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Saturday, January 3, 2015
Trojans have enough horses at receiver to absorb loss of Nelson Agholor

By Garry Paskwietz

For the third year in a row the USC Trojans have lost a talented wide receiver who declared early for the NFL draft, and for the third year in a row the returning group should be more than capable of withstanding the loss.

Don’t get me wrong, the recent departure of Nelson Agholor is not an ideal situation, just as it would have been nice for Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to come back for their senior years to take full advantage of their experience and talent. The Trojans’ offense is expected to be loaded in 2015, and the presence of a proven veteran leader such as Agholor would have been a huge bonus.

JuJu Smith posted 54 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman in 2014.
With talented players, however, there is always the temptation of transitioning to the next level so it was no surprise to see Agholor throw his name in the hat after a career that saw him set a USC record with four punt returns for touchdowns, set the No. 3 single-season mark in 2014 with 104 receptions and finish No. 8 on the career receptions list with 179.

It’s an understandable decision. Agholor was known for his work ethic and approach to the game, just as Woods and Lee were before him, and those who have watched the way he prepares know that he is ready to take on the challenges of the professional game.

So where does that leave the Trojans?

Agholor was clearly the leading USC receiver this year by almost a 2-to-1 margin, as the No. 2 total for the Trojans was JuJu Smith with 54 receptions. Smith is the leading candidate to replace Agholor moving forward as the primary receiving option, especially when you consider that he put up those numbers as a true freshman who turned 18 during the closing weeks of the regular season.

Other options would include George Farmer, the speedster who showed flashes of the big-play ability that he has long promised, and Darreus Rogers, who began last season as the starter with high expectations. Farmer and Rogers each had more than 20 catches in 2014 along with four touchdowns apiece. There are also good possibilities out of the slot with Steven Mitchell and Ajene Harris.

Steve Sarkisian made it a point in the offseason to note that he wanted to add more size to the Trojans’ receiver group and that will be evidenced by a pair of 6-foot-4 junior college receivers who will be added to the mix next season in De'Quan Hampton and Isaac Whitney. Don’t be surprised to see those bigger bodies utilized on bubble screens and red zone work.

They won’t have Agholor, but there is still plenty for Sarkisian and Cody Kessler to like about the receiver position as they look forward to next year.