USC football 2019 preview: Tight ends to be more involved, hopefully

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

USC football has intriguing athletes to utilize at tight end, with a new offense looking to get more out of the position than in years past.

BEST OF USC. Top 15 WRs Ever

What can USC football fans expect to see from the tight end unit in 2019?

It’s anyone’s guess.

CHECK OUT: Christian Rector is a three-star success in the world of five-stars

The tight ends appear to have a role in the new offense, but it may be wait-and-see for a small, but intriguing group.

Who’s back:

Josh Falo (Jr.)Erik Krommenhoek (Jr.)

Who’s gone:

Daniel ImatorbhebheTyler Petite

Who’s new:

Jude Wolfe (Fr.)Ethan Rae (Fr.)

No Imatorbhebhe, no problem?

USC finally has some clarity when it comes to the personnel that will be available in 2019. Daniel Imatorbhebhe won’t be included after being left off the Trojans recently released roster.

Thus ends the injury saga to rival all injury sagas, with Imatorbhebhe out or limited for the better part of the last two seasons after his breakout stretch in 2016.

Not having Imatorbhebhe’s talent to deploy is a blow. But USC will know they can’t plan around having him in the attack this time around.

Players to lean on instead include Josh Falo and Erik Krommenhoek, who present two unique styles. Falo is the pass-catching threat with serious athletic ability. Krommenhoek brings less flash to the table, but more all-around reliability. He has a better frame for blocking and can hold his own in the passing game.

Newcomers Jude Wolfe and Ethan Rae may strike a similar balance. Wolfe already has college-level tight end size with athleticism forged on the basketball court.

ALL-FOE TEAM: USC’s most dangerous opponents in 2019

Rae is more of a wildcard, with an injury-plagued background coming out of high school. This fall, he will be rehabbing from a season-ending injury from 2018. His involvement as a freshman is in doubt. When he is healthy though, he can bring solid blocking and intriguing measurables to the table as a receiving option.

Is there enough ball to go around?

When USC hired Graham Harrell with the intent to implement the Air Raid, the fate of the tight ends was rightly questioned. Fortunately for the unit, Spring Camp gave hints that the position won’t be forgotten in the new offense.

More from Reign of Troy

Even though bodies were limited, particularly after Wolfe went out injured, Falo and Krommenhoek were regularly featured in the Trojan’s base offense. They were also targeted frequently in the redzone and around the goal line.

Harrell’s willingness to use the run if the defense opens the door for it could itself indicate the need to keep a tight end on the field for the sake of the ground attack as well.

Need more reasons for optimism? Opposing defenses will be loathe to ignore USC’s talented wide receiver corps. The more attention paid to those stars, the more incentive the Trojans will have to swing the ball to the athletes on the field who won’t have defensive gameplans built around them.

For what it’s worth, USC’s 2019 media guide included this line: “Under Harrell’s system, expect thetight ends to be more involved in the passing attack.”

Even so, Falo, Krommenhoek and company will have to make the most of every snap they get. At North Texas, the most a tight end gained under Harrell was 268 yards on 29 catches.

Luck be a tight end

Injuries haven’t been kind to the tight end position in recent years, but USC could use a little luck in that department in 2019.

Spring Camp was a lesson in just how quickly the unit could be made irrelevant by lack of availability. The addition of three new walk-on tight ends could help alleviate some of USC’s potential issues when it comes to practice bodies. It may not do much to keep the position involved if things take a turn for the worst.

MORE PREVIEWS: Defensive line holds key to success in 2019

With just four scholarship tight ends going into Fall Camp, one injury would be a problem. Two injuries would be a disaster. A third would be all the incentive Harrell might need to go all in on his receiving corps with four-wide receiver sets.