De’Von Flournoy appeared to be trapped in a sort of no-man’s land.
The receiver had just completed his freshman season at USC when Coach Lane Kiffin took over for Pete Carroll in 2010.
During spring practice, Kiffin stripped Flournoy of his No. 1 jersey and later told him that he would redshirt. Because Flournoy was not a junior or senior, he did not qualify to transfer without restriction. The NCAA had offered USC’s upperclassmen a free transfer pass because of a two-year bowl ban that was imposed against the Trojans.
Not that Flournoy would have fled.
Now a fourth-year junior, he said he did not consider leaving despite the setbacks and the emergence of Kiffin-recruited receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
“My family is 15 minutes away,” said Flournoy, who is from Studio City and attended Lake Balboa Birmingham High. “‘SC is a great school and I wanted to get my degree from here, to graduate.
“I feel like God put me here for a reason. I’m here to play football and everything will carry out the way it’s supposed to.”
Though he has yet to catch a pass in a game, Flournoy’s perseverance appears to be paying off.
With only five scholarship receivers on the spring-practice roster — and Woods and sophomore George Farmer sidelined because of injuries — the 6-foot, 180-pound Flournoy has starred in workouts while lining up at three different receiver spots.
Kiffin has praised the fleet Flournoy, saying he envisioned him perhaps following in the footsteps of Brandon Carswell, who was seldom used and on the brink of transferring before catching 16 passes as a fourth-year junior in 2010 and 18 passes last season.
Flournoy hopes to strengthen his case Saturday when the Trojans practice at the Coliseum at 11 a.m., a workout that is free to fans.
“He can play multiple positions and we feel comfortable moving him around,” first-year receivers coach Tee Martin said. “Hopefully, that carries over” to fall.
Flournoy, a communication major, counts his setbacks as growth experiences.
Kiffin took away No. 1 from Flournoy and former cornerback T.J. Bryant because he said players should have to earn the right to wear a number once worn by All-American receiver Mike Williams.
“He called me to his office and explained to me why it was taken,” said Flournoy, who switched to No. 10. “I was OK with it. You make the number; the number doesn’t make the player.”
Flournoy also said that Kiffin “humbled” him by having him redshirt in 2010.
“He told me he wanted me to get bigger and to get into the playbook more and understand not just one position,” he said. “At first, I was little distraught, but I looked at myself and I knew what I wanted to become.”
Flournoy is now eyeing the No. 3 receiver spot.
Woods and Lee are entrenched as starters, Farmer has shown flashes when healthy and redshirt freshman Victor Blackwell also has impressed during spring.
This summer, incoming freshmen Darreus Rogers and Nelson Agholor will arrive on campus.
Flournoy does not sound concerned.
“I’ll be ready,” he said, “when my number is called.”