Taylor McNamara

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.

Oklahoma TE Taylor McNamara transferring to USC

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Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara will transfer to USC this fall, he announced on Twitter Monday evening. A fourth-year player out of San Diego’s Westview High School, McNamara will use the graduate transfer exemption to obtain immediate eligibility for the Trojans.

The former four-star recruit played in 11 career games for Oklahoma with one start. He has one career catch for four yards.

USC lists three tight ends on its 2015 spring roster. The group possesses three career catches for 16 yards.

(Photo credit: Oklahoma athletics)

Nation’s top tight ends named to Mackey Award watch list

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A grand total of 38 tight ends from around the country have been named to the John Mackey Award watch list. This is a refreshing total to lay eyes on when most watch lists seem to include about half of the nation’s players at a certain position by default.

The John Mackey Award is presented annually to the nation’s top tight end. It is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who played his college football at Syracuse. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on November 17 and finalists will be announced on November 24. The Mackey Award will be awarded on December 10 in Baltimore.

The Mackey Award was first awarded in 2000. In the 14 years the award has existed, no school has had more than one Mackey Award winner. Last year’s Mackey Award winner was Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary was a finalist for the award last season and is listed on the watch list this season.

Here is this year’s Mackey Award Watch List:

Rory Anderson, Sr, South Carolina
Kennard Backman, Sr, UAB
Blake Bell, Sr, Oklahoma
EJ Bibbs, Sr, Iowa State
Pharof Brown, Jr, Oregon
Kyle Carter, Jr, Penn State
Kivon Cartwright, Sr, Colorado State
Gerald Christian, Sr, Louisville
Braxton Deaver, Sr, Duke
Thomas Duarte, So, UCLA
Luke Eakes, Sr, Northern Illinois
Evan Engram, So, Ole Miss
Billy Freeman, So, San Jose State
Darion Griswold, Jr, Arkansas State
Connor Hamlett, Sr, Oregon State
Hunter Henry, So, Arkansas
Mitchell Henry, Sr, Western Kentucky
Jeff Heuerman, Sr, Ohio State
Wyatt Houston, So, Utah State
OJ Howard, So, Alabama
Jesse James, Jr, Penn State
Malcolm Johnson, Sr, Mississippi State
Ben Koyack, Sr, Notre Dame
Tyler Kroft, Jr, Rutgers
Devin Mahina, Sr, BYU
Taylor McNamara, So, Oklahoma
Jimmy Mundine, Sr, Kansas
Johnny Mundt, So, Oregon
De’Marieya Nelson, Sr, Arizona State
Nick O’Leary, Sr, Florida State
Casey Pierce, Sr, Kent State
Sean Price, Jr, USF
Jay Rome, Jr, Georgia
Tyreese Russell, Sr, Eastern Michigan
Wes Saxton, Sr, South Alabama
Randall Telfer, Sr, USC
Eric Tomlinson, Sr, UTEP
CJ Uzomah, Sr, Auburn

The Rimington Trophy watch list (best center) was also released today. On Monday the watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award and Hornung Award were released.