USC has its fair share of thrilling position battles to watch this offseason, with so many veterans having graduated or departed for the NFL. Most eyes will be on the duel between quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Browne, as well as the competition at center and cornerback.
While those are all arguably the most important, the vacancy opposite Nelson Agholor at wide receiver could prove to be just as intriguing. That's because sophomore wideout Darreus Rogers will have the spring to prove he deserves the spot before some elite new talent joins the Trojan ranks in the fall.
A true freshman in 2013, the 6'2", 210-pounder showed flashes of promise during the 10 games in which he played. He hauled in 22 catches for 257 yards last season, and his blend of size, athleticism and good hands should see him become a standout playmaker in Steve Sarkisian's new, uptempo offense.
Though he has impressed already, Rogers still has a lot of work to do this spring to show he's ready for a more prominent role in the offense. Unlike Agholor, Rogers' body of work is limited, which means he will really have to prove himself to his new head coach.
How he handles that pressure will ultimately be just as important as how well he fits into the new scheme.
Rogers has the advantage over the three other wide receivers currently in Troy, as he is the only one that has been healthy enough to play consistently.
George Farmer was supposed to be the next big thing out of USC's wide receiver corps, but a series of injuries have kept him sidelined throughout his entire career.
Newcomer Steve Mitchell missed all of 2013 due to an ACL injury, and he will probably remain out until the fall.
Rogers' only real competition will be Victor Blackwell, who only caught four passes last season.
Therefore, we can expect him to get the majority of the reps in the spring, which means he will have a near-exclusive opportunity to work with Agholor.
In an interview with ESPN's Johnny Curren, Rogers expressed his excitement for Sarkisian's system:
“I can’t wait to play in this offense,” Rogers said. “For a receiver this is the type of offense that really showcases you. It’s no-huddle, spread it out and pass, so I really feel like it’s a blessing for me.”
While some USC fans still shudder at the thought of USC in a spread, they really need not worry. Sarkisian's new offense will still essentially be a pro-style scheme, and the spread elements will serve to just make it fresher and more versatile.
For Rogers, having the opportunity to get the jump on learning the new system this spring is critical, as the Trojans have a bevy of talent coming in this fall. The young bucks, John "JuJu" Smith, Ajene Harris, Rashead Johnson and maybe even Adoree' Jackson will be looking to crack the starting rotation in any way they can.
Spring practices and drills start next week, so a promising effort should ensure that Rogers puts himself in a good position to start, come the fall. The budding receiver is poised for a breakout season, and like Agholor did just a year ago, he can really make his presence known by impressing in March.
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