LOS ANGELES –After USC’s season opening victory over Hawaii, head coach Lane Kiffin called out the running game, saying the team needed more balance.
They responded with 258 yards on the ground against Syracuse.
Kiffin called out the offensive line saying they had a much better camp than what they showed in the season opener.
They opened up running lanes, but still gave up two sacks.
The wide receivers have been as good as advertised and so has the quarterback. But when it comes to the tight ends?
“I thought Xavier (Grimble) and Randall (Telfer) played really, really well,” Kiffin said.
The tight ends’ success won’t be shown in any stat sheet from the first two games. In the game against Syracuse, they combined for one cactch, albeit a good one, with Grimble willing himself into the endzone.
Grimble broke three tackles and the majority of the team thought he was down, including Kiffin who didn’t watch the play through.
“I had gone to the playcall sheet and was calling the next play and all of a sudden he scored,” said the Trojans’ head coach.
When it comes to being efficient in the pass game, Grimble and Telfer have certainly been that. They have a combined four catches on the season but half of them have been for touchdowns. Telfer scored in the opener on his only catch of the season.
Even Kiffin is surprised they haven’t contributed more.
“Their numbers are definitely lower than what I would have guessed through two games,” Kiffin said. “I don’t really have an explanation for it. I’d anticipate those numbers going up because both of those guys are really good players.”
There are plenty of good players on the offensive side of the ball and quarterback Matt Barkley certainly has his pick of the litter. With only one ball to go around, it’s not hard to get left out. Even slimmer when you play with guys like Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who are homerun threats anytime they touch the ball.
“When you got two guys like that on the outside, drives don’t last that long anyway,” Grimble said of Woods and Lee.
Kiffin has been complimentary of his tight ends for the job they’ve done and their improvement as blockers in both the pass and run games.
“We’ve developed as blocking tight ends,” Telfer said. “The coaching staff wanted us to be more well rounded tight ends but as a group me and Xavier and our tight ends coach (Justin Mesa) decided blocking is an area where we lacked last year so we look to improve on that this year.”
For now, the tight ends are comfortable with the contributions they’ve made to No. 2 USC’s first two wins of the season.
“There may not be the plays that you see all the time or on the highlights or anything but we definitely play our role and it’s pretty important,” Grimble said. “Whenever our names are called, we’ll be ready.”
Saturday could be the day. In last season’s three-overtime loss to Stanford, Grimble and Telfer combined for seven catches and a touchdown.