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Tight Ends and Backfield Taking Load off USC Receiving Corp

With most attention from opposing defenses still on Bilentnikoff Award Winner Marquise Lee and the rest of the USC wide receivers, expect a different group of Trojan downfield targets to fly under the radar and into the end zone every week.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Coming into last week's Boston College game, most of the attention from the quarterbacks was still reserved for guys like Marquise Lee, Nelson Agholor, De'von Flournoy and Darreus Rogers on the outside.

But Cody Kessler demonstrated his ability to distribute touches amongst his many weapons against the Golden Eagles, and opposing pass defenses, beginning with Utah State, will have to start game planning for a slew of options downfield.

The Trojan backfield and tight ends caught a total of nine passes on Saturday against the porous Boston College defense. The tight end tandem of Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble, both fourth year juniors, combined for four catches and 40 receiving yards. Full backs Jahleel Pinner (11 yards) and Soma Vainuku (14 yards) both caught a pass out of the backfield, while running back Tre Madden racked in three receptions, including the first touchdown of the afternoon on a play-action out route.

With names like Fred Davis, Rhett Ellison and Stanley Havili coming to mind at the thought of great Trojan tight ends or full backs in the NFL, guys like Grimble, Telfer, Pinner and Vainuku could all majorly bump up their draft stock if they show they can catch in addition to block. For Madden, he too can bump his stock if he shows he can run with the ball as well off of flat routes and screen passes as he does from hand offs and pitches.

The dynamic duo of Telfer and Grimble is the biggest threat of the non-receiving group for this team, and we mean that literally. Both weigh in at 250 lbs and Telfer is listed as 6-foot-4, while Grimble measures in just an inch taller.

The two are eligible to enter the draft at the end of the season, and their quarterback believes that both of them could already make it in the League.

"In my opinion, Xavier and Randall are two NFL tight ends, already, still in college," Kessler told the LA Times this summer.

But the fact remains these NFL-ready TE’s must continue to get involved in the Trojans recently-efficient passing attack.

Neither were really utilized as much as possible last year with both Lee and Robert Woods leading the receivers. Lee and Woods combined for 196 of the team's 284 receptions last season, about 68% of the team's catches.

But with Woods playing for the Buffalo Bills and more and more defenses learning how to cover Lee, other targets will have to step up in the coming weeks.

After watching Telfer and Grimble find some openings and luckily the rock against Boston College, look for these threats to be leading the charge downfield for Kessler. With half as many players competing for the quarterback job and twice as many options for the quarterback to find, the offense may finally start matching feet with the already powerhouse defense on the Trojan sideline.