Today at the USC spring game Tee Martin's receiver corps will be extremely busy. The Trojans have only one available scholarship tight end and at most two scholarship running backs, so Steve Sarkisian is expected to line up in a lot of three or four wide formations, giving the receivers a opportunity to shine.
Through the first 14 practices, Martin has been fairly pleased with how his guys have performed.
“We’ve had our days, when we look really good and we’ve had our days when we have a lot to work on," Martin said. "That’s spring with a group of inexperienced guys, but talented as well.
"I think one thing I saw from these guys was that they’re mentally tough. These guys didn’t waver; whether it was a good day or a bad day. They have fun, they learned a whole lot as a group and we all got better as a group.
"I got a lot of information from them, because this is the first time, for a lot of them, getting in a lot of reps. I was excited about them coming into the spring, and now we’re at the end, I feel good about where we are. But I’m still looking forward to the offseason where we have some getting better to do, leading into training camp.”
The undisputed leader of the receivers is the 18-year old true sophomore Juju Smith. After Thursday's practice Smith stayed an extra 20 minutes just working on coming out of his breaks with Martin.
“He’s been good. He’s maturing and he’s learning the everyday responsibility of being a starter here at USC," Martin said. "Although you may not feel that you are competing for your job every day, you are. He brought it every day from an effort standpoint and he knows what to do. We’ve just been continuing to improve on being consistent in everything that we do, every day.”
Junior college transfer Isaac Whitney is a new face in Martin's group.
“He’s showing some flashes," Martin said. "But the first couple of weeks in a new system coming from junior college, you’ve never heard of this before, you’ve never seen these formations, these motions, shifts, and all these things we’re doing.
"It was a lot, but one thing I said to the staff was that he’ll have some plays where he is totally screwed up, but he never drops his eyes, he never feels sorry for himself. He never gave up in terms of the massive amount of information we’ve put in for a new guy coming in as a mid-year, classes on your shoulders, coaches screaming at you. He never dropped his eyes and he never felt sorry for himself. That speaks to his mental toughness. I like where he’s at right now, we still have a long ways to go, but he’s shown some flashes that he can help us this season.”
When you think of receivers, you think of guys catching the football. But in this offense, receivers have to be able to throw their bodies around on the edge and block during screens and run plays.
“We want to have balance and run the ball, and our thing is if you don’t block you don’t play," he said. "It’s just like if the O-Line doesn’t block when they call a pass, the quarterback gets sacked, and you don’t get the ball. That’s one thing that we pride ourselves on, being good perimeter blockers in the screen game, and good blockers in the run game as well.”
You can check the Trojans out today in the Coliseum at 3pm as they wrap up spring football. Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for updates from the game and the upcoming offseason workouts.
Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .