When Connor Spears transferred to USC last spring, he never expected to play a pivotal role for the Trojans. The former high school standout played one year at Columbia, where he caught just three passes for 32 yards, before transferring to USC as a preferred walk-on.
The possible dismissal of Bryce Dixon as well as presumed starter Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick struggling with injuries, Spears has been thrust into a starting role for the Trojans during spring practice. Nobody, including Spears, predicted that the redshirt sophomore would be taking first team snaps.
"It was a little crazy, coming in this spring" Spears said. "It was the biggest shock. The situation just fell into my hands and I'm trying to make the most of it"
Due to NCAA regulations, Spears was forced to sit out the past season, allowing him extra time to become comfortable with the offensive system as well as work on some issues that plagued him coming out of high school. While Spears now stands at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he wasn't always that way. In fact when he first came to USC, the coaches were worried about his size and strength.
However, since joining the Trojans, Spears has added over 20 pounds and is becoming more confident in his ability to play against top notch opponents. One key to this, Spears noted, was the time he spent on the scout offense during this past season.
"It helped exponentially, being able to be be on the scout team offense last year, where I was ale to block guys like Leonard Williams and JR Tavai," Spears said. "That level of competition helped me so much."
Spears is no lock to be the starter for the Trojans come fall. Highly touted freshman Tyler Pettite will join the Trojans in the fall and former Oklahoma tight-end Taylor McNamara announced he was transferring to USC. Those two along with a healthy Fitzpatrick and Dixon, if he ever makes a return to the Trojans, will offer some competition for Spears.
For now, Spears is trying to live in the moment and make the best of the opportunity that has been put in front of him.
"It's pretty surreal. I'm not trying to think about it too much." Spears said. "I'm trying to be like everyone else and just play football. Just block guys and catch passes."