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Old 07-19-2013, 05:58 PM   #1
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Exclamation C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Since this week has started, I have had my mind stuck on the upcoming football season. Maybe that is normal as I am sure I am not the only one experiencing this joy but this is the first time in a long time that I have had football fever before USC's Fan Appreciation Day. I'm not quite sure why that is. Maybe it’s the fact that USC is coming off back to back 11 win season. Maybe it’s because for the first time in Spurrier's tenure, it seems like the offense is on stable ground. Maybe it’s the hype around Jadeveon Clowney's upcoming Heisman campaign. Whatever it is, it’s got me in the mood to do a write-up. Too soon? Possibly but I feel compelled to write down my opinions and then enjoy my birthday weekend.

This week, I focus on the Offense (my favorite side of the ball)


As I alluded to above this might be the first season under Spurrier where there are not many glaring question marks on his side of the football. Sure, the running back situation is still to be worked out. The Wide Receiver corp needs to find a replacement for a 40 catch receiver. And of course, as has been the case every year, the offensive line has to come around. But when I analyze what this team has going into Fall camp in two weeks, the less these question marks bother me.

Quarterbacks - It’s been a popular topic this offseason but in its own unique way. Unlike previous seasons, the focus isn't on an individual but rather a tandem. No, we are not worrying about whether our QB is in the film room or 'living like a college student'. We aren't worrying about turnovers or erratic, inconsistent play at the position. Nope, none of that at all. We are discussing on how in the world is Coach Spurrier going to juggle two veteran QBs that have shown they are legitimate SEC quarterbacks, and both worthy of playing time. Players that have won football games by doing things the right way, the Spurrier way. Think about this, when was the last time we 'overlooked' the QB position as a question mark going into the season? It’s been a while. Expectations for both Quarterbacks are definitely high. Now that both of them appear to be healthy and have been in the system for 3+ years, the expectation for both of them is justified.

Connor Shaw, to start, has been exactly what this program needed when he took over full time in 2011. A mobile, smart, and accurate passer that wasn't going to lose you football games. But now the once Sophomore is a Senior and it’s time for him to blow past this perceived ceiling he has hit and become the best QB in the conference. To do that, the first thing he obviously has to do is stay healthy. Whether it is protecting himself better when he slides or choosing to throw it away rather than scamper for a few yards, he has got to stay on the field. The second thing is he has to start seeing the field better especially over the middle on intermediate patterns. I'll be the first one to say that I think his height hurts him when he is in the pocket but he has shown that he is capable of picking apart a defense when he takes his steps and lets it go (something that his teammate does very well). Third, I'd like to see a complete command of the offense and the ability to read coverage. I'd like to see Connor become a surgeon back there. A way he can help out the offensive line is to get the ball out quickly, and I think something that would help in doing that is understand what the defense is doing pre-snap. It’s a bad comparison, but that is part of the reason why guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are so good. They don't hold onto the football. These might be unrealistic expectations for Connor given what we have seen from him, but I'll remain optimistic that our 3 year starter and Senior quarterback can do all of the above.

Dylan Thompson’s expectations aren’t so much related to seeing the field or getting the ball out as he already does both of those very well. From the small sample size we have seen from him, his expectations are centered on becoming more accurate and avoiding the errant throws. He got away with some throws towards the end of the season last year and he had misses on simple plays that could’ve made him numbers better. Look no further than his completion percentage of 51.2% to see what he has to work on. The good news about Dylan is that he appears to still have a lot of room to grow. Coach Spurrier was quoted this week as saying Dylan is becoming a ‘great drop-back passer’. So it doesn’t appear that he is close to hitting a ceiling yet. But something that we need to see from Dylan is how he fairs against SEC defenses every week. Remember, Dylan hasn’t played meaningful snaps against an SEC opponent outside of his forgettable appearance against Vanderbilt and pretty much mop up time against Florida, both on the road by the way. It is difficult to get a gauge on just how good (or average/bad) he is until we see him play ‘in the big leagues’ so to speak. It’s difficult to really get a good evaluation on him until then but from what we have seen so far, there are legitimate reasons to be excited about him and his progression these next two seasons.

I don’t expect Brendan Nosovitch to have to play much this year outside of the Coastal Carolina game in late November but he is another guy that should get the fans excited down the road. The coaching staff loves what he brings to the table and thinks he has a chance to be a special quarterback when his time comes. Hopefully, we get the opportunity to see some glimpses of what he is capable of this year in mop up duty.

