Randall Telfer says he hates to see academically ineligible tight end teammate Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick miss the season but the solid USC senior, back and healthy for a final season, is not pushing the panic button.
He's pushing the Rhett Ellison button. "Rhett was an example to me when I got here," Telfer says of the now-NFL tight end whose workout regimen may have been unsurpassed in recent years at USC.
"No one got more out of his ability than he did the way he worked," Telfer says of his own work in the weight room with a reshaped walkon Chris Willson and freshman Bryce Dixon, the three who will man that thin spot for USC this year now.
"Rhett passed it on to me and I'm passing the Rhett Ellison legacy on to the rest of these guys," Telfer says, including himself now that he's back "to 100 percent," he says. He just has to get himself back to playing that way after getting through last fall nursing a knee injury that kept him out of the spring and much of the summer.
"It'll come," he says. No worries there. And lots of love for the new uptempo offense. "I love it . . . more opportunities to catch the ball and score touchdowns."
Telfer says he's not worried about the numbers. Neither is quarterback Cody Kessler, even if he notes "we're weak in numbers there but I remember a couple of times last year we didn't have any [tight ends]."
Tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo agrees. It's not the end of the world. "I still have half-a-dozen in the meeting room . . . and I have the fullbacks. THis is fun coaching these guys. We're very multiple and we have guys with a lot of talent."
Dixon, he says, is "learning through adversity. He's athletic, fast and thick. And he's not afraid to stick his head in there and block. We just have to work with him on technique. But when he makes a mistake, he learns from it."
As to Willson, the former Wake Forest pitcher who walked on last fall as a quarterback, he's a long way from that guy. "A great team player," Tuiasosopo calls Willson.
A bigger, stronger player, as well with his rearranged 255 pounds on his 6-5 frame. "Having that full year helps," he said. "I don't look like a quarterback any more." But he can still throw a baseball 90 miles an hour, he says, even with his much more muscled upper body.
"I'm confident we're going to be fine," Tuiasosopo says. Although Kessler notes that despite the talent there, "the guys haven't played. And while Bryce is going to step up, Randall is the one to be excited about."
He sounds a bit like his head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who says "I feel good about the three guys we have back -- Randall, Bryce and Chris . . . and Soma [Vaiinuku] provides us with a great deal of versatility."
More from Sark
*** On the new look Tuesday with two running backs in the same shotgun backfield, Sark said it's the natural evolution of this offense that will go with the talent it has. So don't be surprised to see Buck Allen and Tre Madden in there together, since both catch the ball as well as they run it. And the combo will force defenses to make some hard choices about which way to go. Follow Buck into the flats and Tre gets it up inside. Load up the box and you flip it to Buck.
*** On George Farmer: Sark talked of how it's not easy coming back from an injury and coming behind two Serra High teammates both now making noise in the NFL. As to whether Farmer can get to where everyone expected him to coming out of high school, Sark said: "I sure hope so."
*** Competition at kicker: Sark really liked the way that's playing out with newly scholarshipped Matt Boermeester pushing senior Andre Heidari the past two days. Boermeester, the blueshirt NCAA exception whose grant will count against the Class of 2015, had a perfect day Monday while "Andre wasn't great," Sark said. But that was Monday. On Tuesday, Heidari came back to go five for five with a 52-yarder to Boermeester's four of five with a 52-yarder. "Competition is great," Sark said, whether it plays out this year or next.
Trojans return to practice Wednesday afternoon in helmets, shorts, shirts and shoulder pads . . . First full-pads work will be Thursday in the Coliseum at 1:45. Wednesday's workout is at 2:30 at Howard Jones.
A slew of roster updates, new grad assistants, a dozen new walkon bios, name changes and a new "blueshirt" scholarship kicker in Boermeester. Here's the link: USC ROSTER UPDATES.
For a complete wrapup of Tuesday's practice, check out TUESDAY DAY 2 USC GHOST NOTES.