USC Football: Does transfer’s success mean the Trojans aren’t using the TE right?

USC football transfer Cary Angeline. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
USC football transfer Cary Angeline. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Is USC football using their tight ends enough? Cary Angeline’s success at NC State sparked debate.

If you’re on Twitter, chances are you’ve seen a stat about tight end production from Pro Football Focus. Former USC football tight end Cary Angeline was highlighted as one of the top Power 5 producers of catches for 20 or more yards.

Naturally, Trojan media and fans took note. Here’s an example of a promising player who transferred away from USC and has found more success elsewhere than the Trojans have managed with their own tight ends.

Is that a fair assessment of Angeline’s success or USC’s inability to get more out of the tight end position?

It’s a bit more complicated than it seems.

Is USC football utilizing their tight ends enough?

Here’s the thing about Cary Angeline’s numbers at NC State: They don’t say anything about USC’s production in the passing game.

There are a lot of people out there who want to see the tight end used more at USC, but it’s a bit narrow-sighted to insist that lack of a productive tight end is a flaw in the current offense.

Consider the overall productivity of USC’s passing game. The Trojans had two 1,000-yard receivers in 2019. Another receiver was 88 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark himself.

USC’s fourth-leading receiver, Drake London, had 39 catches for 567 yards and five touchdowns. Angeline was NC State’s fourth-leading receiver with 25 catches for 379 yards and five touchdowns.

Would anyone trade London for Angeline at this stage? (Nevermind that USC has included London in their tight end highlight packages and utilized him on many of the same routes a receiving tight end would supply. He simply doesn’t carry the TE designation.)

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Take nothing away from Angeline. He has found a place to make an impact. It’s good to see a former Trojan thrive in their second home.

Also take nothing away from USC’s current tight ends, who are doing the job that’s asked of them. Erik Krommenhoek’s 11 catches for 122 yards in 2019 were the least important aspect of his job, which has more to do with blocking than receiving.

It’s ok to hope for more from the likes of Josh Falo and USC’s more dynamic receiving options at tight end in 2020. However, receptions become a bit of a zero-sum game after awhile. When you’re looking to feed the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns and Bru McCoy, the tight end simply isn’t going to be a priority.

Yeah, it was different in 2007 when Fred Davis won the Mackey Award with 62 receptions for 881 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also USC’s primary offensive weapon when the likes of Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton and David Ausberry didn’t net more than 600 yards apiece.

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The bigger issue when it comes to Angeline is that USC let him go in the first place. A lack of communication resulted in the move. It’s a failure that fell at the feet of tight ends coach John Baxter. It never should have happened and Angeline should have had more reason to stick it out in Troy.

The personnel mishandling is the real concern, not the usage of tight ends in an offense that is otherwise productive.

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