What Does Losing Ajene Harris Mean for USC Football in 2015


Sophomore wide receiver Ajene Harris is expected to miss USC football’s 2015 season after reportedly undergoing surgery this offseason. Where does that leave the Trojans?

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TrojanSports.com reported the sophomore’s hip surgeries Tuesday, procedures that will likely keep him out for the entire fall.

Harris only had four catches for 38 yards in 2014 as he struggled with hamstring problems for much of the season. However, he made enough of an impression in fall camp as a freshman to earn starting consideration by the opener against Fresno State.

Ultimately, he made his first and only start against Oregon State, catching three passes for 30 yards.

Though his impact on last season was limited, Harris was still expected to be a valuable contributor in the USC offense in 2015 if healthy.

Losing Harris may not rise to the level of crisis that losing JuJu Smith or even Steven Mitchell would, since Harris would have entered fall camp as a back up.

Having said that, Harris’ lack of availability highlights the troubles the Trojans could face when developing their offense this year.

Apr 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California quarterback Jalen Greene (10) walks off the field during the Southern California Spring Game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Many have projected USC to have a more dangerous receiving corps despite the departure of leading receiver Nelson Agholor and contributing players like George Farmer and Bryce Dixon. That is because the likes of Steven Mitchell and Harris, alongside junior college transfers Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton, were expected to provide more numerous targets for Cody Kessler.

That largely unproven rotation is now one athlete light, with no guarantees about the level of contribution which will be delivered by the rest.

Harris was hardly a proven commodity, but the pool of potential play-makers for the Trojans was larger and more varied with him in the mix.

Steve Sarkisian does have options to fill the gap.

Redshirt freshman Jalen Greene will reportedly trade in his yellow quarterback jersey to become a receiver this fall. He now looks like a ready-made replacement for the unique skill set Harris brought to the unit as a former high school quarterback.

In fact, Harris threw a touchdown pass to JuJu Smith on a trick play which was called back due to a penalty during USC’s spring game in April. Greene could no doubt fill that role if Sarkisian chooses to employ similar tricky tactics during the season.

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Incoming freshman running back Dominic Davis could also work his way into the mix as an all-purpose option. Though USC’s running back situation is thin, Davis looks more likely to earn playing time by inserting himself into the passing offense.

Three-way star Adoree’ Jackson already appeared set to feature in some capacity on offense and Harris’ absence could toss more potential touches his way. Afterall, Jackson and Harris were listed as co-back ups to Steven Mitchell in the slot in Sarkisian’s post-spring depth chart.

The question is whether the coaching staff has already decided on the level of Jackson’s offensive involvement and if the loss of Harris will result in a reevaluation of that level. Though there are other players around to pick up the slack, Jackson stands as the most enticing of the bunch.