Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick

Tumult, inexperience reigns at TE position for USC

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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.

USC TE Cope-Fitzpatrick on track to be eligible for 2015

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USC tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick missed the entire 2014 season while focusing on his academic eligibility. With the 2015 season just months from kicking off, it sounds as though the potential starter is on track to have his academics in good shape for the fall.

Michael Lev of The Orange County Register noted that latest on Cope-Fitzpatrick’s academic situation after getting an update from USC head coach Steve Sarkisian at a coaches caravan event Monday night. Per Lev, Sarkisian says Cope-Fitzgerald still has some work to do, but things are looking optimistic. Cope-Fitzpatrick is not academically eligible at this time, but if he continues to stay on track he should be eligible and available to play this season.

It was early last August when Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible for the 2014 season for the Trojans. The loss of the projected starter left USC with just two scholarship tight ends for the season. Cope-Fitzpatrick is the only scholarship tight end returning in 2015 following the earlier loss of Bryce Dixon, who left the Trojans amid a student conduct issue. USC’s only other scholarship tight end in 2015 is projected to be Tyler Petite, a Class of 2015 recruit heading to the program this summer.

If Cope-Fitzpatrick is available, it will absolutely help USC at a position of great need as USC works to rebuild depth across the board through recruiting. However, if he is unable to make the grade, it will leave USC in an even bigger hole at tight end in what could be a promising 2015 season.

Bryce Dixon no longer enrolled at USC

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A lingering issue involving Bryce Dixon has officially further depleted USC’s tight end position.

In a very brief missive posted to its official football website, the Trojans announced that “Dixon is no longer enrolled at the University of Southern California.” No reason for the separation was given.

However, it appears that it is an issue that dates back to late last year lingered on into the spring.

In March of this year, in was reported that Dixon would be sidelined for what was only described as a “student-conduct issue.”  It’s been reported that the issue involves an unspecified incident with another USC student.

Regardless of the actual reason behind the split, it’s a very significant loss for the Trojans.

Thanks to the expired eligibility of starter Randall Telfer, Dixon, who was suspended for the Cal game last year because of an unspecified student-conduct issue, was one of two scholarship tight ends on the Trojans roster. The other, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, was academically ineligible for the entire 2014 season and his status for the upcoming season has yet to be determined, even though he participated in spring practice.

Walk-on Connor Spears is also available, while four-star 2015 signee Tyler Petite will join the Trojans in time for summer camp.

The 6-4, 240-pound Dixon, though, was easily USC’s most talented returning tight end. 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.

‘Student-conduct issue’ again sidelines USC TE Bryce Dixon

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Already waif thin at the tight end position, USC has seen that group take yet another, potentially significant blow.

While the initial reports that Bryce Dixon had been dismissed proved incorrect, head coach Steve Sarkisian did confirm that the true sophomore was not a participant in the first day of spring practice Tuesday because of what was only described as an unspecified student-conduct issue.  The Los Angeles Times wrote that “Sarkisian declined to say more about it, citing privacy laws and instruction from the university’s general counsel.”

The Orange County Register, meanwhile, drew a connection to the Fabrication Heard ‘Round the World of a year ago, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the tight end moving forward.

A source close to the situation told me not to draw any conclusions just yet, that it’s a fluid situation and that Dixon has to go through a process. (The latter sounded an awful lot like the Josh Shaw deal from last year.) That same source could not estimate how long Dixon would be away from the team.

Thanks to the expired eligibility of starter Randall Telfer, Dixon, who was suspended for the Cal game last year because of an unspecified student-conduct issue, is one of two scholarship tight ends currently on the Trojans roster. The other, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, was academically ineligible for the entire 2014 season and his status for the upcoming season has yet to be determined, even though he is currently participating in spring practice.

Walk-on Connor Spears is also available this spring, while four-star 2015 signee Tyler Petite will join the Trojans in time for summer camp.

The 6-4, 240-pound Dixon, though, is easily USC’s most talented returning tight end. 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.