USC Football: The Case for Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick to Be USC's Starting Tight End
As he prepares to embark on his inaugural season as USC's head coach, Steve Sarkisian will have to look for as many contributors as possible on a roster that lacks depth due to the scholarship reductions placed on the Trojans courtesy of the sanctions handed to them by the NCAA.
This is particularly true of the tight end position, where a lack of scholarship players was magnified by the ill-advised defection of Xavier Grimble, who tested the NFL waters but was not drafted.
Now left with a single player with much experience at the position—Randall Telfer, who has played for the Trojans for three years—tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo faced the prospect of opening the 2014 season very light at a position that is critical to the offense that Sarkisian likes to run.
Fortunately for Tuiasosopo, Sark and the Trojans, they still have a seldom-used but potentially great tight end named Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, a player who had worked hard while waiting for his time to shine.
And shine he did during the recently completed spring practice session, so much that he immediately thrust himself into consideration for serious playing time in 2014—and not just because the Trojans are thin at the position.
This slideshow will look at the reasons why Cope-Fitzpatrick should not only get increased playing time but indeed should be a starter this year.
So, will Cope-Fitzpatrick start at tight end for USC in 2014?
He should, and here are the reasons why.
Cope-Fitzpatrick Has an Extra Practice Camp in Sark's System
With Telfer missing the recently completed spring practice camp due to injury, it left Cope-Fitzpatrick as the only scholarship tight end available for Sark as he implemented his offense at USC.
In a system that features strong tight end play, Cope-Fitzpatrick benefited from that exposure. Along the way, he asserted himself as a go-to player that can be relied on.
Although Telfer will be healthy for the fall camp, he will be behind Cope-Fitzpatrick as they enter the final practice sessions before the season starts.
Telfer Is a Potentially Great Player but Is Injury Prone
For the sake of full disclosure, I acknowledge that Telfer is a very good tight end with the potential to be great—if he can stay healthy, that is.
Since his arrival at USC, Telfer has had a litany of injuries, some that have caused him to miss games, others that have just diminished his capabilities.
In 2012, a sprained ankle caused him to miss a game and hampered him in others. That was followed in 2013 when he missed spring practice with a knee injury and several games with another knee injury.
Now in 2014, Telfer has missed another spring session with injuries.
Of course, injuries are part of the game, and certainly every good Trojan fan wishes him nothing but good health. However, if history is any indicator, Cope-Fitzpatrick may be forced into the lineup sooner rather than later.
Cope-Fitzpatrick Has Had a Breakout Spring
Make no mistake about it: Cope-Fitzpatrick had a very good spring practice session in 2014.
In fact, Cope-Fitzpatrick stood out in the recently completed camp. In doing so, he caught the eye of his head coach, according to Johnny Curren of ESPN, who quoted Sark as saying, “I think Jalen has really focused himself on trying to come out and having a good spring."
That wasn't all the head coach had to say. He continued, stating, “He’s an athletic guy, he’s got tremendous ball skills and I think he’s seen a real opportunity to step up and make plays, and he’s doing it.”
Given the fact that Sark needs players at the position and Cope-Fitzpatrick seems to have caught on to his system flawlessly, it would seem that he has a jump on Telfer for the starting gig.
In reality, it probably doesn't matter who starts as both Telfer and Cope-Fitzpatrick are bound to see a lot of action in 2014.
It should also be noted that USC will welcome Scout.com 4-star tight end Bryce Dixon in the fall, but he is a true freshman. It remains to be seen how much Dixon will contribute this year.
Of more concern to Sark and his staff is whether or not each of these players can stay healthy for the entire campaign.
In an offense that features the tight end prominently—after all, Austin Seferian-Jenkins won the Mackey Award (given to college football's most outstanding tight end) for Sark last year—both players will counted on if the offense is to run as expected.
But given what we have seen so far with Cope-Fitpatrick, don't be surprised if he gets the nod to start in 2014.
And with Sark's obvious leanings toward players with hyphenated names, Cope-Fitzpatrick may already have an advantage going in...
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