Redshirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe saw his first college football action against Alabama and hauled in his first catch against Utah State.
“It was cool. I remember talking with ’T-Mac’ [Taylor McNamara] because we room on the road and he was just telling me about his career,” Imatorbhebhe said. “He remembers his first catch and some things like that, and he just said not to worry about stuff like that. Like once it happens, you just get more in the groove of it. So it was cool to get that out of the way. I’m really glad we won.”
Imatorbhebhe’s experience is a little different than most redshirt freshmen since he spent a spring semester at the University of Florida before transferring to USC in the fall. Because of NCAA transfer rules Imatorbhebhe sat out all of last year and worked on the scout team.
“It’s cool because last year I got to see what things are like,” he said. “Like on game day, see what the atmosphere is like, like when we played Stanford and all the big home games and stuff like that so now it doesn’t faze me. Because I’ve been doing it for a year, now I just get to actually suit up and play and contribute this year. It’s been cool. I’m so happy to be here. I’m so happy to be living out a dream of mine, playing for the Trojans, and it’s something I don’t take for granted so it’s been really cool.”
Against Utah State the three Trojan tight ends played about the same amount of snaps. Tyler Petite had 38 total snaps, Imatorbhebhe had 35 and Taylor McNamara had 23 offensive snaps (he also had 10 snaps on special teams). McNamara is listed as the starter, but an ankle injury in practice likely limited his playing time against the Aggies.
“Coach Baxter laid out to us how the game was going to go as far as rotation and series’, stuff like that,” Imatorbhebhe said. “So I wasn’t surprised, I was just ready. It was good getting that experience playing for the first time since my senior year, against Alabama, and now I’m back in the groove of things. I’m excited to play against another team, so it’s cool going out there and getting more experience each and every game. And I’m feeling more and more comfortable so it’s been cool.”
In the spring Imatorbhebhe and the tight ends were running a lot more vertical routes, but thus far we have not seen that aspect of the offense.
“I think that’s just a game plan thing,” he said. “Just trying to take advantage of whatever defense we go against. In the spring we really didn’t have a say either way, so wherever the coaches told us to go or do, we’d do. I think there’s a lot in the game plan this week but I guess we’ll see. It always changes depending on what the defense gives us when we go out there.”
The opener was obviously a tough pill to swallow for the Trojans, but the bounce-back win against Utah State has certainly helped with team morale.
“I think it helped a lot because around here all summer we were just talking about a nameless-faceless opponent mentality,” he said. “It could’ve been Utah State, it could’ve been Utah, it could’ve been Washington. Whoever we’re playing is who we’re playing and more importantly we were trying to prove to ourselves ‘Hey we’re going to give our best each and every rep,’ because it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.
“That win, I think it was huge because people aren’t walking with sad faces, people are now like ‘Alright, we got our practice game out of the way, it’s time to go see if we’re for real or not,’ and we believe we are. It feels good to get it going in the right direction.”
Imatorbhebhe has been impressed with what he has seen on tape from his next opponent, Stanford.
“They’re really physical, they’re well coached,” he said. “It’s cool seeing one of their DBs, who I kind of grew up with, Quenton Meeks. I’ve been watching him a lot, he’s a really good. He played nickel last year and I think he’s playing outside this year. They’re really good and we’re hoping playing against some of the best brings out the best in us. It’s always good knowing that you’re going into a fight and I’m looking forward to it.
“I know all the rest of the tight ends are jacked up because we lost to these guys twice last year, and that’s not really something that sits well with us so I’m excited.”
Alabama was of course a huge game, but opening conference play against a rival has the Trojans jacked up this week in practice.
“I think you can kind of see it out here everyone’s really dialed in, we’re not really playing around or just like ‘Oh let’s get through practice.’ It’s more like ‘Let’s squeeze out the most that we can,’ because we know how huge these practices are. We don’t get another full padded practice on Tuesday back.
“Coach Helton showed us in the film room, practices on Tuesday from the Reggie Bush era and we saw how hard they went. And they won championships and that’s something that we’re trying to emulate out here. We’re not just doing it to get through it but we’re doing it to get ourselves better, and get our defense better so it shows on Saturday’s, and the games are easy.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from the practice field during Stanford week.