It may be the most important single development of the summer throwing sessions.Randall Telfer is back. And he knows it. And not just hanging in there and trying to play on one leg.
"Absolutely," he was saying after his first full workout last week.
The senior tight end wasn't kidding. Not only did he start his day with his first full 90-minute conditioning workout, he went right into the throwing session that followed.
"I've been working out by myself," Telfer said for those worried that the tight end spot might be thin, young, without a great deal of playing experience and dependent on one backup [Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick], a couple of walkons [Chris Willson and Shane Sullivan] and a brand new freshman [Bryce Dixon].
And then, after missing the entire spring and much of the fall, here comes a player with 22 career starts and 44 career catches for 451 yards and 10 TDs. Just what the Trojans needed.
Maybe if offensive linemen Aundrey Walker and Zach Banner make it back as full-time starters from their health issues, that would be a bigger deal. But right now, Telfer's return is at the top of the list for summer reasons to smile for USC fans.
"I was able to do the whole team workout -- the competition stuff and everything," Telfer was saying of his return. "That's the first time I did it."
And he felt good.
"Absolutely," he said. In a couple of ways. At 255 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, he's exactly where he wants to be and feels like he's ready to go after playing last season on one leg pretty much with a knee problem that he's mostly described as "bone rubbing on bone."
And then all we saw of him was as an elder statesman coming by in flip flops to talk to the young guys as he decided what to do about his knee.
"I decided I didn't have to [have surgery]," he said. And it looks like that was the right call.
"Absolutely," he said. "I was able to work on route-running and deceleration out there."
That decelerating part is what allows a big tight end to run disciplined routes, which Telfer was doing on Day 1 of his return, although his sideline catch down the field that had him negotiating the sand in the triple jump pit was a little scary.
"This is a lot better the way we're doing it," says Telfer, who "can imagine myself playing everywhere -- the Z, X, F and Y spots. I'm learning the whole offense."
It's easier despite the uptempo nature, Telfer says. "The verbiage is much less, what might be seven or eight words last year is now one or two . . . the way we're doing this gives guys more freedom."
Credit that to the new staff, Telfer says.
"Ever since the new staff got here, they got everybody together and explained how we're going to do it . . . we're having fun and working hard at this."