Two weeks into USC’s fall camp and two weeks out from its regular season debut, Bru McCoy, the dynamic five-star prospect at the center of an unprecedented transfer saga this summer, has yet to join the Trojans on the practice field.
But that extended absence has nothing to do with his unsettled waiver status with the NCAA, and everything to do with his own health, which remains frustratingly uncertain to everyone — most of all McCoy and his own family.
Every day, for the last seven weeks, McCoy has been stricken with a fever doctors cannot explain. His parents have taken him to specialist after specialist in search of a diagnosis. Doctors have treated him for a variety of possible illnesses and bacteria — flu, strep throat, legionella — but as USC’s season approaches, the only answer his family has received is that he has a “fever of unknown origin.”
“They cannot figure it out,” his father, Horace McCoy, told The Times on Thursday. “I cannot tell you how many specialists we’ve got him in front of, just to try to figure this damn thing out.”
When the illness initially came on this summer, McCoy tried to fight through it himself.
“But it was really tough for him,” Horace said, “and workouts have never been an issue.”
Ever since, McCoy has been poked, prodded, and tested constantly, all the while waiting on his football future to be cleared up by the NCAA.
“All this kid wants to do is play football,” Horace said. “He wants to work out with his buddies and get on the field and do what he does best. You get tried in times like this. He’s as positive as he can, but he’s frustrated.
On Thursday, Clay Helton noted that McCoy has attended team meetings and is “actually getting a little better, which is great to see.” His fevers have begun to subside in the later afternoon, his father said. But USC will not allow McCoy to return to the field until his fevers are completely gone.
“He’s not all the way there yet,” Helton said. “But we’re glad to have him around us. It’s good to see a smile on his face.”
When his health finally rounds into form, regardless of the NCAA’s decision, his ascent to stardom may not be as instantaneous as his pedigree would suggest.
“He’s not going to just come right back out here and go,” Helton said. “There’s going to have to be strength and conditioning. There’s going to have to be some change-of-direction movement. It’s going to take time to build that up. He’s gone through a process that I don’t wish on anybody, as far as getting healthy and getting better. We hope to get him out here soon. But it’ll be at a slow pace, at his pace, where he feels comfortable.”
As it stands, USC is quite comfortable with its current fleet of talented receivers. Returning starters Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughns have all performed as expected, while young wideouts like sophomore Devon Williams and freshmen Drake London and Munir McClain have impressed throughout camp.
Adding the 6-foot-3, 210-pound McCoy to that already stellar group is certainly a tantalizing idea — one that could, in the coming weeks, become a reality.
As he waits on his fever to subside and the NCAA to make a decision, McCoy’s integration into the team is already underway. On Thursday, he stood up and recited USC football’s “constitution” in front of the entire team.
The team gave him a standing ovation, Helton said. How long he’ll have to wait for another remains to be seen.
Thin in middle
In the days since Jordan Iosefa dislocated his kneecap at the start of fall camp, an already thin pool of healthy USC linebackers has grown ever thinner.
Linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu remains out with a foot injury. Hunter Echols, who missed the last two practices, and Elijah Winston, who has worn a boot on his right foot in recent days are both suffering from turf toe. Winston’s case is more serious, Helton said, while Echols remains “day to day” and could possibly return for the scrimmage on Saturday.
Outside of Iosefa’s injury, which is expected to hold him out for at least the first few weeks of the season, the majority of those injuries are mere “bumps and bruises,” Helton said. But the totality of linebackers moving in and out of the lineup has tested the Trojans’ depth at the position.
Some have taken advantage — the most notable of those being freshman linebacker Ralen Goforth, who, after entrenched senior starter John Houston, has taken the most reps in the middle of USC’s defense.
“We’ve got John [Houston], and Ralen has done a great job,” Pendergast said. “And you’ve got Kana’i [Mauga] that can roll in as a third. We’re going to get Jordan back, hopefully sooner rather than later. Once we have that situation handled, we’ll feel a lot better.”
St. Brown sat out on Thursday for precautionary reasons, as he deals with tightness in his groin and hamstring. “The guy is running about 4 miles a day,” Helton said. “Every good horse needs a day off.” ... Freshman defensive end Drake Jackson sat out Thursday’s practice with a minor eye infection. He’s expected to take part in Saturday’s scrimmage. … Running back Vavae Malepeai remains sidelined with a knee injury and is unlikely to return this weekend. … Freshman cornerback Max Williams is dealing with a minor hamstring injury and should be back next week, Helton said.