As the USC Trojans work through spring practice, one thing has been quite clear: Nelson Agholor is poised to have a tremendous season. Agholor, the rising junior wide receiver, led the Trojans in receiving yards and touchdowns a year ago, and in 2014 he should be even better.
And his new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, is a perfect match to help maximize the efforts of the third-year player.
Plenty of eyes are resting upon the USC quarterback battle as Cody Kessler and Max Browne jockey for position under the new coaching staff. As the Daily Trojan's Darian Nourian points out, both players have been inconsistent throughout spring, leaving the job in limbo.
Yet, through up-and-down quarterback play, Sarkisian knows he has his guy in Agholor. Following practice No. 10, the head coach remarked, per USCTrojans.com: "Nelson kinda does what he does, keeps making big plays." The coach believes in his best weapon, and given Sark's style of play, Agholor should find plenty of success awaiting him in 2014.
Unlike many teams that put up big offensive numbers around the nation, Sarkisian's scheme boasts a tremendous route tree. His receivers are not merely running screens, verticals and stick routes. Rather, he has them working deep outs, deep comebacks, hitches, fades, screens, corners, posts, slants, digs, crossing patterns and sluggos to find space.
Agholor will be allowed to get open all over the field: screens that put the ball in his athletic hands at the line of scrimmage; comeback routes that dare defenders to break on the ball, for fear of the double move; stutter steps on streaks that freeze cornerbacks and put Agholor over the top of the defense; even slants that gobble up the defense and eventually turn into sluggos when safeties get overzealous.
Trojans fans will be familiar with many of the concepts—Robert Woods and Marqise Lee worked various routes to become targets at every level of the field. Sarkisian worked to do the same with the likes of Kevin Smith, Jaydon Mickens, Kasen Williams and Jermaine Kearse during his time in Seattle.
Although everyone's eyes will be on the home runs hit by Agholor, moving the chains will be just as important for USC. Here, from Washington, Williams runs a deeper out at 15 yards that looks routine on the surface but generates a first down to keep the ball moving down the field. Agholor will be doing much of the same as teams fear the explosion play, allowing him to find space and extend drives for the Trojans.
USC is going to run the ball and is also going to use the quick passing game as an extension of its rushing efforts. Screens, slants and hitches will populate the mix as well as long handoffs that have the opportunity to be broken for big gains on the edge. The speed and, more importantly, acceleration of Agholor will be a valuable asset for the new head coach.
And Sarkisian will be a valuable asset to Agholor. The coach trusts his wide receivers to make plays. He believes in their abilities to win 50-50 balls. He is not afraid to call the plays that ask his receivers to use their talent to get open and go make plays.
Steve Sarkisian and Nelson Agholor are going to work. Despite the Trojans not being certain of the quarterback, the head coach and the best wide receiver are on the same page. The coach believes he's sitting on a receiver ready to play to the level of Lee and Woods before him, as he told the Los Angeles Times's Gary Klein.
Sark and Agholor are a sound fit, and whether it is Max Browne or Cody Kessler, the junior receiver will be put in a position to explode in 2014.