Tight end Randall Telfer anticipated more pass-catching opportunities when he opted to return to USC for a fifth season.
New Coach Steve Sarkisian got the ball into the hands of two Mackey Award winners in the last seven years, so there was reason for optimism. USC's Fred Davis won the award as college football's top tight end in 2007 and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins won it last year.
"Coach Sark has told me that I'm going to be a weapon in this offense," Telfer said Tuesday. "I believe him, just based on his track record with previous tight ends."
Telfer's opportunities probably increased exponentially with the news Monday that junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was academically ineligible to play this season. The situation leaves the Trojans with only two scholarship tight ends, Telfer and freshman Bryce Dixon.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Telfer has 44 career receptions, 10 for touchdowns. But 26 of those catches and five of the touchdowns came when he was a redshirt freshman in 2011.
Telfer struggled through several leg injuries last season and caught only six passes. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and sat out spring practice.
But he has been active and effective in the first two days of training camp.
"In a lot of ways, he's looked like he hasn't missed a beat," tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo said, adding that Telfer has been a leader and example for Dixon and senior walk-on Chris Willson, who transferred from Wake Forest last season and switched from quarterback to tight end.
The 6-4, 240-pound Dixon had 64 catches, 14 for touchdowns, at Ventura St. Bonaventure High last season.
Telfer said he imparted to Dixon lessons learned from former Trojans tight end Rhett Ellison, now with the Minnesota Vikings.
"One of things that we preach for tight ends here at USC is aggression," Telfer said. "That's something that Rhett Ellison taught me."
Telfer learned another lesson last season when he practiced despite injuries that would have sidelined most others.
The new coaching staff has already counseled him about a more prudent approach to keep him physically sound.
"They said, 'Randall, we understand you're a warrior, we understand you want to be out there. But for the sake of the team and for the sake of your health, just take it easy.'
"So I'm going to listen to them."