Key Returners: Randall Telfer (Redshirt Sr.), Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Jr.)
Key Losses: Xavier Grimble (NFL)
Additions: Bryce Dixon (Fr.)
Sleepers: Chris Willson (Redshirt Sr.), Teddy Baker (Redshirt Sr.)
After being criminally underutilized during the Lane Kiffin regime, tight ends seem to be back in vogue at USC. Under Steve Sarkisian at UW, Austin Seferian-Jenkins blossomed into a Mackey Award winning, All-American tight end, rewriting the Huskies record books for the position in the process.
Following his move to Southern California, it appears Coach Sark is going to continue with his emphasis on the position in his no-huddle up-tempo offense. During spring practice the likely starter Telfer was out injured which gave Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick the opportunity to impress the new coaching staff.
Throughout the spring Cope-Fitzpatrick made play after play, developing a very promising connection with Cody Kessler. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Cope-Fitzpatrick is a match-up nightmare. He has both the size and speed to break away from defenders while at the same time possessing big strong hands to make the tough catch in traffic.
(Editors Note: From first-hand experience, Cope-Fitzpatrick has flat-out dominated the Trojan safeties during Spring Football. He's definitely overcome the Notre Dame jitters and looks prime to be a great blocking and catching option.)
Said Coach Sark on the junior tight end’s spring performance: "He’s an athletic guy, he’s got tremendous ball skills and I think he’s seen a real opportunity to step up and make plays, and he’s doing it."
If Cope-Fitzpatrick continues to play this way in the fall, he has a great chance to unseat the oft-injured yet supremely talented Telfer in the Trojans starting depth chart.
Rounding out the USC tight ends is incoming freshman Bryce Dixon. As the top TE recruit in the 2014 recruiting class, Dixon will come in with high expectations, almost similar to the hype surrounding the two very talented upperclassmen ahead of him on the depth chart. Despite this, Dixon’s elite top end speed, which could allow him to make some plays out of the slot as well, could earn him some playing time right from day one.
The addition of the talented Bryce Dixon replacing the slow and often ineffective Xavier Grimble, combined with Coach Sark’s tight end heavy emphasis makes this a very exciting position group to watch in the upcoming season. Look for Cope-Fitzpatrick to be a potential breakout star for the Trojans, assuming he can stay healthy.