Though initial impressions made it seem that Isaac Whitney would be able to play through injury this week, interim head coach Clay Helton revealed Thursday that the receiver has been ruled out with a broken collarbone.
The injury is an unfortunate one to a receiving corps that is already thinned by injuries to starters Steven Mitchell and Darreus Rogers.
Mitchell sprained his ankle against Washington and will not be able to go against Notre Dame. Rogers, who missed the Washington game, has been battling to get back from a hamstring injury and will be a game-time decision.
Back up slot receiver Christian Tober is also out with injury.
The pressure is now on rotational players to step into bigger roles. Converted-quarterback Jalen Greene and raw true freshman Deontay Burnett will be called upon to fill in for Mitchell. There is also a possibility that running back Dominic Davis will get more time in the slot to cover the loss.
Whitney’s injury could open the door for fellow JUCO transfer De’Quan Hampton to have an impact for the first time this season. He has just two receptions for 35 yards in limited action this season.
This could also be an opportunity to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game. Though Taylor McNamara has been used as a red zone option, USC’s tight ends have accounted for eight total receptions this season.
Meanwhile, the debate will rage as to how often and where to play three-way start Adoree’ Jackson. The cornerback-receiver participated in 94 plays on offense and defense versus Washington, but said after practice Wednesday that he wants to do even more.
If this all sounds familiar, it could be because the Trojans faced similar dilemmas in 2013 after firing their head coach midseason. Despite being decimated by injuries in the weeks following Lane Kiffin’s departure, USC was able to finish the season with a 8-2 record.
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