Running Backs – I’m surprised there isn’t more talk about this group amongst the media, but I guess that a lot of them are expecting a drop off now that Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles are gone. It is a fair assumption given that the players returning consist of a sophomore with limited playing time, a sophomore that hasn’t played in two years and missed last season due to injury, a sophomore that came off a major knee injury and didn’t participate in Spring practice due to another sport, a redshirt freshman that came off a major knee injury last year, and two true freshmen. Put those situations on top of the fact that Coach Spurrier, a known pass happy coach, has two legitimate QB options and it’s not exactly confidence in regards to the ground game outlook this year.

But heading into the Fall, we know a few things. One, Mike Davis is coming off a very good Spring camp and has shown glimpses that he could be special. Two, Brandon Wilds is in fantastic shape and has shown that he can carry the offensive workload when called upon in the past. Three, there are two potential home run hitters now in the fold that could provide interesting options when the situation calls for it.

I think the running back situation is going to start off as a tandem with Davis and Wilds but will eventually turn into a committee at some point in the year. In regards to who starts, it is really going to be splitting hairs as both backs have somewhat different running styles and similar hands, but they both struggled in one thing and that is pass protection. I think the back that proves he can pass protect will win the job going into the season. In my opinion, Coach Sands will go with Brandon Wilds. I don’t believe they redshirted him to be a backup.

If Shon Carson is healthy and now fully dedicated to football, he should (based on the past two seasons when he was actually healthy) be able to shoot up the depth chart and ultimately take some carries away from the top two in front of him. In my opinion, he has been snake bit these past two years. The first year he blows the knee out and when he came back last season for the bowl game, he had two ample opportunities to take it to the house but a missed block by TJ Johnson on a screen play and a bad decision by Connor Shaw on an option play derailed them. I’d like to see the staff start giving him straight hand offs instead of getting cute with screens and option plays.

I think Kendric Salley could end up being a solid goal-line, short yardage back or even grow into a reliable hybrid FB/RB. Not sure how often we are going to see from him this year but I think he’ll end up finding a role somewhere down the road. The wildcard in this whole situation is David Williams, the superstar recruit from Philly. It is premature to label the guy as the future, but he has the skill set to be that kind of player. Logic says the best thing would be the redshirt him but I think a few weeks into Fall camp, he is going to prove to be too good to not play this year. If he lives up to his hype, is going to be gone in 3 years anyway so the coaches might as well get what they can out of him.

I’m not forgetting about the other true freshman Jamari Smith but unlike Williams, he doesn’t bring a different type of running style to the table so the staff could afford to slap a redshirt on him. I don’t doubt his talent (look at his stats in Florida’s highest high school football classification) and he very well could end up being another guy that is too good to sit, but USC has experienced runners ahead of him that are comparable in running styles whereas with Williams, his main competition would be Shon Carson who doesn’t have much game experience at all under his belt either which evens the playing field between those two; making it more realistic for him to get onto the field as a freshman.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends – This skill grouping might end up being the strength of this offense. There are some concerns about size and inexperience with the wideouts. There are concerns about replacing one of the most explosive players on last year’s team. But these were similar questions to what we were facing going into last season, and the South Carolina receiving corp produced two 40 catch receivers and started to develop a 3rd option over the last quarter of the season.

This year’s group looks like it is going to be manned primarily by four or five guys in Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, and Nick Jones with Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery being the wildcards. I expect Bruce Ellington to continue to improve his numbers and go from a 40 catch receiver up to a 50+ catch player. It is going to be interesting to see how much time he spends at Z and X receiver spots. I think the plan is for him to primarily stay in the slot (Z) but that could quickly change if Damiere Byrd struggles at the X and/or Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery don’t step up as expected. If the coaching staff can keep Bruce in the slot then that creates big mismatches that they would love to take advantage of especially on crossing patterns.

Nick Jones looks like he has a firm hold on the B receiver spot. Now a Junior, it seems as though the light is on and he is ready to become a viable 3rd receiver. The problem he faces is that, for whatever reason, our QBs have struggled getting the B receiver a decent workload. It has primarily been a 2 man game with the X and Z guys but Jones started to come on at the end of last season and gives us hope that our B receiver can get some production going forward. Size remains an issue which means Kwinton Smith could carve out some time but I think he is another year away from seeing the field with any regularity. He was considered a work in progress when he was coming out of high school and it looks like that is still the case. Jones should log the majority of the snaps here this season and I think a 25-30 catch year would be excellent.

