The USC tight end position is the spot most in flux currently. After having a steady flow of tight ends that went to the NFL from Mackey Award winner Fred Davis to Jordan Cameron and Rhett Ellison to Xavier Grimble and the latest draft pick at the position Randall Telfer, USC spent spring practice with Ivy League transfer walk-on Connor Spears getting the majority of the first-team snaps.
There are currently seven former Trojans on NFL rosters listed as tight ends, but who could be the next starring tight end at USC is anyone's guess.
Junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick is returning from a season of academic ineligibility and talented sophomore Bryce Dixon’s status is still unknown as he deals with a student-conduct disciplinary issue. Oklahoma transfer Taylor McNamara is supposed to join the team by the time fall camp begins, but where he’ll slot in is still to be determined. He and Cope-Fitzpatrick will have two seasons of eligibility remaining while freshman Tyler Petite could compete for time as soon as he steps on campus.
That’s also the message that USC is sending out to recruits, according to three-star San Clamente (Calif.) tight end Cole Fotheringham. With so much transition, freshmen could vie for immediate playing time.
“They definitely said if I were to be an offer guy, I would come right away and probably have an impact because they are kind of short in that spot right now,” Fotheringham said. “I think that’s cool.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Fotheringham is California’s No. 2 tight end in the 2016 class and the No. 4 player in the West at the position. The USC coaching staff was recently out to San Clemente to check in on Fotheringham before going to meet with quarterback signee Sam Darnold.
“They visited a couple of weeks ago. I talked to the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton. We were talking to him for awhile. I think he went over to the Darnolds’ house after. [Helton] said that he liked me, so that was good.”
While Fotheringham doesn’t currently possess a scholarship offer from USC, the staff wants Fotheringham to come to camp this summer to evaluate him in person. He said he’ll likely attend one of the Trojans’ day camps to give them that opportunity.
The chance to link back up with Darnold, his high school quarterback, and run the same uptempo offense that San Clemente runs definitely has its appeal.
“That’d be a cool setup for sure, Fotheringham said. “I think I would fit right in. It’s right up the street from where I live, so I think it’d be a cool little gig if that was an opportunity and that’s where I felt I needed to be.”
If possible, he’d like to lock up his recruiting before his senior year starts so he can focus on the season and know that his spot is secure in a recruiting class.
He currently has offers from Utah, BYU, Utah State, Nevada and Boise State and said he’s been in contact with Washington and Arizona State to go along with USC. As a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Utah schools are intriguing to Fotheringham, but for now, he’s keeping his options open. He said he doesn’t have any leaders.
“Not too much. I mean I’m LDS so I like BYU and I like Utah and those kinds of schools, but even Boise and Nevada and all the other schools as well, I really like those as well. I’m just keeping my options open and just trying to figure it all out.”
Check out tight end Cole Fotheringham's highlights from the 2014 season: