USC football doesn’t have the kind of wide receiver depth you’d expect to see from an Air Raid offense. That’s all the more reason to utilize the running backs and tight ends.
Considering the strength of USC football’s wide receiver corps, it’s somewhat jarring to think about the knife’s edge the Trojans are currently sitting on.
They have very good receivers. They don’t have a lot of them.
Let’s put this in perspective: If USC wants to list four separate receiver positions on their depth chart for 2020, scholarship players could only fill a two-deep.
That’s right, the Trojans have just eight healthy scholarship receivers on the roster with Kyle Ford out for the season with a knee injury. One of those, Munir McClain, is indefinitely suspended and may not be available at all. Two are true freshmen who have never played a down of college football.
Granted, there are a lot of coaches out there who cut off their right arm to have Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Drake London and Bru McCoy at their disposal. USC wouldn’t trade them for the world, that’s for sure.
The Trojan coaches will have to get creative with the rest of their offensive playmakers to compensate for the lack of depth though.
USC football’s WR depth will make RBs and TEs more important
Anyone who wants to see USC get the most out of their running backs and tight ends should be perking up at this discussion. Those positions stand to benefit greatly from being in an Air Raid offense that doesn’t have the bodies to go four or five wide all the time.
It helps that USC has more running backs than they can possibly feed under normal circumstances.
Clay Helton himself discussed the idea of two-back sets as a way to ensure Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, Markese Stepp and Kenan Christon can thrive in the offense together.
Two back sets featuring Malepeai and Stepp as power hitters or Carr and Christon as explosive weapons could be devastatingly effective if deployed correctly. Carr and Christon could be especially valuable as pass catchers out of the backfield.
When they’re not fielding two running backs at the same time, USC will have extra reason to utilize their tight ends.
The Trojans leaned on tight end Erik Krommenhoek as a run blocker last year, but the obviousness of his involvement didn’t help him or the offense. Hopefully, new tight end coach John David Baker will have more creative ideas to get the TE involved.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell highlighted Jude Wolfe as a prospect that fits exactly what they want from the position: Someone who can stretch the field in the passing game while having the body type to block in the run game. If Wolfe can translate his ability from practice to games, the tight end could be just as important to the offense as a third or fourth wide receiver.
If there are injuries at wide receiver, running backs and tight ends will have to pick up the slack. Even if the WRs stay healthy, the RBs and TEs could still provide an extra challenge for opposing defenses to prepare for.
In a worst-case scenario, USC could think even further outside of the box. Brandon Pili at tight end anyone?