After a glimmer of “hope” earlier this month, it appears uncertainty will continue to rule the day at USC when it comes to experience at the tight end position.
Around a week ago, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the expulsion of Bryce Dixon has been stayed, which seemingly cracked the door for the tight end’s return to the Trojans football team. Dixon was expelled in mid-May because of what was described as “Title IX sexual misconduct” involving a female USC student.
While USC restored Dixon’s athletic scholarship in the wake of the judge’s ruling, the university would not permit Dixon to return to the football team. Dixon and his attorney had considered legal action against the school that would force them to allow the sophomore to return, although they ultimately decided against it for the moment.
While Dixon is “considering his options,” the attorney told the Los Angeles Times that, “[a]t the moment, USC is the best place for him, even if he doesn’t play football.” Dixon is registering for fall semester classes and intends to attend USC as a student this month.
On another tight end front, head coach Steve Sarkisian acknowledged that Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, after an optimistic June update, will not play for the Trojans this season as he will instead focus on academics. Cope-Fitzpatrick missed the entire 2014 season after being declared academically ineligible in August of last year, which opened the door for Dixon to log significant playing time in his first year with the Trojans.
Last season as a true freshman, Dixon caught 14 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns, the latter total of which was tied for second on the team. He ended the year on a high as he grabbed a season-high four receptions for 44 yards in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
Cope-Fitzpatrick was a four-star member of USC’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 tight end in the country. He played in 23 games his first two seasons, catching three passes for 16 yards, before academic issues pushed him to the sidelines.
Given the developments involving Dixon and Cope-Fitzpatrick, USC will very likely enter the 2015 season with one player at the tight end position who’s caught at a pass at the FBS level: Taylor McNamara, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma who caught one pass for four yards during his time with the Sooners. Additionally, Connor Spears, a walk-on, caught three passes his true freshman season at Columbia before leaving the Ivy League school to join the Trojans.
Tyler Petite, a four-star member of the Trojans’ most recent recruiting class, could be in line for significant playing time as a true freshman.