Arguably the biggest question mark is what is going to happen at the X receiver where three guys, all inconsistent so far in their careers, will battle it out this Fall. It appears as though Damiere Byrd is going to get the first attempt at it. Byrd is an intriguing option given his ability to run by anyone but he hasn’t gotten many opportunities on patterns that aren’t straight down the sideline or deep down the middle of the field. He has shown he has big play ability but the more intricate parts of being a receiver are still in question especially the hands and ball security. It’s an even bigger question mark now because he missed an entire Spring where he could’ve really used the reps in preparation for being the guy at the X receiver. I’m also curious if his body can handle it as he is small in stature and still on the skinny side. Can he handle getting 10 targets a game? This is why I think the depth chart is a bit deceiving. I don’t doubt that Damiere is going to be a big player in the offense this year but I see him being a guy that they move between all 3 receiver positions to create opportunities for him to run by defenders. I’m not sold that he is going to be a 40-50 catch guy though, yet.

Which leads me to saying that I think the real X receiver is going to come out of the battle between Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery. One of these guys has got to step up and take the role as the go to guy in our offense. Both have the talent, both have been in the system 2 or more years now. Things should start to come together for them in the mental department and hopefully they are getting to the point where they can just go play football. I didn’t have huge expectations for Shaq Roland last year and I was very adamant that it takes more than one season for a receiver to find their way in this offense. Sure, there are guys like Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery that made huge impacts as freshmen but both of those guys had growing periods. I remember Alshon saying he had no idea what he was doing as a freshman. That’s the nature of the beast with our offense. It can be wide receiver friendly, but it takes time to develop. Long hours in the film room and practice reps to get to the where you are ready to play. This is why I think we will see one of Roland and S. Jeffery step up to the plate this year and lead our offense. Both guys would give USC a decent sized weapon on the perimeter especially Roland who has shown glimpses of being able to go up and get it down the sideline. Jeffery probably provides a better short/intermediate threat to the position. This should be a spirited battle this Fall as both guys have to know that a ton of playing time and targets are available if they can win the job.

I’m not expecting a whole bunch from KJ Brent and Jody Fuller this year. One of them will be listed as the backup to Ellington at the Z receiver but I’m not sure either becomes a regular in the rotation unless they provide excellent run blocking or really elevate their games. Lack of consistency has been a problem with both of these guys. Something to watch for is what happens if Ellington is forced to move to X. That would open the door for one of these guys to get some reps.

In regards to the Tight Ends, I think the key word with this group is upside. They have a lot of it but we have to keep in mind that these were their stats last season:

Anderson: 14 catches, 271 yards, 5 TDs

Adams: 4 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD

Not bad numbers, but not great either. One would hope that Anderson’s total goes up to 25-30 catches and get another 15-20 grabs from Adams. The fact is the Tight Ends in this offense aren’t asked to do a whole lot in the passing game. They are used on crossing patterns, down the seam, and as check downs. This offense is still wide receiver driven and will continue to be. But what I think you can expect this year is more redzone targets when down in the 20 as both guys have shown they can go up and get it. Adams, in particular, provides a unique option for a jump ball. I think Anderson will get the most reps out of the two because of his ability to block, and Adams will surely be out there on intermediate/long passing situations. I think both of these guys are going to have good seasons with better numbers than they put up last year now that Justice Cunningham is gone but I remain planted in my stance that they will never be used like our fans think they ought to be.

I’m curious as to how Drew Owens fits in the group. He has potential to be just as good as the guys ahead of him and he provides a nice blocking option but he might be in a numbers game with the better receiving threats ahead of him.

Offensive Line – Is this finally going to be the year for these guys? The section of the USC fan base that follows recruiting closely pointed to this being the year where Coach Elliott got his unit to turn the corner and there are good reasons to believe that they will do just that.

1) Four starters return from last year’s group that was a bit of a revolving door early as Coach Elliott had to move his tackles around. But it looks like he found his bookend combination when he put Brandon Shell at the Right Tackle and surprisingly, Corey Robinson in at the Left Tackle. Depending on the injury bug staying away and the unit performing well, USC should field the same offensive line combination the entire year which is a far cry from fans have been accustomed to.

