Tight ends Bryce Dixon and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick look to take the next step as they adapt to life after Randall Telfer when USC football kicks off spring camp on March 3.
Returning starters: NoneReturning players: Bryce Dixon (So.), Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Jr.*)Newcomers: NoneDepartures: Randall Telfer (Sr.*)
Just as it was last year, the tight end position will be among the thinnest for USC during spring camp.
On top of losing a long-time presence and mentor in Randall Telfer, the Trojans will also be without the services of walk-ons like Nathan Guertler, Chris Willson and Teddy Baker who have been invaluable fill-ins over the years.
With such senior players moving on, the responsibility falls to Bryce Dixon and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick to carry the torch going into the 2015 season.
Apr 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (88) during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For Dixon, spring is about progression.
During his true freshman season he showed flashes of what he could become, catching 14 passes for 128 yards and four touchdowns.
However, his blocking skills need honing if he wants to be a reliable starter at the position for the Trojans as a sophomore.
Cope-Fitzpatrick had a stand-out spring in 2014 but academics derailed what should have been his break out season and forced Dixon into a bigger role than he probably should have been given as a freshman.
This spring Cope-Fitzpatrick’s focus should be on making sure he remains eligible to participate this year. Still, a repeat performance of last spring would only help solidify his potential value to the unit.
Dixon may have the leg up, having played in Steve Sarkisian’s offense an entire season, but Cope-Fitzpatrick has the all-around game to make it a competition for the starting job.
Either way, USC can afford two solid options at tight end. As much as the two could be in competition this spring, there’s also the sense that the two could develop into a tag-team pair that strengthens the Trojan offense greatly.
Battle to watch: Dixon vs. Cope-Fitzpatrick
Who has the most to gain? Cope-Fitzpatrick lost a lot by having to sit out a year, but that just makes his return an even greater opportunity. It won’t be easy, but the redshirt junior could go from ineligible to starter this spring.
Who has the most to lose? Dixon did what was expected of him as a freshman and the natural progression would see him slide into Telfer’s vacated spot as a sophomore. Cope-Fitzpatrick’s challenge could delay that plan.
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