USC Football: Trojan DBs Talk New-Look Receiving Corps


Wide receiver was viewed as a question mark for USC football, after the departures of Nelson Agholor and George Farmer to the NFL following last season. After spring practice and now in fall camp, however, the corps has quite a bit of hype surrounding them.

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So, who better to ask than the guys who have to cover them regularly to see just how explosive this group can be for this upcoming season. Yes, I’m talking about USC’s defensive backs.

The 6-foot Agholor and 6-foot-1 Farmer combined for 129 of the 228 catches that USC wideouts had last season. In fact, only 11 of those aforementioned catches came from receivers shorter than six feet.

USC didn’t really utilize a true slot receiver last season, which is why the Trojans had Agholor often switch between slot and the outside. Things will be different this season.

Steven Mitchell Jr., at 5-foot-10, has looked outstanding since spring practice, and many feel that he is the team’s breakout candidate on offense.

USC can also line up 5-foot-11 Adoree’ Jackson in a plethora of different spots on the field when they decide to use him on offense, including the slot position. Don’t discount 5-foot-8 Christian Tober either.

“We do have smaller, quicker guys,” cornerback Ryan Dillard said. “I think our playbook is designed to set them up to get in scoring position and make those quick choices.”

Six-foot-2 JuJu Smith-Schuster was the tallest wide receiver the Trojans had last year. He is well-positioned to be the No. 1 option in the passing attack this season, but he’ll no longer be the biggest target. That title would belong to 6-foot-4 junior college transfer De’Quan Hampton, with fellow transfer Isaac Whitney just coming up short for the honor at 6-foot-3.

“We got a mix,” cornerback Kevon Seymour said. “We got big bodies and small, shifty guys, so it’s going to be a good look for us.”

Mar 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Steven Mitchell (7) at spring practice at Cromwell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

So how tough has it been to cover this array of weapons?

“When you got guys like JuJu Smith and Steven Mitchell stepping into their own, maturing as players and getting better each day, it’s much harder to cover them,” safety Chris Hawkins said.

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“I go against Isaac Whitney, JuJu, those are two outside receivers and big guys,” Adoree’ Jackson said. “When I get in the nickel, I stick Steven Mitchell and Christian Tober. They all give me different looks, and it’s a tough challenge. But those guys have helped me progress as a DB.”

A big reason why the wide receivers have looked so explosive is simply because of how of them now have experience of playing in Steve Sarkisian’s uptempo offense.

Last year, you can definitely tell there was a steeper learning curve than anticipated as Sark introduced his new offensive system. While guys like Whitney and Hampton still have to become more acclimated, guys like Smith-Schuster, Mitchell Jr. and Darreus Rogers have a year under their belt in the scheme.

“We were explosive last year, it was just everybody getting used to the system,” Jackson said. “I think we’re going to have the same explosiveness, but this time with everyone being more comfortable in the system.”

“We got more guys, we have more receivers coming in,” Seymour said. “We have the same tempo from last year, but the guys are going to be used to it, so it’s going to run faster.”

USC has had a receiver eclipse the 100-catch mark in three of the past four years. With how many options the Trojans can rely on, there is definitely a chance that mark will not be reached this season.

“The ball has been more spread out this year,” Hawkins said. “There’s a bunch of playmakers that we can give the ball to. The distribution of the ball is much different than last year. There are a lot of playmakers on this team, multiple guys can get it done.”

While depth has been a word that has summarized some of USC’s problems recently, this receiving corps has potential to be the best position group on the team. And a big reason why the Trojans can be more explosive on offense this season.

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