USC football has tons of depth at tight end for 2021. Do they have the scheme or personnel to revive the unit?
Veterans return, promising prospects keep coming, yet the Trojans don't seem to know what to do with the position.
Sell USC's tight end unit until the Trojans prove their commitment
As of early February, veteran tight ends Erik Krommenhoek and Josh Falo are expected to come back for a fifth year of eligibility.
Krommenhoek has served as regular starter as the safe choice for the unit. He's not spectacular in any phase of the game, but he has been trusted to block while occasionally presenting a pass catching option.
Falo hasn't come close to living up to his former four-star billing whether because he trailed Krommenhoek in the blocking order or thanks to a series of injuries.
Jude Wolfe was supposed to provide a more all-around option for the position, but a back injury slowed him in 2019 and he was only able to play in four games in 2020 before a foot injury ended his season.
Ethan Rae has yet to see the field for the Trojans while dealing with his own injury woes.
Ideally, that group of four would be more than enough to fill the tight end role. Unfortunately, the role itself is so flawed, you have to wonder if even Rob Gronkowski would look subpar doing it.
With Drake London offering an interior mismatch in the Y receiver role, the Trojans have used the tight ends primarily inline as an extra blocker or in the backfield as an H-back. They've been eaten alive there. Telegraphed run plays and being outmatched by defensive ends hasn't helped their case.
Special teams gurus, ex-wide receivers and ex-quarterbacks have been responsible for coaching the position in recent years. An emphasis on the blocking side of the role definitely hasn't panned out. In 2020, another former QB Seth Doege will take over the unit.
Doege has a bright future planned for incoming freshman Michael Trigg. The two-sport talent is designed to be London 2.0 -- a pass-catching threat for the Y receiver role who also has the size and power to function as blocker beside the tackle. USC fans will have to hope he pans out in that role better than Falo, who was also supposed to serve that kind of purpose.
If this all sounds pessimistic, it can't be helped. Every year the Trojans talk about getting more out of the tight ends. And each year the tight ends end up being the lowest-rated unit in Pro Football Focus evaluations, not to mention the simple eye test. When all of your TEs have the same issues, it's a coaching and/or scheme problem.
Perhaps new offensive line coach Clay McGuire will install better pass and run blocking schemes to benefit the tight ends. It would be great to see Krommenhoek or Wolfe put in a position to succeed for once.
Seeing is believing on this one.