USC football spring preview: Tight ends need big bounce back

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

USC football’s tight ends were among the most disappointing performers in 2018. Spring Camp will be their first step towards a bounce back year.

Five Biggest Spring Battles. MORE

It was a trying 2018 for USC football’s tight ends. Whether as blockers or pass catchers, the position failed to live up to expectations, consistently struggling to impact the game in positive ways.

In 2019, a new offensive coordinator could be a blessing or a curse. The returning players and newcomers will either find new and better ways to contribute, or be lost in the shuffle.

Spring Camp will reveal whether or not the tight ends are still part of the plan on offense, and whether or not they deserve a role in the first place.

Roster Rundown

Departing (1):Tyler Petite

Returning (3):Daniel Imatorbhebhe (RS-Sr.)Josh Falo (Jr.)Erik Krommenhoek (Jr.)

Spring Enrollees (1):Jude Wolfe (Fr.)

Fall Enrollees (1):Ethan Rae (Fr.)

The tight end group will return plenty of familiar faces, but the most veteran fixture of USC’s tight end group, Tyler Petite, is graduating.

Daniel Imatorbhebhe didn’t see any action in 2018 after an injury-plagued 2017 and it’s still not clear if he will be available for Spring Camp or any further action in 2019.

That leaves Josh Falo and Erik Krommenhoek as the most dependable options at the position. Both will be juniors this coming season, though neither has reached the peak of their powers.

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Falo remains the best receiving target of the group and he could benefit the most from the introduction of Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense. If he wants that to ensure that happening, he will need to prove his worth this spring before plans for the fall are solidified.

Krommenhoek seems a natural successor to Petite with all-around ability as a blocker and capable pass catcher. His role was muted last season, so progression will be key. That’s especially true given the arrival of at least one talented addition this spring.

Jude Wolfe enrolled in January as a four-star prospect in USC’s recruiting class of 2019 and will have the chance to hit the ground running. It’s almost a certainty he will compete for playing time this spring, given the lack of established depth at the position.

Biggest Battle

Can Daniel Imatorbebhe best his injury problems this year? That’s the big question coming into Spring Camp.

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Head coach Clay Helton revealed on Signing Day that Imatorbhebhe is still limited to individual workouts because of the same groin/hip issue which kept him out in 2018.

If he is able to make it back onto the practice field this spring, it would be a huge encouragement for his involvement in the fall. If he is still held out, there is simply no counting on him ever getting back to the mouthwatering form he showed in 2016.

Player to Watch

Wolfe, above all the others, has a real chance to make a first impression this spring.

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He is an athlete who already boasts college-size at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Unlike many tight end prospects when they first arrive, his game is already reasonably well-rounded. He has solid blocking ability and bonafide playmaking chops as a receiver. If he can pick up the playbook and adjust to college life quickly enough, he has everything he needs to quickly contend for playing time.