Coming out of San Diego (Calif.) Westview in 2012, tight end Taylor McNamara knew head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff at Washington really well, but he felt Oklahoma was the best fit for him and his skill set.
“He recruited me and I loved the guy,” McNamara said. “I loved what he did on offense and I loved all his assistants.”
Three years later after things didn’t work out as desired with the Sooners, McNamara was looking for a transfer destination. USC, in need of tight end depth, and Sarkisian, in his second year leading the Trojans, provided the ideal landing spot.
“When they reached out to me, I was pretty excited about it,” the redshirt junior said. “They told me what the situation was and I was even more excited about it. It was kind of the perfect fit for me.”
Though he was disappointed by the recent news that sophomore Bryce Dixon was no longer enrolled at USC, McNamara walks into a wide open tight end competition that returns zero snaps from last season.
The Trojans are down to just one scholarship tight end, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, currently on the roster. Cope-Fitzpatrick was academically ineligible last season and didn’t practice with the team the second half of the season in order to focus on his academics.
Walk-on Columbia transfer Connor Spears and Cope-Fitzpatrick were the only two players available at the position in the spring, forcing both to take a ton of reps with Spears earning the majority of the first-team snaps.
“I know what that’s like,” McNamara said. “We’ve had some injury deals go on [at Oklahoma] where you’ve got two guys healthy and it’s just you and him. And that can get real bad, real fast.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound former U.S. Army All-American recorded just one catch for four yards during his time with Oklahoma. After playing in two games and starting in one his freshman year, McNamara received a medical redshirt after he had to have shoulder surgery for a torn labrum.
He was pushed down the depth chart when he returned from the injury late in the year his redshirt freshman season, but seemed primed for a breakout campaign last year after catching two touchdowns in the OU spring game. That was until quarterback Blake Bell was moved to tight end and assumed the starting role, limiting McNamara’s opportunities. He played in six of the Sooners’ 13 games, but did not record a catch last season.
McNamara graduated earlier this month and is eligible to play right away under NCAA graduate transfer rules. The Trojans do not have any initial scholarships remaining for the 2015 class, so McNamara will come in as a blueshirt recruit, technically being a walk-on until after the first day of fall practice when he will be given a scholarship that will be counted toward the 2016 class.
McNamara and incoming four-star tight end Tyler Petite will give Marques Tuiasosopo’s position group some much needed depth.
“I’ve been working out out here like crazy. I’m going to be in shape, so I’m not too worried about that. But it is definitely the playbook,” McNamara said when asked about his biggest concern. “You can’t play if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been through that enough to understand. I’ll be living in that thing and doing my grad degree as well. I guess school and the playbook will be my two biggest worries when I get there.”
Right now, the San Diego native is forced on studying for his GRE and trying to get into the Marshall School of Business to get his master’s degree in finance, but once he gets on campus in the fall, McNamara wants to make an immediate impact on the gridiron.
“I want to come in and contribute. Really, that’s my goal, to be on the field, helping the team out. Help us win some games. There’s a lot of expectations for the team this year and I understand that, but I’d love to be a part of that. That’s kind of been my goal throughout college football. It’s a lot more fun when you’re a part of the success.”
McNamara takes pride in his route-running ability and described himself as an “above average athlete” that can stretch the field. He’s worked hard on his blocking technique and said that’s where he’s seen the greatest improvement in college. He’s excited to get onto campus in the fall and get to work with his new teammates.
Being back in Southern California will be a treat as well.
“Awww man, you have no idea. I need to get back to my roots. It’s been too long,” McNamara said. “I’ve made some great friends out here [at Oklahoma] and I’m going to miss a lot of people out here. I don’t regret coming out here one bit, but it’ll definitely be nice to be close to my family, have a beach nearby and all that good stuff.”
Here are some of Taylor McNamara's highlights from his senior season of high school in San Diego: