Despite losing standout Nelson Agholor, the USC wide receiving corps looked like a decided strength for the Trojans in their spring game. However, USC is down one member of that deep group.
Jordan Moore writes for USCTrojans.com that Ajene Harris will have surgery on both hips this summer, which will sideline the sophomore for the duration of the 2015 season. A high school quarterback, Harris quickly took to wide receiver in fall camp last season, earning high praise from head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Yet, despite Sarkisian’s vote of confidence in the preseason, Ajene Harris played sparingly in his freshman season with Agholor so masterfully holding down the slot. The reshuffling of the receivers with Agholor gone had Harris primed to play a significant role — part of which may have been for trick plays. His background as a quarterback came in handy on a double-pass in the spring game that, despite negation because of an illegal shift, was a highlight of the day.
Ajene Harris was not in line to be one of the primary players in USC’s passing attack. Fellow sophomore JuJu Smith is poised to be the clear No. 1 after a standout freshman campaign, while Steven Mitchell’s strong finish to 2014 after returning from injury buoys him into a role as the Trojans’ deep-ball threat. Likewise, JUCO transfer addition Isaac Whitney is a tall target with breakaway speed. Whitney’s very much capable of breaking in as one of Cody Kessler’s top receivers.
USC has another possibility in the slot with Harris scratched, and wouldn’t you know, can still run that trick play. With the influx of new quarterback talent creating a logjam behind Heisman Trophy candidate Kessler, Jalen Greene is making the move to wide receiver.
Greene practiced on scout team last season, primarily functioning as a stand-in for dual-threat quarterbacks USC faced like Arizona’s Anu Solomon and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Greene’s quick and changes direction nimbly, two qualities that could make him a useful addition to the wide receiving corps.
In another positional flip-flop, the loss of Ajene Harris could tempt Sarkisian to use jack-of-all-trades Adoree’ Jackson more on offense. Jackson was stellar at wideout in his limited appearances last season, and Sarkisian joked after the Holiday Bowl that he had to fight with defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to use Jackson more on the offensive end.
One thing the abundant options USC has in restructuring the receiving corps says is the depth issues that vexed the Trojans in recent years are starting to be assuaged. While USC is considerably deeper at receiver than, say, defensive back, depth was lacking almost across the board just a season ago.