March 30, 2009

USC receivers should help new QB

With all the pressure heaped upon the shoulders of the competing quarterbacks, it must be nice to know there are guys on the field more than willing to help.

In fact, Mitch Mustain said as much.

Mustain and the rest of the quarterbacks raved about USC's receivers after the first day of spring practice.

"Our guys look so fast out there," Mustain said.

While trying to groom a new starting quarterback is certainly difficult, the veteran, a talented Trojan receiving corps will make things a little easier.

Damian Williams is the most polished, complete receiver on the roster. Williams has good speed and excellent hands to go along with fantastic football IQ. He'll certainly be the focal point of opposing defenses trying to control the Trojans' air attack. He's also developing into one of the strongest leaders on the offense.

If speed was what wowed Mustain and the other USC quarterbacks, there's a good chance Ronald Johnson was somewhere close. USC's top vertical threat, Johnson has become a much more complete receiver since his freshman season. He's also one of the hardest workers on the team, getting in extra reps whenever and wherever he can.

The battle for the third receiver spot is one of the most contested competitions on the team. There's a group of capable receivers with different skills and strengths that will give offensive coordinator and receivers coach John Morton some different options.

If USC is looking for some physical presence, David Ausberry could be the man. Ausberry has a huge frame to go along with his good speed. However, the dominant physical appearance hasn't translated fully into games yet.

On the other end of the physical spectrum, USC could look to speedy Travon Patterson. Patterson is a prototypical slot receiver who hasn't made a major impact at USC quite yet. In practices, though, he's shown great burst after the catch.

Redshirt freshman Brice Butler might be the best route runner of the entire group, a moniker he earned in his first week on campus last summer. Butler's got great length, but he has to get stronger over the middle. He still drops too many balls, as well, but Butler might have more upside than any other receiver on the team.

Don't think Jordan Cameron's time with the USC basketball team impeded his growth as a football player. Cameron stayed in good enough shape that he didn't take more than a day off before rejoining the Trojan football team after the basketball season ended. He's a big, athletic, tall receiver who could materialize as a terrific red zone threat.

Brandon Carswell has flirted with playing meaningful reps, and he could finally breakthrough this spring. He does a lot of things very well, and his consistent play could earn him time. He might not be as specialized as the other USC receivers, but he's shown in practice that he's capable.

An x-factor at receiver, quarterback Garrett Green knows the offense probably better than any other skill player. Green's a good route runner with good hands, and he uses intelligence to get open. He's also always a double-pass trick play away from changing a game.

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