USC: Justin Mesa

Spring position preview: TEs

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
6:48
AM PT
We’re doing position-by-position previews in the two weeks leading up to spring practice, breaking down the depth chart for one position group each day, paying special attention to potential things that can change in the spring.

We’ve looked at the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers so far. Today, we analyze the tight ends.

Quick: Who started more games at tight end for the USC Trojans last season, Randall Telfer or Xavier Grimble?

Most would say Telfer because of the way he came on strong at the end of the year and finished with five touchdowns and 26 total receptions. But Grimble actually officially started seven of USC's 12 games in 2011, including most of the first half of the season. He's a better blocker than Telfer -- so, while his speed and hands might be a touch worse, he does have that going for him.

USC's tight ends, in general, have plenty going for them. The question with the unit isn't at all if someone will step up and fill a role -- it's, will there be enough roles for capable players to fill?

Behind Telfer and Grimble, the 1a and 1b of the USC tight end corps, are redshirt sophomore Christian Thomas and redshirt freshman Junior Pomee, both intriguing prospects themselves. Pomee, in particular, is about as enticing a player as you get, a 6-3, 235-pounder with the speed of a receiver and the size of a tight end.

Thomas has had recent injury issues of late was deemed ready enough as a tight end to play over both Grimble and Telfer as a first-year freshman in 2010.

The four will likely be coached by grad assistant Justin Mesa in 2012 and will certainly be without Rhett Ellison for the first time since the 2006 season. But there is new talent enrolling in Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, although he won't be at USC until the fall. So the spring will be about determining who the third tight end is and how much he will be used.

Especially with uncertainty at fullback for the fall, it wouldn't be too surprising if the Trojans took a page out of rival Stanford's playbook and resorted to a lot of two-tight-end sets. If that's the case, then Thomas and Pomee suddenly become very valuable as passing-game threats and injury insurance.

This one's a good one to watch.

Check back Monday for the offensive linemen.

Coach Speak: Week 4

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
7:29
PM PT
Notes and quotes from Lane Kiffin's Sunday evening conference call after the Trojans' 38-17 win over Syracuse:
  • A last look back at the contentious call on USC's final drive against the Orange, where Matt Barkley tried to throw the ball out of a timeout on first and five at the Syracuse five-yard line and was sacked on the play for a loss of 10 yards. The call was very peculiar -- Barkley hadn't thrown the ball in more than 10 minutes and 10 offensive plays, yet the Trojans asked to him throw once into the end zone. The natural assumption was that they wanted him to break the school record for touchdown passes in a game, but Kiffin denied that afterward, joking about the play and saying that offensive assistant Justin Mesa simply signaled in the wrong call from the sideline.
  • Asked shortly afterward, Barkley said that was not the case and added that he wanted to give the ball to running back Curtis McNeal the whole time; Mesa said only there had been a "miscommunication" between he and the head coach and did not add any further context. Sunday, Kiffin took responsibility for the play but was still very vague about what exactly happened. "As the head coach, I'm accountable for that," he said. "That's not what I was hoping would happen in that situation. That's really all I got on it." He did add that he would've elected to pass when he was an offensive coordinator but not anymore.
  • On the topic of Barkley, Kiffin said his junior signal-caller was "awesome" Saturday. And he noted, as we did, that five-touchdown games are becoming so commonplace for him that people barely talked about just how good he really was against Syracuse. Kiffin said Sunday he could've focused his entire 10-minute postgame news conference on how good Barkley was, but he only ended up talking about him for a total of about 30 seconds. "I think we have become accustomed around here to seeing those types of performances," Kiffin said. "Those types of days don't happen very often around the country. It's pretty cool that we expect that around here, that those are our standards."
  • Kiffin spotlighted the play of McNeal, who ran hard late and finished as USC's leading rusher, as well as redshirt freshmen linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard. Pullard "played as well as anybody" on the team against Utah and followed it up with another good game against Syracuse. Bailey's success at strongside linebacker -- he had nine tackles and a sack on Saturday -- has validated the coaches' decision to move him down from safety in the offseason and start him right away despite no in-game experience. "You get excited as a staff when experiments work," Kiffin said.
  • Kiffin said he talked a "little bit" with defensive tackle Armond Armstead and his family, and plans to talk with them one more time in the next couple of days. He said there'd be "something" of an update on the senior's status Tuesday, which could be a final determination as to whether he'll play this season.
  • Injury update: Linebacker Lamar Dawson sprained his left ankle on his final series in the fourth quarter and was wearing a walking boot as he exited the Coliseum on Saturday night. Kiffin did not rule out the possibility that he could play this week. There were no other serious injuries, Kiffin said.

TE Junior Pomee in camp and practicing

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
10:46
PM PT
Rancho Verde (Calif.) tight end Junior Pomee's official arrival at USC this fall was delayed by NCAA eligibility requirements, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder was on campus Tuesday and practicing with the Trojans for the first time.

He had taken classes at USC during the first summer session in June before school administrators discovered he had one class left to take in high school, so he went back home to Moreno Valley and completed the class last week. He missed nearly two weeks' worth of practice but made an immediate impact in Tuesday's session, putting on display his superb combination of size and athleticism -- although his performance wasn't all good.

On his first catch in 7-on-7 drills, Pomee attempted to gain extra yardage after corralling the ball and was stripped by corner Anthony Brown, putting the ball on the ground. He had to run a lap around Howard Jones Field, as do all turnover-offenders.

“He learned a valuable lesson to keep the ball high and tight on his first catch,” said graduate assistant tight ends coach Justin Mesa. “The first time he got the ball thrown to him, he caught it on a nine-yard snap route and got it punched away from him.”

“It’s growing pains. But he’s gotta learn how to play the Trojan way."

Mesa said that, from what he knows thus far, Pomee is a capable contributor to the young tight ends corps that features three second-year players and one senior, Rhett Ellison, who could end up playing fullback.

“He’s willing, and he’s eager to learn, and he’s gonna fit right in with the group," Mesa said. "It’s a good group for him to come into and it’s also a good kid to come into the group.”

USC now has just one 2011 signee who has yet to arrive on campus: Tallahassee, Fla. running back Javorious 'Buck' Allen. Kiffin said Tuesday he didn't have an update on Allen's status.

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PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler361236296820
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen1357855.814
T. Madden1387035.13
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Lee5779113.94
N. Agholor5691816.46
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Offense174.2218.1392.3
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