With Bryce Dixon, Look for Uptick in TE Production at USC

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Sophomore tight end Bryce Dixon is not back with the USC Trojans after dismissal from the team and expulsion from the university, following a Title IX issue in the spring. But a judge’s stay of his expulsion certainly opens the possibility of Dixon returning in time to finish out fall camp and provide some clarity for one of the Trojans’ biggest offensive question marks.

And, with Bryce Dixon in the lineup, be prepared for tight end to be a prominent factor in the USC offense.

Upon his return to USC as head coach, Steve Sarkisian promised significant relieance on the tight end in his sped-up version of the classic Trojan offense.

That wasn’t just empty rhetoric. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was among the nation’s most effective pass-catching tight ends under Sarkisian, hauling in a nice 69 passes for 852 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2012 campaign.

Five years earlier, while serving as USC’s coordinator under Pete Carroll, Sarkisian oversaw an offense that prominently showcased Fred Davis as a receiving tight end.

Davis rewrote the Trojan record books for tight ends and gave opposing coaches cause for concern.

“He was a monster,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of Davis. “He was the guy, when I put tape in, it was scary.”

Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler didn’t pass to the tight ends too often last season. Randall Telfer caught 21 passes for 197 yards and Bryce Dixon went for 14 catches and 198 yards.

But Dixon, a freshman in 2014, started to break out in the season’s final stretch. Half of his receptions came in the regular-season finale rout of Notre Dame and the Holiday Bowl defeat of Nebraska.

Dixon also hauled in a touchdown against the Cornhuskers.

His sudden removal from the team, coupled with Telfer’s graduation, threw the position’s involvement in the offense into some uncertainty. Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, a standout in 2014 spring practices, was academically ineligible all of last season and is still working to gain clearance.

However, the addition of Oklahoma transfer Tyler McNamara and freshman Tyler Petite helped somewhat to shore up the position. Getting Bryce Dixon back would result in depth USC was sorely lacking at tight end last season — and, if Dixon’s upward trajectory from 2014 continues, he’ll also give the position the star power Sarkisian’s sought.

Trojan teammates like Su’a Cravens are ready for Dixon’s return.

But the tight end’s reinstatement is hardly a given. There are factors at play beyond just Sarkisian giving the go-ahead.