New faces at receiver

The wide receiver position has been a comfortable area of strength for the Trojans in recent years but this spring there will be a sense of newness to the group after losing the top two receivers from last season in addition to the position coach.

These weren't two normal receivers that departed for the NFL as Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith both leave USC with their names listed among the all-time reception leaders at the school. Also gone is Chris McFoy, a popular and hard working player who was known for his terrific blocking. The position coach, Lane Kiffin, also took his game to the NFL as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

So what will be the status of the Trojan receivers as we enter spring ball? Well, don't cry for us just yet. There are teams all around the country who would gladly trade for the talented players we have lining up to take their spot in line and continue the recent success of Jarrett, Smith, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, etc.

The "veteran" of the group is Patrick Turner, a physically gifted player who has yet to fully develop thanks in part to the presence of two such dynamic players ahead of him for the past two years. Turner came to USC two years ago with high hopes of becoming the next great Trojan receiver but his opportunities have been limited. One game that did showcase his potential was the Washington game in 2006, a game in which Smith and Jarrett were both slowed by injury and only combined for six catches between them so it was Turner who stepped up and caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. There was no doubt after that performance that Turner has what it takes to become a dominant player and he will be given every opportunity to be "the man" this year. With that status also comes a leadership role and Turner says he understands what is expected of him.

"Yeah, I'm kind of the veteran around here now," said Patrick. "It's wild how fast the time goes. I just have the make sure the young guys are working hard, helping them out when they need help and making sure they know the plays. Just let them know how things go around here. Overall we've got guys who have been here for a year now so they know their way around. As far as my game, I've been going upstairs a lot, getting everything straight with my film work. We've got a new position coach now so I've been working with him and he's seems like a good coach."

The favorite for the starting spot opposite Turner, as we head into spring, is Vidal Hazelton. Vidal is a tough receiver who runs good routes, has nice hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle to make the tough catch. Vidal says he learned a lot of lessons during a freshman season that he thought would be filled with touchdown catches all over the place. Instead, it was spent mostly watching and learning the lessons of how to make the transition to college ball.

"I came in here last year thinking I was gonna kill it but I had a lot to learn," says Hazelton. "When I look back on some of my film now from when I first got here I just cringe and can't believe I was making some of those mistakes. One of the biggest things I've had to improve on is my releases, my ability to get off the line of scrimmage. I feel good about that right now. It was good to be able to sit back and watch the way Dwayne and Steve operated because I was able to learn from them, I know the spotlight is going to be on me a lot more this year and they showed me the way to handle things."

Hazelton isn't the only youngster fighting for playing time as there will be three other members of the Class of 2006 who will be looking to make an impact this spring. David Ausberry redshirted last year and did such a good job with the service team that many believe he will end up as the #3 receiver by the time the season rolls around. Ausberry, who looks huge in winter workouts, made plays on a consistent basis against the first team defense in practices last year and that kind of production did wonders for his confidence and preparation. Travon Patterson did not redshirt last year, he saw minimal playing time, but what he showed on the practice field was impressive. Travon has a lot of "shake and bake" in his game and he is also very quick with good hands. Don't be surprised if Travon becomes a real weapon as a slot receiver and downfield target. Speaking of downfield targets, Jamere Holland is healthy and ready to go for spring and this guy gives us an element of speed that we simply haven't seen in a while. In fact, there aren't too many teams in the country who have seen a player with his speed. Patrick Turner, when asked about Holland, said "that's scary speed right there, he just has a different gear". The key for Holland in spring will be to work on polishing his game, especially after sitting out most of fall with a shoulder injury.

Damian Williams, the transfer from Arkansas, will take part in spring ball although he will not be eligible to play in 2007 due to transfer rules. So far it appears as if Williams has good speed and is very fluid with his routes.

Brad Walker returns for another year as a veteran walk-on.

The new position coach is John Morton, who worked last season with the New Orleans Saints and also spent time recently with the Oakland Raiders where he worked on the same staff as current Trojan offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Top Stories