As the Trojans have gone through their offseason workout schedule this summer, freshman wideout Darreus Rogers has been hard to miss.
A mid-year entrant who originally was a member of USC's recruiting class of 2012, he wound up sitting out the fall as a grayshirt before enrolling this past spring. In a very short time, Rogers has emerged as one of the most consistent performers during the team's volunteer passing sessions.
And for a wide receiver corps that lost both George Farmer and Steven Mitchell to season-ending knee injuries in recent months -- and is down to just five scholarship players in Rogers, Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor, Victor Blackwell and De'Von Flournoy -- his lightning quick development couldn't be happening at a better time.
"It feels great to come out here and to work with great players like Marqise and Nelson," said Rogers, who compiled 64 receptions for 1,251 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at CIF Los Angeles City Section power Carson (Calif.). "I know that we need every single healthy body that we have out here contributing. We don't necessarily have the numbers, but we're coming out here competing like nothing I've seen before."
At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Rogers possesses a skill set that is somewhat reminiscent of what former USC greats Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett brought to the table as big, physical receiving threats with off-the-charts athleticism. First showing flashes of his unique playmaking ability back in December, when he took part in two of the Trojans' bowl game workouts, Rogers continued to make strides this past spring.
Despite missing time because of hamstring and shoulder injuries, he came out of the March and April workouts with a newfound level of confidence.
"It was fast and physical -- a lot different than anything that I've ever experienced before," said Rogers, who is now back to 100 percent. "I was still used to what the speed of the game was like in high school, but I made the adjustment after a couple of weeks, and I really got in the flow of everything. Now it's starting to feel like it did in high school again, but now I'm faster, stronger and more explosive. I'm more comfortable, looser, and I'm able to just be myself now."
With Lee -- the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner -- and Agholor entrenched as the starting wide receiver duo, Rogers is currently involved in a fierce battle for the right to lay claim to the role as the team's No. 3 option, along with Blackwell, a star of the spring, and Flournoy, the veteran redshirt senior. And while both of his counterparts hold a leg up on him when it comes to experience and time spent within the program, with the job still completely up for grabs, Rogers certainly isn't backing down.
"The coaches have told me just to be ready, because it's open," Rogers said. "I'm just going to be working ... just coming out here and competing ... competing for No. 3. Nelson calls me on the weekends and tells me to work out, and I'm always there. Whatever it takes to play and to get on the field, I'm willing to do it."
It has been Agholor, as well as virtually every other member of the wide receiver unit, who has played an integral part in bringing Rogers along over the course of the last six months, and it obviously has paid off with big-time results.
"They all tell me what to do, what not to do ... they've all been there, and they've done it, and they've been a huge help," Rogers said. "I make a point of listening to them and to take it all in, because they're great guys and they have the experience. That really goes for all of them, but Nelson has probably played the biggest part, because he's closer to my age, but also a guy like Marqise -- he just keeps telling me, 'Be ready, be ready' -- so I'm taking it all in."
With a support group like that, on top of the promise that he already has shown, Rogers -- who has some pretty lofty aspirations of his own -- most definitely appears to have a very bright future.
"My goal is just to keep pushing ... to push and to be No. 1, really," Rogers said. "I know you've still got Marqise there, but the way that I look at it, to be the best, you have to compete against the best. And I'm here to compete."