Outside of the new starting center, freshman Cody Waldrop, USC has experience all across the board with its starting five. Four of the players now have a full season(s) under their belts as starters and all of them have been in the system for 2+ years now. Theoretically, it shouldn’t take them very long to become a cohesive unit when the games come. Waldrop is probably going to face the most pressure as USC has been very solid at the center position since the Holtz days. Fans have to hope he can keep the lineage going which the coaches seem very confident that he’ll be able to do. It sounds as though he is a weight room all-star and has the brains to handle the position.

2) When you average 6’4” 322 lbs across the board, you better be able to impose your will on smaller defenders especially late in games. This is what will tell the story of the USC offense this year. They look good coming off the bus but can they play with the mean streak and intensity that is asked of them? Not only are they big but 3 of the 5 are going to be on NFL radars after this season. When was the last time USC could say that about its offensive line? Sure, there are questions about the ability to handle speed rushers and they’ll face awkward alignments and blitz packages from defenses all throughout the year, but this group is becoming a big, veteran unit that should be able to adjust on the fly. They are not a physically young or inexperienced group anymore. It’s time for them to play like an SEC line.

Depth at the tackles is going to be an issue worth watching. The backups are either inexperienced or injury prone. The interior looks to be in better shape but it’ll be interesting to see if Elliott does any more shuffling of personnel before and during the season. Even though it is unlikely, it would be a big boost if Mike Matulis was able to play this year. He and Cody Gibson along with Mason Zandi would give USC three quality backup options to Shell and Robinson.

As mentioned above, the interior reserves should be fine with the Stadniks, Will Sport, and DJ Park all in the mix.

The other issue is consistency at the right guard spot. Ronald Patrick, now a Senior, needs to elevate his game this year and hopefully playing at 315 will help him do that. It seems liked he had trouble with stunts and twists last season which could’ve been a product of it being his first year as a stareter. If he struggles this year, Will Sport (in his 2nd year) and true freshman DJ Park could get opportunities. Personally, I would not be the least bit surprised if Park got some burn this year. He is the future of that spot and will be a stalwart when his time comes.

Something else worth mentioning in closing is that USC, once again, will be able to redshirt most (if not all) of their incoming offensive line class this year. Another reason for optimism going forward. Coach Elliott has stacked the cupboard and hopefully results will soon follow.
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Old 07-19-2013, 06:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Always love it when you do these longer write-ups. Well done, once again!

Oh, and happy birthday! Enjoy the weekend!
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Old 07-19-2013, 07:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Nice thoughtful and deep analysis. I expect the two faster tight ends to actually stretch the field and produce beyond what you seem to expect for a couple of reasons. Busta has WR speed and is pretty elusive. I would expect multiple plays where he catches, breaks a tackle or makes a player miss and takes it deep. Adams is a little taller but quite fast for a 6-6 guy. I expect some of the midrange and short passes we've thrown to tight ends, but I also expect multiple downfield burns of a linebacker and some high deep balls as you mentioned. Our WR's will get opportunities because of our tight ends if we choose to use them, and in the spring game, all three were well used. I expect our offense to be able to adapt and adjust this year as never before because of the contrasting QB styles, 4 RB's with different strengths, and TE's that will be a coverage nightmare.
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Old 07-19-2013, 07:19 PM   #4
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

I hope we use the tight ends more this year. I wouldn't mind seeing some formations where we have all 3 on the field at the same time - with one going out wide.

I believe that I read where SOS said during the media days that he expects Roland to have a break out year. If that's true, then we should be in good shape there.

As for OL, you are right about the mean streak. We haven't seen it yet. These guys need to play ticked off and mad. I have no basis for this thought, but I have a feeling that Waldrop will have a mean streak. Again, I have no basis for it. Just a feeling. Robinson and Shell didn't look comfortable all the time last year, so I hope their experience will now allow them to play with a little more confidence and with less missed assignments.

It's weird, but I have more concerns for our defense than our offense. Our 3rd DE is 225 lbs, which means that we won't be able to rest Clowney and Sutton like we want. We have inexperience in the linebackers and in the secondary depth.

Ace will be missed as a punt returner, and we don't know how good our kickers are yet.

We could be a great team, or with a few injuries, a very inconsistent team. Can't wait until Spurticus starts giving us the reports!
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Old 07-19-2013, 07:26 PM   #5
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Also worth noting that Dylan Thompson is getting instruction from George Whitfield, one of the best QB coaches in the country. Should be interesting to see how much more he develops.
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Old 07-19-2013, 09:13 PM   #6
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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Also worth noting that Dylan Thompson is getting instruction from George Whitfield, one of the best QB coaches in the country. Should be interesting to see how much more he develops.

