Tight ends take it up a notch -- or 3 -- for Trojans

They've come a long way in the last year and now the Trojan tight ends are planning to take over -- well, just a bit. Taylor McNamara, Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Tyler Petite are bigger, stronger, faster and the position is deeper than ever as they've been showing what they can do this summer.

Watch out for the tight ends, Tyler Petite says. This isn't last fall.

They've made a place for themselves in this USC offense, and with the expanded scheme that passing game coordinator Tyler Helton has brought in from Western Kentucky, the reverse is also true.

"We just kind of knew from the get-go they wanted to use the tight ends more," Tyler said after Tuesday's player-run practice that one again made that point. "They trust us more now."

It's a hard-earned trust from last fall that the trio has had to work hard for, Tyler says. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder from Lafayette was a sure-handed pass-catcher with 15 catches for 145 yards and one TD.

"It's not that Cody [Kessler] didn't trust us," he says after playing behind 6-5, 245-pound graduate transfer Taylor McNamara, the San Diegan who mostly just blocked his three seasons at Oklahoma with one catch who upped that to 12 (with four TD) at USC last fall.

Then there's Florida transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe (6-4, 242), arriving a semester ahead of his younger brother, Josh, while spending the time as an athletic Scout teamer whose strength and speed made him difficult to defend in the fall.

"People underestimate what one year of college football means to you," Tyler says. "It makes you feel like you've earned your way here and you know the offense. Last year, it was a little bit more about trust."

But it's also about something else. "Absolutely there's some new stuff with Tyson that builds on what we were doing," Tyler said of the way this offense uses the tight ends. "There's all the athleticism that Daniel brings."

"It's really nice to have the three of them in the pass -- and the run game," says Sam Darnold, who has built up plenty of trust with his roommate Tyler. "We have three deep-ball-threatening tight ends, especially Tyler and Daniel.

"It's money," Darnold says with that upbeat freshman optimism. "It will be really interesting to see what Alabama decides to do playing us."

But it's not just the pass game for these three, Tyler makes clear. "Coach [John] Baxter tells us there's no position like the tight end -- if you can block." But if you can't block, he says "they can always put n a fourth or fifth wide receiver."

If you don't block, they will. "I'm a lot stronger this spring and summer," says Tyler, who has the soft hands of a baseball player which he was having  loved the game and "played every position," he says, "even catcher," until he gave it up for football his sophomore year in high school.

But "football is my passion," he says. In fact, you could say that about all of these guys, Tyler says. "I think in the eyes of the coaching staff, we've developed the most," he says of his position group with the three players -- and lean 6-7 freshman Cary Angeline -- competing for playing time.

"It's not like a Max Browne-Sam Darnold battle," he says since more than one of them will often be on the field together and with the rotations and opportunities, they'll need three tight ends and the "starter" designation might not matter so much.

"Of course we all want to be the starter," says Petite, who points to his "strength and route-running" as the places he's improved the most in the offseason.

And in the new quick-hitting game, they're all competing for catches. And not just with the tight ends. As Darnold pointed out in Tuesday's throwing session. "It's funny," he said, "JuJu [Smith-Schuster] was getting open and came back and asked me 'Do you not like to throw to me?' "

It's a little different, this time around, Sam says. The quarterbacks get more and quicker reads and they get the ball to the open guy in space as fast as they can.The progressions and decision to get the ball out do not come in the 1-2-3 fashion of last season but with the quarterback scanning the entire field at first to see what's there immediately.

"I guess you could say that," Sam says. "It's really beneficial to us. We have so many threats."

Uniformly speaking

USC fans will get their wish. The Trojans will be the visiting team and wear their new white jerseys with the new cardinal neck trim and sleeve piping and pants trim with the small Greek key design that you've seen in the basketball trim says Director of Equipment Operations Todd Hewitt.

"It's not that much of a change," Hewitt says when compared with the all-bronze alternate uniforms Steve Sarkisian was hoping to use in one game last fall. "It's the classic USC look. The numbers are a bit different as we standardize them throughout the programs. But not much. We want people when they turn on the TV and see us, like with an Alabama, they know it's USC who's playing. And they do."

But the best uniform news is that Clay Helton has decided to go with the classic white socks, black shoes and white shoe strings look both home and away. Gone are the badly mismatched black socks that Lane Kiffin brought in for home games.

Ghost Notes

For more of a play-by-play look at Tuesday's workout, check out our Ghost Notes here.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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