USC’s Nelson Agholor is impressive in spring drills

USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor warms up during a team practice session in August. Agholor showed off some of his skills Saturday during a team scrimmage at the Coliseum.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Nelson Agholor briefly stopped to say hello to a couple of former teammates Saturday at the Coliseum.

Former All-American receiver Robert Woods, now of the Buffalo Bills, was there to watch the Trojans go through their first scrimmage drill of spring practice.

Marqise Lee, the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner and projected first-round NFL draft pick, also roamed the sideline.


After exchanging pleasantries with both, Agholor went out and showed them that he was ready to step into the role as USC’s next top receiver.

The junior caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Kessler and made several other impressive plays during a brief period that included tackling.

“When you label it a scrimmage, it kind of gives it more of a game atmosphere,” Agholor said. “When you label it a scrimmage in the Coliseum… there’s so much more, like, juice.”

Agholor was the standout player for an offense that took advantage of defensive rustiness, at least in terms of tackling.

The Trojans had not been in full pads during the first five spring workouts. Not surprisingly, it looked like a first day Saturday, Coach Steve Sarkisian said.

“Guys were a little sloppy when it came down to actual fundamentals and technique,” he said of the tackling.

Agholor and Kessler, who have been roommates, appeared in sync.


“I threw it a few times before he even broke out of his route,” Kessler said.

Two years ago, Agholor came on as the third receiver behind Woods and Lee. Last season, he was the No. 2 option behind Lee, but injuries suffered by Lee enabled Agholor to become Kessler’s top target in the second half of the season.

He caught 56 passes for 918 yards and six touchdowns.

Agholor did not catch a pass against Washington in 2012, and the Trojans did not play the Huskies last fall. But Sarkisian saw plenty of film of Agholor and watched him in the Las Vegas Bowl.

“You see him making plays or punt returns and you’re kind of, ‘Oh, that [No.] 15 is pretty good at ‘SC,” Sarkisian said. “And then you get a chance to coach him. His willingness to prepare, mentally and physically — I’ve been very impressed by him.”

Agholor, sophomore Darreus Rogers and junior Victor Blackwell are taking most of the first-team snaps during spring. Junior George Farmer, who is coming back from knee surgery, is performing most drills but is being held out during live tackling. Redshirt freshman Steven Mitchell also is coming off knee surgery and has been limited.

Sarkisian said Agholor is capable of providing the Trojans with a No. 1 threat similar to Woods and Lee.

“He has the ability to do it,” Sarkisian said, “and I think he has the want-to to do it.”

Kessler comfortable

Kessler appears comfortable running the new fast-paced no-huddle offense and shows no signs of losing hold of his role as the starter for the second consecutive season.

“I just feel really in the zone right now, and that I can make every throw on the field,” he said.

Redshirt freshman Max Browne was victimized by several dropped passes, but he said he still feels “in the hunt” for a shot at the starting job.

Sarkisian has been encouraging Kessler to trust receivers and anticipate throws.

“Max is improving as well,” he said, “but I think maybe not at the rapid pace that Cody has been so far.”

Quick hits

Tailback Javorius Allen sat out nearly the entire practice after suffering what he described as a right ankle sprain during a drill. Allen, the Trojans’ leading rusher last season, said he would probably have X-rays…. Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods is “arguably playing as good as anybody on the field right now,” Sarkisian said…. The Trojans resume practice Tuesday.

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