Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman should make USC’s quarterback better

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

While USC is trying to sort out the starting QB job, the Trojans have receivers in Tyler Vaugns and Michael Pittman who should make the passer better.

It’s completely valid to point out the potential trouble spots for USC’s offense in 2018. The Trojans have lost their All-Pac-12 first team quarterback, Sam Darnold, running back, Ronald Jones II, and receiver, Deontay Burnett.

At the same time, focusing in on what the Trojans lost (and how they’ve struggled to replace Darnold in particular) can also mean losing sight of what the Trojans didn’t lose coming into the 2018 season.

Two of the more critical pieces who return to bolster USC’s offense this season are Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman.

On Thursday, Pro Football Focus drew attention to the two receivers and what they bring to the table:

When targeting Vaughns and Pittman last year, Darnold boasted a passer rating of 107. That’s eight points better than his rating of 99.2 on the year and also a full 16 points better than the national average.

Every program wants a quarterback who can stand on his own, but having a receiver who can make a quarterback better is a huge asset. USC has two.

What better way to shepherd the new Trojan quarterback into his first season as a starter than to give him twin towers on the outside to target. Whether it’s Matt Fink, Jack Sears or incoming freshman JT Daniels throwing the ball, USC’s passer should have two elite targets available to him on most plays.

Vaughn’s route tree diagram reveals his value on out and hitch routes, which were his bread and butter during Spring Camp.

The most encouraging thing about his place as USC’s second-leading receiver last year is how his 57 receptions for 809 yards and five touchdowns were achieved on relatively limited work. He started 10 of 14 games in 2017 and didn’t have his first 100-yard receiving game until halfway through. There should be far more where that came from.

Meanwhile, Pittman’s tree shows his ability as a downfield threat. At 6-foot-4, he’s a walking mismatch for opposing corners, so it’s no wonder his passer rating on go routes, i.e. longer attempts, is 40 points higher than the national average.

The only concern around Pittman going into his junior year is the amount of time he’s lost due to injury.

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The receiver suffered an unfortunate ankle injury just as the 2017 campaign was about to kickoff and that limited his impact in the opening month. He’s also dealt with reoccurring shoulder injuries, which kept him out or limited for a chunk of Spring Camp.

Vaughns appears ready to lead USC’s passing attack with Pittman likely to push him for the team receiving crown in 2018.

Having both of those targets healthy and producing should allow for some time for a new slot receiver to emerge, replacing Burnett. It should give the Trojans a sizable safety net for whichever quarterback earns the starting job.

SEE ALSO: Five Trojans who need to become superstars in 2018

It doesn’t matter who is throwing it to them, Vaughns and Pittman will go and get the ball.