REWIND: Saraland (Ala.) three-star wide out Velus Jones was the first in the 2016 class to commit to USC at the position. The commitment was surprising, seeing that Jones had yet to step foot on campus and had never been to Los Angeles.
That changed in June when Jones attended the USC Rising Stars Camp. At that camp Jones was agreeable the best wide receiver in attendance. Knoxville (Tenn.) junior wide out Amari Rodgers, who also committed to USC, was step-for-step with Jones for overall top honors.
Jones ability to catch the ball as possession receiver have been noted just from film study, but the extra burst he displayed on deep routes at Rising Stars was an expected. Jones timed well at Rising Stars running had times in the 40-yard dash in the low 4.5 range.
PAUSE: Jones is a flanker at 6-foot, 180-pounds, but he displays enough footwork and agility to play in the slot as well. Jones can work himself open in space underneath the coverage, but in comparison to USC’s other committed wide receivers, he has the best top end speed.
Jones compares most with former Trojan wide out Keary Colbert. Although perhaps not quite as aggressive going for the contested pass, Jones has the top end speed to put defenses on the heels more than Colbert did. That ability is what makes him a receiver who can line up outside the hash marks.
FAST FORWARD: Jones has scholarship offers from a handful of school, but Florida is the only SEC school that has offered him a scholarship. He attended the Georgia Dawg Night Camp this month looking for another major scholarship offer, but only received two reps in an event with 800 players in attendance.
Jones definitely appears open to receiving interest from other schools in the Southeast, so his verbal commitment remains a soft one. Jones is underrated, but that is due to a ordinary junior campaign that did not really take off until Saraland went on a surprise playoff tear in Alabama. His late season heroics led Saraland to the 6A title game where they lost to Clay-Chalkville 36-31.
Of USC’s committed wide receiver prospects, Jones is the most likely to be swayed to stay closer to home. Florida is a threat, but schools like Tennessee, Georgia and Ole Miss would make his recruitment very interesting.
REWIND: Swuanee (Ga.) four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe committed to USC just before his brother, Daniel, transferred in from Florida. While Daniel will play tight end at USC, Josh is the most unique wide receiver on the Trojans big board.
Before getting into what Imatorbhebhe brings to the table as a player within the class, as a recruit he committed to USC over Alabama, Cal, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford and others. Imatorbhebhe was born in Southern California and lived in Orange County for his first few years before the family moved to the Atlanta area.
As a junior, Imatorbhebhe had 59 reception for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns. He measured in at 6-foot-2, 202-pounds with a SPARQ 40-yard dash time of 4.65 at the NIKE Football Training Camp as a sophomore.
Last March, Imatorbhebhe had the best NIKE Football Rating of the Atlanta Regional of The Opening running a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash while posted a vertical leap of 44.2-inches. At The Opening Finals, he finished among the 10 finalists for the NIKE Combine Championship. Imatorbhebhe posted a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.00 shuttle run and a 47.-inch vertical leap.
PAUSE: Imatorbhebhe is 6-foot-2, 205-pounds with long arms and a muscular build. While he isn’t a 6-foot-4 prototype split end, his wing span and strength make him a formidable possession receiver. His top end speed is deceptive due to his long stride and odd running style.
Imatorbhebhe is physical, and he displayed an ability to win contested passes consistently at The Opening Finals despite coming off a hamstring injury. Imatorbhebhe quickly became team Lunarbeast’s No. 1 red zone threat after missing the first day of competition.
For USC, he will play split end, but has the potential to move around. In fact, Imatorbhebhe will probably be used like Juju Smith, who will motion out of the backfield on screens and running plays on occasion this season. With his physique, Imatorbhebhe definitely has the strength to run the ball like a tailback.
Imatorbehbhe is also very smart and could make an impact early based on how well he’ll process the playbook. That could also expand his usefulness within the trojans offensive scheme. Like Smith, Imatorbhebhe is a split end, flanker tweener with some unique physical traits. Smith drew comparisons to Anquan Boldin coming out of Long Beach Poly. By the numbers, Imatorbehbhe is the better athlete, but it remains to be seen if he is the same level football player as Smith.
FAST FORWARD: Imatorbhebhe’s recruitment is fairly simple. He will enroll in January and it would take a lot for another school to sway him away from USC. Specifically, it would take a Trojan meltdown this season with coaching changes to shake his commitment loose.
REWIND: Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian four-star athlete Michael Pittman committed to USC on July 4 after de-committing rom UCLA. The son of Michael Pittman Sr., who played for the Tampa Buccaneers as a running back, Pittman had 47 receptions for 914-yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games.
