The status of Bryce Dixon and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick is still up in the air and both returning scholarship tight ends have yet to see the practice field this fall. But tight end coach Marques Tuiasosopo still has six able bodies at his disposal, far more than he had at this time last year.
"It’s like Christmas. I don’t know what to do with myself," Tuiasosopo said. "It was just two of us and sometimes one in the spring, and now I’ve got a whole crew. They’ve got great personalities, they’re young, and this is all new to them so some of them were kind of big eyed the first couple of days of practice, but they’ve calmed down and they’re getting more comfortable with our plays.
"One thing for sure is they’re practicing hard.”
True freshman Tyler Petite had originally committed to Duke, but he switched to the Trojans and now he looks to play an integral part in the offense going forward.
“I just think his ability to keep coming back is great," he said. "He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s made some pretty good catches, he’s made some big plays, and he’s just putting his head down and chugging forward. I think the one thing I like is that he hasn’t let this frustrate him.
"There was one practice where it was really hard for him just to do the right thing because his head was swimming, but he’s a tough kid.”
The Trojans also added a pair of transfer tight ends, Taylor McNamara from Oklahoma is available to play right away and Daniel Imatorbhebhe from Florida will be eligible in 2016.
These two transfers face some unique challenges compared to the incoming freshmen.
“It’s just learning a new environment, it’s learning a new terminology, kind of a new way of life, and it’s earning the respect of your teammates," Tuiasosopo said. "Even though a transfer that’s had some years in college is a veteran, he’s still kind of a new guy; he’s like a freshman but I expect that. Like Taylor [McNamara], he’ll fit right in here soon, and it should be a fast and smooth transition for him.”
The most unique situation for a tight end on this roster is former offensive lineman Cyrus Hobbi. After retiring from football a couple of years ago, Hobbi has dropped around 50 pounds and is back on the team at a new position.
“He’s excited," Tuiasosopo said. "One thing I’ll say about Cyrus is he learns it and he’s probably the guy with the least missed assignments. This is a serious deal for him. He’s not just coming back to be on the team, he wants to contribute.
"When I’ve put him in there he’s done the right thing, so that’s very good for me to see. We’re just going to keep giving him as much as he can handle and start building his confidence there. I’m hopeful too that he can help us in the fall as well.”
The unlikely leader of the tight ends is walk-on Connor Spears. The transfer from Columbia is the veteran of the squad and the voice of the tight ends right now.
“Well right now all the young and new guys are looking at Connor Spears because they know that he was the tight end for all of the spring," he said. "He’s doing a good job of teaching. I’ll say this about the group, they’re all great kids, there’s not a bad kid in there, and they’re helping each other. When one guy needs something, Connor will stay back and help, so it’s nice to know that they’re developing that bond and it keeps it fresh for me.”
Not a USCFootball.com member? Sign up now and you'll get a seven day FREE trial! Join the Peristyle Family and get all the great information from The Opening, Pac-12 Media Days, USC summer workouts, access to the Peristyle and all of the premium recruiting updates on USCFootball.com! Become a member today!
Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at email@example.com.