Instant Impact: Baxter and Prater

Kyle Prater

Matt Barkley did it last year, and as a result he beat out Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp in the race to replace Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback at USC. This year, Kyle Prater and Dillon Baxter have both enrolled early with the hopes that participating in offseason workouts and spring practice, will get them ready to compete for playing time as freshmen.

Matt Barkley did it last year, and as a result he beat out Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp in the race to replace Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback at USC.

This year, wide receiver Kyle Prater and multi-talented athlete Dillon Baxter have both enrolled early with the hopes that participating in offseason workouts and spring practice, will get them ready to compete for playing time as freshmen.

Thanks to their early arrivals, Baxter and Prater will already be veterans at taking midterms and finals before they will ever take a handoff or catch a pass. And they will be much more comfortable with the academic side of being a student-athlete by the time the football season rolls around.

So will the added time to settle into college life and learn the playbook be enough for the talented duo to make an instant impact for the Trojans' offense in 2010?

The answer to the question above remains to be seen, and depends greatly on the skill and maturity of the individual players, but as Brandon Huffman, Scout's West Recruiting Manager explained, it certainly will enhance their chances to see the field in their first year at USC.

"I think it's huge because it gives them a leg up on the rest of the incoming freshmen in terms of learning the playbook, getting reps and spending time in the offseason workout program," Huffman said. "In addition, they can adjust to college life during a much more laid back time, instead of right in the throes of the season."

Prater and Baxter, are both five-star recruits that have displayed the potential to contribute right from the start, but as we have learned from watching high school players make the transition to the college game, much more goes into making an immediate impact than just talent alone.

Opportunity is always a big factor and with the loss of USC's leading receiver and best all-around offensive player, Damian Williams, the Trojans now have a need for a true playmaker in the passing game.

While Ronald Johnson could step into that role with Brice Butler likely to fill the no.2 spot, Prater will receive a chance to showcase his tremendous upside during the spring and into the fall.

"I think both will have a legitimate chance at making an immediate impact, though I see Prater as the more likely of the two because of what he brings to the table as a receiver," Huffman said.

And what is it that Prater brings to the table?

Just a 6-5, 205-pound frame to go along with above-average hands and the ability to get separation from smaller defensive backs, which is usually an issue for players his size.

Competing against the top cornerbacks in the country during the week of practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Prater continually made difficult plays look easy and was thought to be one of the most college-ready prospects in the game.

"Prater adjusts better to poorly thrown balls as well as anyone I have seen," said Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels said. "He is a long-strider, but he just seems to accelerate past everyone. If there is a ball thrown high, forget about it, because it will be Prater's."

And don't forget about Dillon Baxter, who is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the 2010 class, with the ability to play a variety of positions on the college level.

A dual-threat quarterback at Mission Bay High School, Baxter will likely get a chance to play some slot receiver and tailback, and maybe even mix things up by occasionally taking snaps as a quarterback in the wildcat formation.

"I think Baxter's best role would be as a running back, with some Wildcat sprinkled in, and utilizing him as a receiver out of the backfield," Huffman said.

After scoring 70-plus touchdowns in his senior season in high school, Baxter is looking forward to making his mark at USC.

"I am really excited and I do plan on playing as a freshman," the versatile athlete recently told KUSI News in San Diego. "I am going to get up and play spring ball up there and work out with the team. Hopefully everything works out."

Which one of these players will make the biggest impact in 2010? USC fans can't wait to find out.


Dillon Baxter and Kyle Prater (left) will both be available for spring practice.

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