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Tough and Talented

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

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For the approximately 60,000 fans at the Utah State game last Saturday, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kessler to tight end Xavier Grimble capped the USC offense's best drive of the day featuring a balanced attack with a power running game and an aerial component that had been absent most of the season.

For Grimble, the touchdown was his first time in the end zone in 2013, something he says he's looking forward to experiencing a lot more as the season goes on.

"I broke the huddle, walked up, saw the coverage, saw where the linebackers were placed. I had a good, clean release so I got out fast. I knew that if [Kessler] saw me open I would be able to score a touchdown."

The touchdown off of Grimble's perfectly executed seam route caused the smaller crowd to erupt with excitement due to what looked like a return to USC's dynamic scoring machine as well as a chance for the Trojans to break open the lead against the Utah State Aggies.  However, as we all know, the touchdown turned out to be only a glimpse of hope as to what the Trojan offense could become as the offense was stifled in the second half resulting in a close three-point victory over the Aggies. 

Grimble attributes the offensive struggles to chemistry and rhythm issues. He believes it is just something they have to keep working on week after week and eventually it will all come together.

"I feel like we've gotten better each game. It's the plays that we miss that are making the big difference in the game...We're pretty much a play or a pass away from cracking some games open, gaining some momentum, and getting things rolling. We're still putting it together but it's going to be exciting once it all comes together."

While the running game has been the strong point of the Trojan offense this season, the tight ends are looking to get involved to help establish the passing game. Sophomore tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick believes that the use of more tight ends will spread the field wide open.

He said, "A lot of teams know we have great receivers on the outside so they've been playing a lot of cover two. So with both of those guys in your bracket like that it really opens up the middle. Hopefully, you see [numbers] 82, 86, and maybe 88 running down the middle."

The tight end unit as a whole is looking to add more yards and receptions to their overall statistics. So far in 2013, Grimble leads the tight ends with 8 receptions for 88 yards and Randall Telfer has 2 receptions for 17 yards.

Grimble describes the unit as a "group of tough, talented guys." He described them further saying, "It's cool how this group has come together...[Rhett Ellison] motivated us to be tough guys so we want to take that role on for the team this year...We're just trying to be versatile, well rounded, and being the best tight ends that we can be."

Grimble and the rest of the Trojan offense will have to prove just how tough and talented they are as they face an experienced Arizona State defensive line led by reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, senior defensive tackle Will Sutton. 

Grimble praised the ASU defense saying, "They've got some big, strong guys up front, some talented guys in the secondary, and they always have a good linebacker corps. Their defense is always pretty solid so I think it's gonna be an exciting game for us to really take our preparation seriously. We just have to keep doing that and just be ready to play."

The Trojans must come ready to play on Saturday as neither team wants to be 0-2 in conference play. USC will face the difficult task of playing in a packed Sun Devil Stadium that is eager to defeat the Trojans for only the second time in the last 13 years. 

Grimble confidently stated, "There's nothing that I don't think we can't handle physically. From a preparation standpoint, we gotta be ready for what they have for us. They're very skilled, very athletic, and they can move. As long as we stay on our keys and execute them, it will be fine."

The Trojans consistently need more plays like Xavier Grimble's 30-yard touchdown if they want to beat the Sun Devils and more Pac-12 opponents as the season goes on. Hopefully, the offense will finally start to click and piece itself together as the Trojans take on the Sun Devils in Tempe this Saturday at 7:30 PST.

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