USC Rising Stars: Offense

The Rising Stars Camp was packed with top players from all over the country last week. We break down the offensive top performers from the event.

USC Rising Stars is annually one of the best camps in the nation, and with a long list of top players in attendance Wednesday and Thursday, the Trojan coaching staff one again put on a great show.

The Quarterbacks — Top Performer Tua Tagovailoa

The quarterback position was led by Honolulu (Hawaii) junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Starting off passing drills on Howard Jones Field in much sharper fashion than he did at The Opening Regional in March, Tagovailoa opened up Wednesday’s session with a live arm. While Tagovailoa doesn’t have the prototypical quarterback frame, his arm strength looked much improved in position drills Wednesday.

Glendora (Calif.) senior quarterback and USC commit Matt Fink also had a solid day throwing the ball, especially in scenarios which required quick passes while on the move. Fink and Tagovailoa both won morning session recognition honors, but the day certainly went to the underclassman.

The Wide Receivers — Top Performer Velus Jones

The Rising Stars Camp was stacked with wide receiver talent. Wednesday, the most crucial day of competition, was owned by Saraland (Ala.) three-star senior wide out Velus Jones, Knoxville (Tenn.) junior wide out Amari Rodgers and Cirta (Fla.) four-star wide receiver Freddie Swain. Jones and Swain both garnered recognition awards Wednesday morning, while Rodgers, who is the son of USC wide receivers coach, Tee Martin, was the best underclassmen of the camp.

Jones has not participated in any major off season events this spring, so when he began making plays, he genuinely forced observers to find out who he was. Jones caught more passes on a more diverse number of routes than any other receiver in the camp. While he shows good pass possession skills on film, Jone speed on the vertical routes is what really separated him from the other wide outs in attendance.

In the afternoon, Bishop Amat (Calif.) wide receiver Tyler Vaughns and Swuanee (Ga.) wide receiver and USC commit Josh Imatorbhebhe were the standouts. Like their morning counterparts, Vaughns and Imatorbhebhe both won MVP honors, but their presences weren’t quite to the level of Jones. Imatorbhebhe was in Los Angeles Wednesday with his brother, Daniel, who tells USCFootball.com he is cleared to transfer from Florida to USC.

Wednesday, little brother Josh was on display, showing a big physical frame that was difficult for most defensive back to work around. Imatorbhebhe was by far the most muscular, built wide receiver on the field, and while he did not have the head-turning day Velus Jones and Amari Rodgers did, he still made some plays.

The Running Backs — Top Performer Stephen Carr

The running back position was dominated by the first two players in line or every drills all morning long. Fontana (Calif.) Summit four-star running back Stephen Carr and Antioch (Calif.) five-star running back Najee Harris. Both players won positional awards in the morning session and then sat out the afternoon session.

Harris, measured in at 6-foot-2, 221-pounds as he towered over the other running backs in positional drills Wednesday. In full 11-on-11 team drills, Harris dipped and dived in and out of the  holes the offensive lines paved. Carr, although smaller that Harris, attacked creases in the line and ran more as a power back. Carr also did a good job catching the ball out of the backfield. Harris tends to make the occasional circus catch at every event, which garners plenty of oooh's and aaah’s, but Carr was the more consistent receiver of the two.

Very few players could rival the pure athleticism and physical prowess of Harris, but Carr took first team reps and was front of the line every moment of the Wednesday morning session of the camp. That ended up being the only session either player participated in as Carr went back to school Thursday and Harris hung out with the USC coaching staff the rest of the week.

The Tight Ends — Top Performer Mason Vinyard

Although the camp was void of any scholarship offer targets coming in, San Diego (Calif.) tight end Mason Vinyard continues to be a very intriguing player. USC received the commitment of Exton (Pa.) Downing ton East four-star tight end Cary Angeline Friday, although he did not participate at the camp last week.

Vinyard won tight end MVP honors Wednesday along with Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum junior tight end Josh Falo. Vinyard is intriguing because of his speed vertically. Running a 4.60 40-yard dash, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end has plenty of ability in the receiving game stretching the field.

The Offensive Line — Top Performer Austin Jackson

In a camp so stacked with skills players, the offensive line often gets overlooked. However, Phoenix (Ariz.) junior offensive tackle Austin Jackson could not be overlooked with his 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame. Jackson moved extremely well as an offensive tackle.

Full 11-on-11 team run drills are unique to Rising Stars, and this is where Jackson shines. With a huge wingspan, Jackson jumped out to the second level of the defense and helped open some nice holes for running backs Stephen Carr and Najee Harris. Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei offensive guard Frank Martin and Cedar Grove (Ga.) junior offensive guard Netori Johnson also received awards at the camp.

Martin played mostly right tackle and mixed it up a few times with the defensive linemen as the whistle blew showing that edge which got him an invitation to The Opening Finals in July. However, during one-on-ones, Jackson stood out in both morning and afternoon sessions of Wednesday’s camp. It would be inaccurate to call Jackson dominant. He was very good all-around in every facet of the camp, which is why USC offered him a scholarship Thursday.

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