Finally, a new receiver emerges!
With a bevy of injuries to the receiving unit and Darnold’s seeming refusal to throw to anyone outside of Deontay Burnett—the Trojans were stagnating on offense. The frequently dropped passes—here’s looking at you Jalen Greene, didn’t help either but alas…
Enter Tyler Vaughns
Ascending up the depth chart these last couple of weeks, Vaughns fully entrenched himself as the Trojans’ second receiving option with solid performances in the last two games against Washington State—six receptions for 89 yards, and Oregon State—five receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown.
His production on the field has been clear, now we can beg the question, “Who is Tyler Vaughns?”
The 6’2” 185 lbs. redshirt freshman is a former four-star recruit out of Bishop Amat High School in La Luente, Calif. Ranked as the nation’s third-best receiver in the 2016 recruiting class, Vaughns was heavily recruited by the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and UCLA among others.
Vaughns talent was undeniable during his time at Bishop Amat, as he finished his junior season with 83 receptions for 1183 yards and 12 touchdowns—yet somehow topped those statistics in his senior year of high school with 84 receptions 1319 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Goes up and gets the ball, clearly a facet of USC’s offense that has been missing early on.
With the excitement of fellow recruits Jack Jones and incoming freshmen Stephen Carr and Joseph Lewis, Vaughns was lost in the shuffle of offensive weapons. The rise of Burnett last season and Juju Smith-Schuster dominating the targets, there wasn’t any room to have a true freshman on the roster amongst the once deep receiving core of the Trojans.
In our WR/TE Preview piece this past summer, we pegged Vaughns as a potential impact player for the Trojans:
There will be a handful of receivers coming off the bench and, hopefully, making an impact on the field. One player of note who can make some noise this year is Tyler Vaughns(sophomore). Vaughns has turned some heads during the spring and could legitimately make enough plays to garner continued consideration to be put on the field more regularly.
Fast forward a few months, and there is legitimate reason to believe Vaughns finishes the season as the Trojans primary receiving weapon. He looks to be the long-bodied downfield threat USC needs and has done excellent fighting for yards after the catch.
USC 7, OSU 0.@tswag03 gets WIDE open for the score to start things off!#BeatTheBeavers | #FightOn pic.twitter.com/ZUk7HTTtSM— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 7, 2017
Vaughns’ hands and moves after the catch have proven to be his strengths. He attacks the ball and knows how to adjust to either catch it in the air or shield it with his ball in short to intermediate routes.
Much like Smith-Schuster, Vaughns is breaking out of the common primary USC receiver mold—that is typically sub 6-foot, quick and nimble with solid route-running as far back as Steve Smith and Damian Williams to more recently with Nelson Agholor and now Burnett.
Probably my favorite play of the season, so much to say about his effort(hopefully it’ll be contagious).
Not to hyperbolize, but Vaughns certainly might be the guy to open up this offense. Lining up outside, he gives Burnett the freedom to be the slot receiver he’s built to be (NOT A DEEP THREAT!) and giving Darnold another open receiver he can trust. Alongside a consistent running game—here’s looking at you Tee, Vaughns can absolutely flourish in this offense.
His production in high school, athletic traits and small sample-size of success in college gives Trojan fans hope that this offense can grow. I fully expect it the offense to take the next step and Vaughns is the player to jump start it.