Spring Will Test Trojan Tight Ends

Xavier Grimble and USC's tight ends are looking to fill the void left by the versatile Rhett Ellison. They're hoping that by putting in the work this spring, it will prepare them well for fall.

Routes run by Dominique Byrd, Fred Davis, Anthony McCoy, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis are on replay in Xavier Grimble's mind.

Because the USC tight end knows that in order to get better, you have to study the best.

So Grimble is upping his time in the film room, studying the greats he hopes he can model himself after.

"I just want to be undeniable. I want to step on the field and have that confidence and have guys fear me," he said.

Grimble, a 6-5, 260-pound athlete said he gained about 15 pounds in the offseason and is currently eating a diet of salads to lose the excess weight.

"I'm a big guy. I gain weight easily," he joked.

But next season, Grimble is serious about becoming one of the conference's leading tight ends. The tight end duo of Grimble and Randall Telfer had a fantastic freshman campaign in 2011, combining for nine touchdowns and playing in all 12 games.

Trojan tight ends coach Justin Mesa hopes either or both of the duo assumes a bigger leadership role after the departure of senior tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison.

"We lost a lot with Rhett in terms of experience and leadership. Hopefully, somebody is able to step up. Maybe that's my job is to help lead them and enable somebody as I feel and try to push them toward that role," Mesa said.

"We're working towards being our own veterans," Grimble said of him and Telfer. "We want younger guys to come in and look at us and know what to do. Just set the example and try to be the best group we can be."

A week before spring ball and Mesa isn't picking one starter over the other. It seems as though Grimble and Telfer are about even now, and could be even as late as fall.

"We might even do a paper, scissor, rock to see who gets the first rep. We're just going to go into it and it's going to be a long spring process," Mesa said. "Actually it just goes from week to week, in the season too.

"Xavier started as the starter last year and then the towards the end of the season we started going with Randall."

As the season progressed, the theory that Telfer was the better receiver and Grimble the better blocker established itself.

Grimble wants it to become commonplace that the duo is actually equaly well-rounded.

"People were thinking that, yeah," Grimble said. "It's kind of weird. We can both do both. We're both very versatile. We're trying to do everything."

The talented twosome is joined by a supporting cast loaded with potential. Redshirt freshman Junior Pomee is explosive and strong, and fully recovered after breaking his foot in the fall. Sophomore Christian Thomas, who is currently rehabbing from two hip labral tears, has the knowledge of the system behind him, and when Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick enrolls in the summer, he'll bring with him a fresh pair of legs and an open mind.

But Ellison's versatility and experience will still be missed and the void he leaves will take time to fill.

That's why this unit is starting now -- in the offseason -- watching as much film as Grimble can possibly digest. After his daily salad, of course.

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