USC redshirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe transferred from Florida and spent last season helping out on the scout team. Now Imatorbhebhe is battling for playing time in an offense that appears to be much friendlier to the position he plays.
After participating in spring football as a 2015 early enrollee at the University of Florida, Imatorbhebhe decided to come west and transfer to USC where his younger brother Josh was already committed to attend. Now he has experienced spring football practice on two different coasts.
“It’s different, I’m a lot more comfortable,” Imatorbhebhe said comparing the two experiences. “Last year I’d go to practice nervous because [I was] going up against Vernon Hargreaves and all these guys. I was like, ‘Man I’m just a freshman. I shouldn’t even be here, I should still be in high school.’ Now it’s just like, ‘Alright, I belong here. I’m battling for playing time and I’m trying to contribute to the team.’
“All the nerves just kind of calmed, so I like that better. I think it was fun more than anything. I got more comfortable as each practice went on and it’s always good when you get a chance to play in the Coliseum, I don’t want to take that for granted. It was a fun experience.”
Speaking of fun experiences, with Josh already on the team as an early enrollee the older Imatorbhebhe gets a chance to play side by side with his brother.
“It was cool. [We] get to study plays together, watch film together, and stuff like that we’ve always done in high school, so we’re just picking up where we left off,” Daniel Imatorbhebhe said. “Getting to watch him grow as a player has been cool because we’re so invested in each other. So yeah it’s been really cool.”
Imatorbhebhe was able to pick up a lot of Clay Helton’s offensive system last season, making things a little easier for him this spring.
“I feel super comfortable, and I’m getting more and more comfortable every day,” he said. “I’m not where I want to be, but I see myself progressing to get there so it’s all good.”
If spring football is any indication of the future of this USC offense, expect to see Imatorbhebhe and the rest of the tight ends’ involvement become much more significant.
“I think [the offense] is a lot different because the ball is being spread around more because we have so many weapons,” Imatorbhebhe said. “You look out there, you see JuJu [Smith-Schuster], you see Steven Mitchell, you see DeQuan Hampton, you see Isaac [Whitney]. You see guys like Deontay [Burnett], Ajene [Harris], Tyler [Petite], Taylor [McNamara], you can’t really go wrong so our schemes are set up so whoever’s open is going to get the ball, and they’re going to do something great with that.”
Knowing that tight ends are getting targeted more and targeted down the field more is a motivating factor for Imatorbhebhe.
“I think it adds a little extra pep to our step,” he said. “It gives us more confidence, because it shows we’re not just out here to be out here, we’re making an impact on the game. It gives us a lot of confidence knowing we’re a big part of what we’re doing now.”
Last season the tight end position stayed in to block more often than not, but that should change going forward.
“I think Coach Helton says it’s a fifty-fifty, but when the game’s on the line obviously we’re going to put our heads down and run it,” he said. “I would say running is more emphasized because catching and route running is something Tyler, Taylor and me do more naturally, so our emphasis right now is being the best run blockers we can be, and in our communications with the tackles.”
Imatorbhebhe is poised to have a huge impact for the Trojans this season and new tight end coach John Baxter could be one of the biggest reasons why.
“Coach Baxter is the best teacher of the game I’ve ever been around in my life. He makes everything so simple and I know Taylor, Tyler and me are so grateful to have him as our coach. It’s night and day, I’ve learned more in these five weeks of spring ball than I have in the past couple of years.
“I love having him as a coach and I can tell he cares about all of us so it makes it just that much better.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for updates from the offseason as the Trojans get ready for 2016 fall camp.
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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.