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USC Football Position Preview: Wide Receiver

Many consider USC’s wide receiving group to be one of the best in the nation coming into the 2019 season. Could a brand new offense help support that claim.

USC Spring Football Practice Begins Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

If there's one area that you could tag as the strength of the USC Trojans, it has to be at wide receiver. Currently being considered as one of the best in the nation, the Trojans have a lot of talent returning at wide receiver. They return just about everyone at the position and add a few talented incoming freshmen who could possibly play right away. One major factor is the arrival of Graham Harrell and the air raid offense which could finally bring a much needed jolt to the a USC offense that struggled last season. During the offseason the position took a hit when a total of 4 wide receivers transferred out of the program. Velus Jones Jr. and Bru McCoy entered the portal but eventually returned to the program. We take a look at what to expect from the USC wide receiving group and if they will be the key to a successful turnaround on the offensive side of the ball.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Notre Dame at USC Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Projected Starters

USC once again has talent at wide receiver coming into this season. The spotlight now highlights them a little more thanks the the arrival of the air raid offense. Expect a pretty good rotation at receiver. The outside once again will be occupied by senior Michael Pittman Jr. and redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns. Both were bright spots to a USC offense that saw historic lows during the 2018 season. Pittman Jr. opted to return for his senior season which gave the USC offense a huge boost with his size and athleticism. Vaughns is projected to have the opposite side on the outside. Look for USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to use a lot of screens and quick routes to utilize the playmaking ability of Vaughns in open space.

With the air raid USC will look to go with four wide receivers in most formations. Sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown is in a unique position due to his ability to line up as a slot and on the outside. He had a productive freshman season in 2018, catching 60 passes for 750 yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for those numbers to potentially jump with an already established chemistry with sophomore quarterback JT Daniels.

One intriguing name that will take the other slot position is Velus Jones Jr. The redshirt junior saw the number of snaps played jump in 2018. Last season Jones had 24 receptions for 266 yards and one touchdown reception. The lone catch came in a loss to UCLA. Jones entered the transfer portal just days before spring camp, however he would return back to the team in late May. Expect Harrell to find ways to utilize Jones’ speed and shiftiness in his offense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 USC at UCLA Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Backups

While the Trojans have talent across the board at wide receiver, they’re also pretty young and lack experience due to most of the players being incoming freshmen. Again expect Harrell to rotate receivers in different spots to play towards their strengths. Sophomore Devon Williams is one of the intriguing players who will see a lot of snaps. At 6’2 Williams can utilize his athleticism and speed to be a vertical threat for the Trojans. The sophomore started to see his playing time increase later on in the season where he had 4 receptions for 87 yards and his lone touchdown coming in a win at Oregon State. During the spring Williams has outstanding practices, however he also had consistency issues with catching the ball.

John Jackson III could be another name to keep an eye on come this season. The son of former USC standout John Jackson Jr., had a solid spring camp that drew some attention. With other incoming freshmen enrolling, he’ll have to battle once again in the fall to keep his spot on the depth chart.

Incoming freshmen from the 2019 recruiting class such as Drake London, Kyle Ford, and Munir McClain will have a shot to compete in fall camp. Expect to see most of them to play early on. The biggest question will be the status of freshman Bru McCoy. The former five star athlete originally committed to USC and enrolled early in mid January, only to transfer to Texas weeks later. In late May McCoy re-entered the transfer portal and returned to USC. It’s unlikely that the NCAA allows for him to play right away, however should it happen then expect him to play a huge role in the offense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Notre Dame at USC Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Player To Watch

Velus Jones Jr. and Devin Williams are two players to keep an eye on. Both players can really benefit from Graham Harrell’s offense in a huge way to where they can impact the team. Jones can line up on the outside, in the slot, and in the backfield. Harrell will find multiple and creative ways to get him the ball that allows him to make plays in space. Williams on the other hand has made strides to really improve on his pass catching consistency. With his size and speed, Williams can be a mismatch against most corners depending on where he lines up on the field.