Redshirt junior wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. is out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in USC’s road football game against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.
Though the Men of Troy dominated the Wildcats 48-14, Mitchell suffered a tear in his left knee while fielding a short punt and will miss the remainder of the year.
Mitchell’s injury comes during the most productive season of his USC career and three years after the Pasadena native tore his right ACL as a freshman.
“I thought he was playing his best ball,” head coach Clay Helton said. “I’m sad for him. I’m sad for our football team. You could tell how it affected everybody. He’s a kid that’s much beloved by our team, especially that wide receiver unit.”
As the team’s starting slot receiver, Mitchell ranks third on the team in receptions (24) and fourth in yards (226) with a touchdown.
With one year left of eligibility after redshirting his freshman season, Mitchell will be able to come back in 2017 and start once again for the Trojans.
In Mitchell’s place will be sophomore standout Deontay Burnett, who has caught 24 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Although fellow wide out senior Darreus Rogers and tight ends redshirt senior Taylor McNamara and sophomore Tyler Petite will be able to help relieve USC’s passing offense, Helton will have to find another kick returner to take Mitchell’s place.
With most teams kicking away from junior Adoree’ Jackson, Mitchell’s replacement will have to provide the Trojans with adequate field position.
With a bye week this week, the Trojans have extra time to adjust to Mitchell’s absence and perhaps insert Burnett or even freshman Michael Pittman Jr., who has returned a punt for 35 yards along with catching two passes for 21 yards.
Thankfully for redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold, USC’s running game has averaged 177 yards per game and recorded eight touchdowns total thanks to a standout year from senior running back Justin Davis.
The Men of Troy return to action against Cal next Thursday at the Coliseum.