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Former quarterback Jalen Greene gives USC another weapon at receiver

USC receiver Jalen Greene eludes Arkansas State defensive back Allen Sentimore after making a reception in the season opener.

USC receiver Jalen Greene eludes Arkansas State defensive back Allen Sentimore after making a reception in the season opener.

(Harry How / Getty Images)

Jalen Greene dreamed of throwing passes for USC.

Until training camp, he never expected that he would do it as a receiver.

Greene, a redshirt freshman, moved from quarterback to receiver after spring practice. In the opener against Arkansas State, the left-hander completed an option pass to tailback Dominic Davis for an 18-yard gain that set up a touchdown.

“I really wanted a touchdown,” Greene said, laughing, this week, “but I was just glad I got a chance to throw a pass and catch a couple.”

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Greene, 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, had two receptions for 25 yards.

“He’s a weapon for us,” Coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday.

Greene had wanted to play receiver at Gardena Serra High but moved to quarterback to help the program fill a need. He earned a scholarship to USC, enrolled in January of 2014 to get a head start on learning the offense and then mainly ran the scout team last season.

After USC’s final spring scrimmage in April, he approached offensive coordinator Clay Helton about changing positions.

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In addition to catching the ball, Sarkisian said Greene blocks well and provides the Trojans with “a safety net” because his knowledge of the offense enables him to play all three receiver spots.

“What I’ve been impressed with is just his sheer physicality,” Sarkisian said, adding, “He breaks a lot of tackles, which you wouldn’t think for a guy for the first time doing it.”

Greene was happy to record his first completion and catch the first passes of his career against Arkansas State. He hopes for more opportunities Saturday when the Trojans play Idaho at the Coliseum.

“I did what I was supposed to do [against Arkansas State],” he said, “but I have to keep working to fight to get more reps.”

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Whether Greene remains at receiver or returns to quarterback in 2016 will be determined after the season, Sarkisian said.

“There’s going to be a decision made: Do you want to stay there? Do you want to come back and give quarterback another shot? But I think being out there is going to help him become a better quarterback too,” Sarkisian said. “I’m glad we made the move; I’m glad he wanted to make the move because he’s really helping us right now.”

Bound to redshirt

Quarterback Sam Darnold was not among the 13 freshmen who played in the opener, and he is not expected to play this season unless Cody Kessler and Max Browne are injured.

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But the 6-4, 215-pound Darnold impressed during training camp and is on track to compete with Browne next season.

“It’s a long journey for me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking it.”

Darnold, who played at San Clemente High, arrived at USC in the summer. Ricky Town enrolled at USC last spring and had the benefit of spring practice, but he left during training camp and transferred to Arkansas.

“I don’t think any of us were expecting it,” Darnold said of Town’s abrupt departure. “That just caught me off guard so much because we were talking the day before and he seemed happy.”

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Town’s departure appears to have cleared the way for Darnold, but he said it did not change his outlook.

“I always say this: ‘I’m going to have to compete no matter what,’” he said. “That was my mind-set coming in. It’s still my mind-set.”

Quick hits

Offensive lineman Damien Mama and tailback Aca’Cedric Ware, who suffered knee sprains Wednesday, are expected to play Saturday, Sarkisian said after Thursday’s closed practice.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein


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