Spring Ball preview: Wide receivers

Steve Smith (Getty)

The wide receiver position coming into this spring is a good news/bad news situation for the Trojans. Click below for a look at this all-important spot as we try to replace two of the best receivers in school history:

The wide receiver position coming into this spring is a good news/bad news situation for the Trojans. The good news is that we've got several outstanding young receivers who combine size, speed and instincts and they will be fighting for the open starting spots in what should be one of the more exciting competitions of the spring. The bad news is that the reason we have two open spots is not only did we lose our all-time leading receiver but last week there was the unexpected departure of the finest receiver in school history.

There is no way to diminish the impact made by Keary Colbert and Mike Williams during their Trojan careers. They simply went out and did it. Colbert was the steady professional who showed up for four years worth of acrobatic catches and quiet leadership. Williams, on the other hand, was a dynamic force who dazzled us during his brief stay with some of the most dominant performances you will see from a receiver. If there is a bright spot as we look forward it is the fact that the success in recent years with the passing game has attracted a slew of young guys who aren't intimidated in the least by the notion of replacing Mike. In fact, several of the new recruits said the opportunity to be the next Mike Williams was a draw which helped attract them to USC and now they will get their chance.

The surest bet heading into spring is that Steve Smith will be given first shot at taking over for Colbert at the flanker spot. Smith learned at the heels of Keary last season and he couldn't have picked a better mentor to show him the ropes. Smith is smooth, runs excellent routes and is the leading returning receiver from last year with 17 catches. Steve also had the longest play from scrimmage for the Trojans with his 73 yard touchdown grab against Oregon State. He has better speed than most people give him credit for and chances are he will be settling in as a starter for years to come.

Whitney Lewis will enter spring as the top choice to take over for Williams at split end. This is the time for Lewis to shine and the spotlight will be on him this spring to see how he responds. Whitney came in with a lot of hype about his potential and his first year with the team was a period of adjustment but now all that is in the past as he has a golden opportunity in front of him. There is little doubt about his physical gifts as Whitney combines solid size (not as tall as Mike but very thick), terrific speed and excellent hands. We saw flashes last fall during practice of his explosive nature and this spring we hope to see that ability on a much more regular basis.

Pushing Whitney at SE will be newly arrived Fred Davis and at this point his decision to graduate high school and enroll early at SC is turning out to be a great bonus after the loss of Williams. Davis will have a big leg up on the freshmen who enter in the fall after he is able to take part in the upcoming spring ball drills. Davis has wowed teammates and coaches so far with his physical gifts (6-4, 220) and he is more physically developed than Williams was when he came to USC. It remains to be seen if Fred can have a similar immediate impact like we saw from Williams but he does have the potential to be a game-breaker. The SC coaches nicknamed Davis "Fast-Freddy" during the recruiting process and this Saturday will be our first look at that speed in action.

One of the more intriguing players to watch this spring will be Chris McFoy. Chris has done a terrific job the past two seasons on the service team by learning the system and continuing to grow as a player. Now he has bulked up and is ready to contribute. We know he is an excellent blocker, one of the best blocking receivers we have, and he has the long frame our coaches like. The competition will be tough in the fall with additional players joining the mix so Chris needs to start making an impression this spring to show that he deserves playing time.

Jason Mitchell and Greig Carlson have shown that they can be effective role players and both have a lot of experience in the system. William Buchanan has shown tremendous off-season gains in recent years but those have yet to translate to the field. Desmond Reed could see some action as a slot receiver but he will also line up at running back during the spring in an attempt to find a role for his skills.

The receivers listed above are a solid group and this fall they be joined by a trio of players who could have an impact. Dwayne Jarrett and Michael Stuart fit the profile of the taller wide receiver while Derrick Jones brings an element of speed that any team would love to have. By the time the season gets going next fall we should see a regular rotation as these position battles get settled and that process begins this week with spring ball. It should be fun to watch.

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