USC has a recent tradition of featuring two standout wide receivers in the same offense. The Trojans have one star wideout for 2014 in Nelson Agholor, but finding that second breakout performer is among the challenges facing new head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff once spring practices commence in March.
Agholor is making a natural progression that has been a calling card for USC of late. He was a complementary player to All-American Marqise Lee and thrived in his role. Similarly, Lee flourished in his first year playing alongside Robert Woods, who was initiated to the Trojans offense feeding off Ronald Johnson and vice versa.
From Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith in 2006, to Keary Colbert and Mike Williams in 2003, USC offenses flourish with a dynamic one-two punch at receiver.
Half of the combination is set thanks to Agholor. His ascent to top receiver actually began ahead of schedule due to Lee's injury-plagued 2013, and he enters 2014 as arguably the conference's most explosive receiver.
Agholor finished the season with one fewer reception than Lee, but 918 yards to Lee's 791.
But even a banged up Lee forced defenses to compensate, turning more of the attention to him. Without a viable No. 2 option to alleviate some of the similar pressure he'll face, Agholor could be in for a frustrating junior campaign.
Sarkisian and his staff molded successful, multifaceted receiving corps at Washington. Most promising for this upcoming year's USC team is that the most recent Huskies receiving corps succeeded despite losing its top returner, Kasen Williams, for the final five games.
Jaydon Mickens showed flashes in his freshman season of 2012, then more than doubled his production as the No. 2 target behind Kevin Smith in 2013. Darreus Rogers is a candidate to make a similar second-year leap.
Rogers was USC's third-most-productive receiver in his rookie campaign with 22 receptions, tied for fourth most among all Trojans with running back Buck Allen. A 4-star prospect from Carson (Calif.), Rogers offers a nice contrasting style that could work well opposite the explosive Agholor.
Sarkisian might be able to fill Lee's vacancy from the same pipeline that provided Lee. From nearby Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra, USC produced both Woods and Lee, and this offseason George Farmer will make his bid to continue the Serra tradition.
Farmer was moved to running back in 2011, a switch that Farmer still saw as an opportunity to make plays in the passing game when it was made, as he told USCTrojans.com:
I am committed fully. I'd still like to play some receiver. If they flank me out there, with Robert and Marqise on the outside, it'll be good because I'll have a linebacker covering me. If it's going to help the team, I'm down for it.
Helping the team could mean bouncing back from the knee injury that sidelined him throughout 2013 to be the receiving corps' new playmaker.
Another Serra product and the marquee signee in the Trojans' 2014 recruit class, 5-star athlete Adoree' Jackson, shined on both sides of the ball at the prep level. Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated writes Jackson's diverse repertoire is "a nice tool for...Sarkisian" and could make Jackson "an immediate replacement for Marqise Lee."
Jackson does not arrive until the summer, so returning receiver reserves Steven Mitchell and Victor Blackwell have a head start in preparing for 2014.