Jalen Greene at Wide Receiver Gives USC Exciting Options


Given USC’s surplus of quarterbacks which continues to grow, it was no surprise when news dropped Monday that Jalen Greene will be moved to receiver for the 2015 season.

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The redshirt freshman looked like a dark horse candidate to see the field as a quarterback from the moment he committed and then enrolled in January of 2014.

Though he earned USC’s Offensive Service Team Player of the Year Award last year, it was clear from the outset of spring that Greene would not be Max Browne for the back up job and title as heir apparent to Cody Kessler. Looking forward, his chances of beating out incoming freshmen Ricky Town or Sam Darnold also looked slim.

Now, Greene has the opportunity to reboot his Trojan career as a receiver. More importantly, Steve Sarkisian’s offense adds yet another viable weapon for 2015.

Greene may not have been an exceptional passer as a quarterback, but as a receiver he offers well-above average passing ability. That is something Sarkisian could look to exploit.

During the spring game, the head coach dialed up a trick play which looks tailor made for a player of Greene’s skill set.

Max Browne hit Ajene Harris, a former high school quarterback, on a lateral pass and Harris hit JuJu Smith down the field for a touchdown. Greene could easily do the same.

Mar 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Jalen Greene (10) throws a pass at spring practice at Cromwell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That gives USC two players with the legitimate ability to take a routine swing pass and spice it up with trickeration. Defenses will either need to be prepared for that or be punished.

In that vein, both Greene and Harris can serve as decoys or actual targets.

Harris coming off the field does not signal the end of those concerns if Sarkisian can bring Greene on to replace him.

For the Trojans, the possibilities are endless. Endless possibilities on offense mean defenses have endless possibilities to consider, diagnose and then stop in a very short window. Mistakes will inevitably be made.

The key is deploying a potential gadget player like Greene the right way.

One of the frustrations of watching Tre Madden or Joe McKnight run the Wildcat was the knowledge that USC never intended to have their running backs actually attempt a pass. Defenses knew what was coming as a result.

Though Sarkisian did not employ the Wildcat in his first season, he has a perfect candidate to add that wrinkle if he wanted to in Greene.

It would not have to reek of a gadget play either. If Greene came in as a receiver regularly enough, the Trojans would be able to catch the defense off guard by shifting into a Wildcat-esque formation without taking the quarterback off the field based on a variety of factors.

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The element of surprise would remain well intact with trust in Greene’s ability to either complete a pass or carry the ball as a dynamic runner.

A few successful plays from Greene or Harris or preferably both would make opposing defensive coordinators jobs that much more difficult.

Greene may have wanted to give quarterback a shot, describing himself as a pass-first quarterback with exceptional mobility, but this move will certainly give him greater opportunity to use his abilities to their full extent.

As a quarterback, Greene’s ceiling was running the scout team and maybe earning a package play or two. As a receiver, he could become an important piece to help Sarkisian elevate the USC offense from good to outstanding.