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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Seven under-the-radar USC skill players

By Johnny Curren

The Trojans’ summer volunteer passing sessions have offered a glimpse at not only how the established standouts are coming along, but also at the progression of those lesser-known members of the team looking to make a significant impact for the first time in 2013.

With that in mind, here are seven under-the-radar skill players still fighting for playing time who have made a statement with their play at Cromwell Field this June.

WR Victor Blackwell (6-foot, 190 pounds, Jr.)
Collecting seven receptions for 155 yards and one touchdown in the spring game, Blackwell has picked up right where he left off this past April, shining throughout the summer workouts. That's more than welcomed news considering the USC wide receiver group  is down to just five scholarship players for the 2013 season. Competing with De’Von Flournoy and Darreus Rogers for the right to lay claim to the role as the team’s No. 3 receiver, the former Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei standout has shown off a nice combination of speed, soft hands and big-play ability. His high-flying grab over the middle this past Friday during one-on-ones is typical of the kind of play that he’s been making on a consistent basis lately.

WR Darreus Rogers (6-2, 210, Fr.)
Another member of the position battle currently raging at wideout, Rogers is a mid-year enrollee who just keeps getting better with each rep that he takes. Big and physical, he brings a unique dimension at wide receiver that the USC offense doesn’t necessarily otherwise possess, and he’s come up with a number of highlight-reel-caliber receptions in the last three weeks. Just as importantly, the former Carson (Calif.) star has showcased an exceptional work ethic, appearing more than eager to soak up everything he can from proven veterans such as Marqise Lee. With potential though the roof, he’s certainly someone worth keeping your eye on throughout the offseason.

TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (6-5, 245, So.)
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick broke out in the spring game, hauling in six passes.
With just three scholarship tight ends at USC's disposal, the evolution of Cope-Fitzpatrick this offseason couldn’t have happened at a better time. Having filled out physically in the last four months, he had a fantastic March and April, highlighted by a six-catch performance in the spring game. Continuing in his development this summer, he’s received a ton of work during the team’s throwing sessions, and he’s made a habit of catching virtually everything thrown his way. Also possessing exceptional blocking skills, he should be ready to step right into the tight end rotation this fall along with established performers Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, providing the offense with a talented trio of options.

RB Javorius “Buck” Allen (6-1, 215, RS So.)
Buried on the depth chart, Allen compiled just 32 yards on six carries in his first two seasons at USC. This spring, however, the Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln graduate  looked like a completely new player at times, running with increased confidence and physicality every day. His strong play is carrying over this summer. He hasn’t missed one passing session, taking the most reps of any tailback and looking particularly impressive as a receiver coming out of the backfield. With so much talent at the position, he has an uphill battle ahead of him as he tries to make a case for more carries, but he appears to have shown that he just might be ready to make a significant contribution if called upon.

S Leon McQuay III (6-1, 190, Fr.)
A Class of 2013 ESPN 150 selection who arrived in the spring as an early entrant, McQuay has looked more than at home at free safety this summer after spending the early portion of spring drills at cornerback. Showing impressive coverage skills, he recently came up with a pick-six on a Cody Kessler pass that showed off his athleticism and playmaking ability. Currently entrenched in a position battle with Dion Bailey and Demetrius Wright – two seasoned veterans who have also stood out – he’s a long shot in terms of landing a starting job this season. But with the way that he’s performed, there’s certainly reason for optimism when it comes to his long term future.

WR De’Von Flournoy (6-0, 185, RS Sr.)
Sometimes overlooked because he doesn’t necessarily possess the flash of his counterparts in the competition for the No. 3 receiver job, Flournoy has proved this summer that he’s certainly not someone to sleep on. A dependable pass-catcher who runs crisp routes, he simply doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. A redshirt senior who has seen it all, Flournoy also serves an important function as a leader of the receivers group, and it’s apparent as they go through their paces in the passing sessions.

S Gerald Bowman (6-1, 195, Sr.)
Collecting 11 tackles and an interception in 2012 – his first season at USC after transferring in from Los Angeles Pierce College – Bowman missed spring practice after tearing a muscle in his calf. Now healthy and back in action, Bowman has made the most of his opportunities during the team’s throwing workouts. Known as a big hitter, he’s also proven to be uniquely versatile, rotating between free and strong safety, and he’s even shown off some ball-hawking skills, coming up with an athletic interception that he returned for a score earlier this June.