Pittman originally committed to UCLA in October of last year. That pledge came with immediate talk of potential wavering, which came to fruition in June with a de-commitment from the Bruins. Pittman was considered a heavy lean toward the Ducks at that point, but after taking unofficial visits to Oregon and USC, he opted to stay closer to home. Pittman attended no regional camps during the spring, so all of his vitals are self reported.
PAUSE: Physically, Pittman fit the mold of a prototypical split end. And with that said, unlike Imatorbhebhe, Pittman isn’t going to move around much within a given formation. Oregon recruited Pittman to play defense, then began recruiting him to play offense a slot-back. He balked at that plan for obvious reasons.
At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, Pittman is a north and south runner without much short area quickness. He’s a intriguing athlete with good speed, but is limited when having to change direction to make a play. Rated by Scout as the nation’s No. 4 athlete, his position of focus is projected as safety.
That may have been a more accurate outlook for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Pittman. As he has grown this off season, Pittman looks more like a true big wide out or a potential outside linebacker. Two very different positions, but skill wise, position that cab be tailored for a big, linear athlete with tremendous physicality.
Although Pittman is a big wide out that runs powerfully and has an aggressive mentality, he doesn’t always high-point the ball well and isn’t the most natural receiver. Of the committed wide outs, Pittman would be the most tempting to try at other positions. Frame wise, he could carry 230, 240-pounds, but he’s not the monster Mike Williams was in his build.
There is no good comparison for Pittman at wide receiver currently on the USC roster, which increase his chances of staying at wide out. Fred Davis, who grew into a tight end at USC is a potential comparison, although so is David Ausberry. The important thing to note with Pittman is that he plays for more physically than Ausberry. Pittman runs like his father did in the open field and isn’t afraid to take on multiple tacklers.
FAST FORWARD: Pittman says he is done with official visits and recruiting. While he cannot enroll early at USC due to graduation policies at Oaks Christian, Pittman will be on the path to Cardinal & Gold unless he changes course with taking visits.
Moving ahead, his senior season will be all about growth and development. Will he and Imatorbhebhe compete at split end, or will Pittman develop into an Anthony Barr type edge rusher as he physically matures? We see him entering fall camp next year at more than 220-pounds.
REWIND: La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat four-star athlete Trevon Sidney is rated No. 6 nationally at the position of ambiguity. Sidney has played quarterback, wide out and cornerback for Amat. Last season he had 38 receptions for 540-yards and three scores. On defense he had 47 tackles and four interceptions.
Sidney has been unstoppable this spring leading his club seven-on-seven team and team Alpha Pro in receptions at The Opening Finals. Sidney committed to USC at the event over scholarship offers from UCLA, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Arizona.
PAUSE: Michael Pittman is a bit of a wildcard as an athlete because of his size, whereas Sidney is a wildcard as an athlete because of his skill set and speed. At 5-foot-11, 160-pounds, Sidney is a finesse athlete with superior ball skills and agility. He plays with great awareness in space and is quicker than fast.
Sidney plays baseball for Amat, but his skill set would work amazingly as a forward in soccer. Like the great strikers in futbol, Sidney dazzles with his feet and moves through the air effortlessly. Does that translate into being a slot receiver at USC?
Sidney wants to play inside and outside the hash marks, but moving him around and getting him free in space is crucial because of his size. In seven-on-seven, press coverage is semi-successful because there is no pass rush. However, in a real game, USC will want to get Sidney the ball quickly and let him maneuver in space.
Running in the 4.7 40-yard dash range, Sidney has to find mismatches in coverage to get open deep. That tends to happen near the hash marks where linebackers and defensive backs have overlapping zone assignments. For USC fans looking for a comparison, Sidney has some of the qualities of former Trojan running back Dillon Baxter, but as a receiver. If you take Peter Warrick’s NFL Combine 40-yard dash time into consideration, he would also draw parallels to Sidney’s style of play.
If Sidney doesn’t stay at wide out during his college career, he will play cornerback. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played that position much this off season and at the high school level, good corners rarely get tested. Certainly, his quickness and ball skills would help him excel at the position.
FAST FORWARD: Sidney will likely take two or three official visits, so his commitment is not solid. However, his family is very pro USC and it is unlikely he will venture far from home. UCLA, Michigan and Notre Dame will all make a play for trips, but if USC wins the Trojans will be tough to beat.
As a player, Sidney needs to follow a great off season with more production under the Friday night lights. While he made some big plays for Amat as a junior, Sidney would also disappear in games. If he wants to compete for an Adoree Jackson type role within the offense, he has to be a game changer at the high school level like Jackson was for Serra.