‘He’s an athletic freak’: USC freshman Michael Trigg drops jaws at fall practice

USC freshman tight end Michael Trigg practices.
USC football holds its first practice of fall camp on Friday, Aug. 6th, 2021 in Los Angels, Calif.
(John McGillen / USC Athletics)

Michael Trigg still has a lot to learn about USC’s playbook and the particulars of his new position, but as a short pass to the flat began to sail over his head at Tuesday’s practice, the freshman’s instincts took over.

A pass that should’ve soared incomplete above the tight end’s head was instead miraculously snagged from midair with just one hand. As he pulled down Jaxson Dart’s errant pass, Trigg dodged one tackle — then lowered his shoulder through another. It ultimately took a pack of Trojan defenders to pull the freshman down — and only after he’d dragged half the defense to a 20-yard gain.

“I was just trying to get to the end zone doing whatever it takes,” Trigg recalled, with a grin. “That’s all I remember, for real.”


The 10 practices preceding that stunning catch-and-run have been a blur to the wide-eyed freshman, who admits he’s still a bit lost when it comes to understanding USC’s offense. But to those watching Trigg closely over the past two weeks, it’s been a memorable start anyway, one that’s put him in position to contribute early this season.

Ask anyone in attendance at USC’s fall camp, and they’ll each offer the same observation.

USC coach Clay Helton did not say Jordan Iosefa is retiring from football, but he took pressure off the veteran coping with his third season interrupted by injuries.

Aug. 26, 2021

“He’s a freak,” said quarterback Kedon Slovis.

“A freak,” echoed tight end Jude Wolfe.

“That’s the best way to describe him,” added tight ends coach Seth Doege. “He’s an athletic freak.”

Indeed, Trigg’s athleticism has certainly translated immediately at USC, where the tight end position has, at least in recent years, been overlooked. A high school basketball player, Trigg said at one point he spoke to USC’s hoops staff about potentially playing on both teams, just as Drake London did as a freshman. Though, early impressions suggest he made the right choice focusing on football.

Just a few plays after his one-handed snag, Trigg lined up as an outside receiver and ran a fade. As the pass from freshman Miller Moss soared toward the corner of the end zone, the 6-4, 245-pound tight end rose over the top of freshman corner Prophet Brown and pulled it down with two hands for the touchdown.

After the two jaw-dropping catches, Clay Helton came up to Trigg with a request: Learn the playbook “as fast as humanly possible,” the coach told him.


“He has an advanced body and an advanced skillset,” Helton said. “He’s learning the playbook as fast as he can.”

USC offensive linemen Courtland Ford and Jonah Manheim bookend offensive line in perhaps a glimpse of starting lineup.

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That process will take some time as Trigg adjusts to a new offense and position. His high school, Carrollwood Day School in Florida, used a numbers system for its offense, an entirely different type of terminology from USC’s. Trigg also most often lined up as an outside receiver in high school, dominating lesser opponents with the same athleticism he has so far flashed at USC.

That’s been enough to turn heads in training camp. The question now is how quickly USC will be able to integrate Trigg into a game.

The freshman isn’t quite there yet with his confidence, Doege said. But he’s been pressing Trigg to quickly learn the finer points of USC’s offense.

“I know he can help us early,” Doege said. “He’s the type of talent that needs to be on the field early, but he’s got to put in the work as well to learn the plays, which he’s done. I think that’s something he kind of concentrated on this camp and through the summer is really trying to hone in on what we do offensively from a scheme standpoint to allow him to play — at least go out there and play fast and know what he’s doing.”

Wolfe has watched that progress in real time, he said. Through the weekend, the tight end room discussed the importance of being a violent runner after the catch. Just days later, Trigg reeled in his one-handed catch, broke a tackle and dragged half of USC’s defense to a big gain.