USC Football 2015: Previewing the Receivers


Despite the loss of last year’s top receiver, USC football projects to have an even stronger receiving unit in 2015 with increased depth and even more talent.

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Not many programs possess a knack for losing their main target, only to return the following season even stronger, yet the Trojans seem to have accomplished that very feat, many times over.

While the Trojan receiving corps would no doubt have been stronger with the return of Nelson Agholor, his departure, as well as the departure of George Farmer, to the NFL has created a potential opportunity of immense proportions in Troy.

What We Learned in Spring:

As the most experienced Trojan receiver, Darreus Rogers has shown an ability to fill in where needed, and now is primed to reap the rewards that his versatility suggests after securing a starting spot during the spring.

A momentum that began over the course of the final four games of 2014 has continued throughout the spring for redshirt sophomore Steven Mitchell. Stronger after having bulked up to 190 lbs since returning from injury, Mitchell has regained the electric burst that makes him a threat whenever he has the ball, and the confidence to use it.

USC football’s Steven Mitchell. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Consistently making play after electrifying play in practice, Mitchell adds an explosive dimension to an offense that when coupled with the surrounding pieces, make the Trojans a potential offensive juggernaut.

What Could Go Right:

True sophomore JuJu Smith returns, sliding into the role of No. 1 receiver, to lead a deep and talented bunch.

A 123-yard effort in the season opener cemented his status in the rotation, while also placing him at the top of the Trojan record books, eclipsing the previous true freshman mark.

A significant jump in production from the 54 catches, 723 yards and five touchdowns of last year is expected in year two for the sophomore as Kessler’s top target.

True sophomore triple-threat player Adoree’ Jackson also returns, providing a boost the likes of which no other team possesses. A much bigger role on the offensive end is in store for Jackson, who last season contributed three touchdowns while starting at cornerback for the Trojans. With a careful monitoring of his workload, Jackson could become a Heisman-level weapon.

Stellar recruiting carried over from the previous regimes to the current, even picking up steam, providing the Trojans with the type of versatility in the passing game that has been lacking in recent years.

In JC transfers Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton, the Trojans now possess the type of big targets that can go across the field or make jump ball catches in the end zone, with an equal aplomb for stretching defenses.

The Trojan receiving core has quietly become one of the deepest in the nation. If the unproven commodities can deliver on expectations, it will also be one of the countries most deadly.

What Could Go Wrong:

Those unproven commodities could fail to deliver.

Rogers proved unreliable in 2014. Now a starter, the receiver has even more pressure on his shoulders to contend with in 2015.

The same goes for Smith, who looks ready to take the next step, but still needs to prove he can assert himself as the primary target in the offense.

Mitchell, on the other hand, now has an injury history to contend with. If he goes down again, the Trojan receiving corps will lack a key weapon.

Though JC transfers are often expected to settle more quickly than incoming freshmen, USC doesn’t have to look that far back to find transfers who did not come on strong right away. Last year, Claude Pelon settled into a starting role but never quite met the hype.

USC does not need Whitney and Hampton to set the Pac-12 on fire right away, but they do need solid contributions from both right away. Any delays integrating them into the offense will hinder the Trojan offense.

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Projected Depth Chart:

  • SE: Darreus Rogers, De’Quan Hampton
  • SL: Steven Mitchell, Ajene Harris, Adoree’ Jackson
  • FL: JuJu Smith, Isaac Whitney

Overall Strength: 8/10

The 2015 Trojan receivers will hold the distinction of propelling this high-powered offense to the heights it has set for itself.

Whereas a season ago the Trojans were much more reliant on the power running of Buck Allen, now the passing game will take center stage.

Led by the true sophomore Smith, the young Trojan receivers are embracing this role, enjoying spirited practices against an aggressive defense in preparation for the season.

Still, there is much to prove among the receivers who must rise as individuals as well as a unit.