Agholor’s departure for the NFL, along with the loss of Victor Blackwell during the season and George Farmer in a surprise exit, has left the Trojan wide receiving corps surprisingly thin for the spring.
JuJu Smith returns for his sophomore season as the top man in the rotation after an excellent debut as the Agholor’s partner.
Four other returning Trojans will battle it out to be Smith’s partner in 2015.
Darreus Rogers, who was in and out of the starting line up last year, seems the most likely man to step into that role.
Consistency is Rogers’ most pressing concern. With too many lapses in concentration which resulted in drops, most notoriously against Utah, and a tendency to get lost in the shuffle, Rogers needs to spend the spring building a better connection with Cody Kessler.
Isaac Whitney, the junior college transfer who enrolled early, may provide the most intriguing prospect to watch and the greatest threat to Rogers’ aims.
Mar 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Steven Mitchell (7) at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Whitney already has two years of experience at the junior college level and is not expected to take long bedding in at USC. He is tall, athletic and reliable as a pass catcher. He will be behind in terms of scheme and understanding with the quarterbacks, but he could make up ground as camp goes on.
Ajene Harris and Steven Mitchell could provide a mini-battle of their own as they compete for the starting spot in the slot.
That they are a similar profile of player makes it hard to separate them. Both have missed time with injury — Mitchell with a season-ending injury which resulted in his redshirting and Harris with muscle concerns hampering him throughout 2014.
Mitchell ended the season just behind Agholor on the depth chart, while Harris did not catch a pass after the fourth game of the year, but the slate could be wiped clean with both healthy and ready to roll.
While the Adoree’ Jackson on offense situation is still murky, the distribution of his time between offense and defense is a definite storyline to watch this spring.
Battle to watch: Rogers vs. Whitney
Who has the most to gain? Whitney is not the only junior college transfer joining the Trojans in 2015. His similarly skilled counterpart De’Quan Hampton will enroll in the fall, giving Whitney the spring to gain separation.
Who has the most to lose? Rogers is the favorite to join Smith at the top of the receiving depth chart, which means his fall would be the farthest if he slips up this spring..
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