USC’s receiving core is looking a little different than it did last season.
In fact, at times, it’s unrecognizable.
Other than sophomore receiver Marqise Lee, who was a star last season and has carried that success over to the spring, there have been some lesser known players who have stepped into the enormous shoes that junior receiver Robert Woods left when he announced he was out for the duration of spring practice.
One of the players making a name for himself is junior De’Von Flournoy.
Last season, Flournoy caught a total of zero passes. He has no catches in his Trojan tenure. But looking at him this spring, you sure wouldn’t think he was inexperienced.
Flournoy has made the routine catches but has made the difficult ones as well. And he is enjoying every second of it.
“It’s been wonderful,” Flournoy said. “I’ve been put in a position I’ve never been at before.”
Flournoy came to USC as a four-star recruit out of Birmingham High School. He had offers from some of the college football heavyweights, including Notre Dame and Oregon. Injuries, however, have hampered his career.
He has gotten lost in the receiving mix with Woods, Lee and former top recruit receiver George Farmer, all from Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., headlining the squad.
But injuries caught up with Farmer and Woods this spring, and Flournoy has been working with the first-string offense in their place.
Flournoy has had to change his outlook now that he is a focal point of the offense.
“It’s definitely a mindset,” Flournoy said. “I have to prepare myself the day before for all kinds of positions. I have to be ready for anything.”
He also said that in working with the first team, he has paid greater attention to detail and is taking things more seriously.
“I’m getting [more of a] feel for football,” Flournoy said. “[I’m] getting more comfortable being out on the field and just bettering myself as a football player.”
With more exposure and more chances to succeed, Flournoy has also gained a great deal of confidence.
But it is not just playing with the first team that is giving the junior confidence; it is his knack for the spectacular play and knowing that coaches are watching.
“I’m getting confidence by being out here, but I’m getting confidence by making big plays because I know it’s on film,” he said. “Like [associate head] coach [John] Baxter always says, ‘Every day, the coaches are going upstairs and watching a silent movie about you.’”
While his playing time has changed, so has his regular quarterback. Though he and freshman quarterback Max Wittek have the most catches between them this spring, Flournoy has had to adjust to catching passes from senior quarterback Matt Barkley.
“Every quarterback throws the ball differently,” Flournoy said. “Getting reps with Barkley out here [in practice] and outside of school is a good thing, because we’re working on timing … and that’s where you want to be. You want to be with the first team.”
When it comes down to it, however, Flournoy said that though his quarterback is different now, his job will always be the same: to catch the football when it comes his way, no matter who throws it.
“It’s just being out there and in a different position and just being able to catch the ball from the quarterback … if he trusts you enough to throw you the ball,” Flournoy said.
The offense has been somewhat of a work in progress this spring, with players normally atop the depth chart out with injuries. Flournoy, however, has not made any excuses; he is playing with the first team.
“We’ve installed a lot of plays so, as an offense, we have a lot that we’re handling mentally,” Flournoy said. “We just have to go out there and just execute it.”
Flournoy will likely take a back seat when Woods and Farmer return; however, he said he is making the most of his opportunities and is soaking in everything he has learned this spring, at every position he can.
“I’m not going in with the mindset I’m playing one position,” Flournoy said. “I’m in the mindset of being thrown everything.”