No one really knows how the Bryce Dixon saga will end for USC, but rumors persist that the sophomore tight end has been dismissed from the team.
While the Trojans have yet to confirm Dixon’s status, maintaining that he remains on the roster while dealing with a “student-conduct issue,” there is more than enough smoke to see the fire laying just out of sight.
With that in mind, we asked the question: How much could Bryce Dixon’s absence affect USC for 2015?
Not having Bryce Dixon, whether it be for a week, all of spring camp or forever, is a pivotal loss for the Trojans.
He’s far and away the biggest playmaker at tight end on USC’s roster, with the most upside since perhaps Fred Davis. Going into this year with the return of Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and the addition of Tyler Petite, it looked like a good opportunity for Sarkisian to really get the tight ends more involved than last year, when he shied away due to not having any depth.
But without Dixon, the Trojans are back at two scholarship tight ends, meaning that either they’re going to go through yet another year of a diminshed role or someone is going to have to learn a new role.
Some have speculated that Soma Vainuku could be that guy as an H-back, a move that is long overdue in Sarkisian’s offense.
But honestly, I think this is what gives Sark the rationale for experimenting with both Osa Masina and Porter Gustin at tight end. He said they’d get their look there at the Signing Day press conference, and if Dixon is gone, then Masina’s experience on the offensive side of the ball is too much to pass up a serious look there.
He probably won’t be as effective on offense as he would at linebacker, but Sark’s hands could be tied here.
Bryce Dixon showed a lot of promise his freshman year at tight end, so it would be an unfortunate loss if he is not playing, no matter how long the duration is.
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
The tight end position is in a very peculiar spot at the moment, especially since Dixon is not a very traditional tight end. Just looking at the way he typically lines up, it’s no surprise that Dixon emerged more as a big receiver than his counterpart Randall Telfer, who was more involved in blocking.
I was expecting him to help out in the passing game more in the upcoming season to help a young receiving core make up for the loss of their number one receiver Nelson Agholor, but this would be a major setback if the rumors of him missing the entire season are true.
Jalen Cope Fitzpatrick showed flashes of great production while subbing in for Xavier Grimble in the 2013 season, so I am confident that the position will be taken care of, assuming that he can maintain his grades throughout the season.
Additionally, Sark’s offense does not depend as much on the tight end as Lane Kiffin’s pro style offense did, so I am sure that the coaches will find a way to make their personnel work with their playcalling. However, the size that he brings to the passing game will surely be missed.
Alicia de Artola:
As someone who is a big fan of getting the most out of the tight end position, the potential loss of Bryce Dixon is a tough pill to swallow.
Having said that, Sarkisian proved last season that the tight end does not need to be a featured weapon for the USC offense to find success.
While I will not go as far to say Dixon would have been a luxury in 2015, his absence is not one which will come close to crippling the Trojan attack.
USC added size and presence in receivers Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton. They should also see increased production from the likes of Steven Mitchell and Ajene Harris.
At tight end, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick can hold up the fort. Considering he is a more able blocker than Dixon, he likely would have been the more traditional choice for the position anyways.
Yes, losing Dixon will leave USC at a standstill when it comes to making the tight end a truly important impactful position as it has been in the past. Still, it is a loss USC can certainly deal with.
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