In 2011, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and first overall selection Cam Newton began working with George Whitfield, Jr. in preparation for the NFL Draft.[3]

In 2012, Stanford University quarterback, and NFL first overall Selection Andrew Luck began working with George Whitfield, Jr. in preparation for the NFL Draft.

In 2012, NFL vetern and free agent Donovan McNabb sought out Whitfield's services to aid in offseason weight loss and to prepare for the upcoming season.[4]

Perhaps Whitfield's greatest professional accomplishment is reflected in the Heisman Trophy awarded to Johnny Manziel (aka "Johnny Football") whom he groomed in the summer of 2012. Manziel's rise from obscurity to becoming the first player in history to win the prestigeous award as a freshman can, in large part, be credited to his work under Whitfield's guidance.
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Old 07-19-2013, 09:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

They redshirted Wilds, but they didn't bother to red shirt Davis. Which tell me the expect more from Davis than Wilds.
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Old 07-19-2013, 09:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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They redshirted Wilds, but they didn't bother to red shirt Davis. Which tell me the expect more from Davis than Wilds.
Or maybe it was because Davis was healthy and Wilds wasn't.
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Old 07-19-2013, 09:54 PM   #9
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:00 PM   #10
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Referring to yourself as C2 now I see... and I thought Johnny Manziel was out of control...
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:05 PM   #11
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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Think about this, when was the last time we 'overlooked' the QB position as a question mark going into the season?
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:06 PM   #12
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

cool write up. thanks. and happy bday weekend.
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:07 PM   #13
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Great write up. I'm looking at our RB core, and its reminiscent of LSU. Maybe not the 240 lb bruisers but having a stable of RBs that can all contribute in a game and wear a defense down in the 4th could contribute a lot to our production on offense.
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:09 PM   #14
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

Isn't Nick Jones a senior now?
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:11 PM   #15
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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Isn't Nick Jones a senior now?
RS Jr

rewatching the clemson game, and as great as Thompson was, I remembered why Shaw is the guy
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:13 PM   #16
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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RS Jr

rewatching the clemson game, and as great as Thompson was, I remembered why Shaw is the guy
Gotcha. Its so strange to think he and Latti were in the same class
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:21 PM   #17
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

C2 never fails to please.

Great write up!
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:30 PM   #18
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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They redshirted Wilds, but they didn't bother to red shirt Davis. Which tell me the expect more from Davis than Wilds.
Oh really?
I guess the fact three of the six RBs on schollys were out with injuries had nothing to do with this?


USC Media Guide:
Quote:
Brandon Wilds:
is the most experienced returning running back... a patient runner who is regarded as the best blocking back of the group...logged three 100-yard rushing games in 2011, including a career-best 137-yard performance in his first collegiate start at Tennessee... has made five career starts... garnered the Joe Morrison Offensive Player of the Spring accolades at the 2013 Garnet & Black Spring Game.

2012:
Sat out the season as a redshirt after suffering a high ankle sprain... worked extremely hard in the weight room to gain strength and speed while redshirting.
http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/...b-mg-sec-3.pdf
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Old 07-19-2013, 10:32 PM   #19
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

With all the talent we have and adjustments made one thing i've noticed.The tight ends are an asset that we all know needs to be utilized much more.Is this missed plays by the QB's or just plays not called by the coach's?
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Old 07-19-2013, 11:19 PM   #20
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Default Re: C2's 2013 Offense Outlook

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Originally Posted by GH View Post
In 2011, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and first overall selection Cam Newton began working with George Whitfield, Jr. in preparation for the NFL Draft.[3]

In 2012, Stanford University quarterback, and NFL first overall Selection Andrew Luck began working with George Whitfield, Jr. in preparation for the NFL Draft.

In 2012, NFL vetern and free agent Donovan McNabb sought out Whitfield's services to aid in offseason weight loss and to prepare for the upcoming season.[4]

Perhaps Whitfield's greatest professional accomplishment is reflected in the Heisman Trophy awarded to Johnny Manziel (aka "Johnny Football") whom he groomed in the summer of 2012. Manziel's rise from obscurity to becoming the first player in history to win the prestigeous award as a freshman can, in large part, be credited to his work under Whitfield's guidance.
He also worked with Boyd from clemson.
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