USC Football 2016 Preview: The Receivers Other Than JuJu

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. (7) celebrates scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. (7) celebrates scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With 89 catches and 30.8 percent of team pass targets, JuJu Smith-Schuster put together a dominant season last year. But USC football needs the other wide receivers to step up in 2016.

With the exception of All-American caliber wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC football has an inconsistent, revolving door at receiver.

Smith-Schuster is the alpha and will have no problem making plays, but unlike the days of former greats in Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Steve Smith, and Dwayne Jarrett, no one other receiver has proven they can threaten defenses to get 1,000 yards.

The imprint of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian’s offensive strategy of force-feedinghas crippled USC’s offense.

The championship Trojan teams of the Carroll Era had balance and could score on any play.

SEE MORE: 10 Best USC Wide Receivers Ever

The problem with this roster is that senior Darreus Rogers and redshirt junior Steven Mitchell must excel in their perspective roles for USC to succeed this year, with one of the toughest schedules in all of college football.

Who’s back: Isaac Whitney (RS SR), Darreus Rogers (SR), De’Quan Hampton (SR), Steven Mitchell (RS-JR), JuJu Smith-Schuster (JR), Deontay Burnett (SO)

Who’s gone: N/A

Who’s new: Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, Trevon Sidney, Velus Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe

Last Chance U

Rogers is a possession receiver with great hands, but he needs to come out of his final fall camp more consistently getting open and taking advantage of the single coverage looks he’ll get as defenses key on JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Despite only having 4.6 speed, Rogers should be a dominant red-zone threat and can keep drives alive on third down. That comes from finding soft spots in zones and becoming a trustworthy option for redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne.

Comeback routes, deep ins, posts, corners and fades should be some of the strongest branches in the Rogers route tree.

Mitchell on the other hand, has great agility and acceleration, but has only averaged 9.5 yards per catch in his career.

The coaching staff can’t just throw him bubble screens and expect defenses to respect him as an underneath or vertical threat.

READ MORE: Exploring the Curse of the Senior USC Receiver

If Mitchell could excel at slant, drag, seam and curl routes, USC’s offense would be much more efficient on third downs, when teams will blitz to keep Browne on the move and outside of the pocket.

Tee Martin has to help maximize him situationally and not just as a gimmicky fail safe for when the run is taken away.

The X-Factors

Deontay Burnett (SO): The former blue shirt receiver played admirably when his number was called last season, with 10 catches for 161 yards. He looks to be a solid option as a fourth or fifth receiver, lining up in the slot with value as a back up to Mitchell.

De’Quan Hampton (SR): The 6-foot-4 receiver can stretch the field and take on a red zone threat role. If Browne can spread the ball around more, Hampton can take advantage of single coverage and in jump ball situations.

Isaac Whitney (RS SR): If Whitney is fully healed from a broken collarbone that sidelined him for the latter part of the season then he’d be the top contender for that fourth receiver spot. A 6-foot-3 receiver with legitimate track speed, Whitney is a good target on streaks, seams, posts, corners, etc.

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With just these three receivers alone the Trojans can give defenses fits. This is a mature position group at the top, with three seniors an two juniors, including JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The Freshman Class

There’s always that one freshman who stands out among the rest and earns the respect of the coaches and upperclassman, so at least one of the talented athletes from USC’s 2016 recruiting class will get a shot.

RELATED: 5 USC Freshmen Who Could Start in 2016

Michael Pittman Jr, son of former Super Bowl-winning running back Michael Pittman, might have the best shot, due to his NFL bloodlines and a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame.

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Big receivers have historically done well at USC, and with a shift away from throwing to one receiver 100 times a season, someone will break through.

Imatorbhebhe could also turn some heads as a freshman, especially after having a 47-inch vertical to his credit.

Emergency and Gadget Receivers

Both Clay Helton and Adoree’ Jackson have said defense and special teams will be the priority for the insanely athletic junior,  as his NFL potential is much higher as a cornerback than receiver.

ALSO READ: One Surprising Reason Why Adoree’ Jackson Could Return in 2017

However, throwing him out as a decoy would force a defense to switch up its entire coverage if caught off guard.

Ajene Harris had proven his worth at receiver before being injured and missing the 2015 season, but is making a name for himself at defensive back this summer along with true freshmen Jack Jones and Keyshawn ‘Pie’ Young.

Former quarterback Jalen Greene is a trick play waiting to happen when used at receiver.