George Farmer sees the opportunity being presented to him, and he knows what he has to do to seize it.
The first key to his success in 2012 at his new position of wide receiver: Staying academically eligible. The sophomore to-be recorded a GPA below 2.0 in his first semester at USC last fall and is on academic probation this spring because of it. He'll be able to participate in spring practice, but he has to get at least a 2.0 -- an average of Cs in each of his four classes -- this semester to be eligible in the fall.
The 18-year-old Farmer, a five-star prospect in the class of 2011 out of Gardena Serra, insists that won't be a problem.
"You’re gonna see a big semester, grade-wise, out of me this spring," Farmer said this week after an unofficial USC team throwing session. "I’m just gonna focus on this semester and get my grades up so I can be on the field in the fall."
As for his switch to receiver, he said it was "pretty much" what he preferred after the coaches switched him to running back mid-season last year. He now stands as the favorite to win the No. 3 receiving spot next season, behind only Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
"It was just a decision between me and the coaches," Farmer said. "We talked it out. I’m just gonna leave it at that."
Farmer attributed his academic troubles to the early-morning practices USC held last season. Forced to wake up before 6 a.m., he found himself fine for the actual practices, he said, but grew very tired by the time mid-afternoon classes came around.
"Staying up late, not getting enough sleep…I think that took a toll on me in the long run," Farmer said. "It was an (issue) for me. I was never used to waking up that early. So it was a transition. I think that had a lot to do with it.
"Once I got up and got going it was fine, but after going to class you’d be dead tired."
It's not uncommon for first-semester student-athletes to struggle academically. But Farmer said his mistake was mainly that he didn't know he could drop a class later in the semester and not be penalized for it. Had he known that, he said, his grades would've been fine.
"I don’t think it got away from me," he said. "I just think that with the classes I did have, it was a heavy load during the season. I talked to my counselors about it and they said they’re going to make the load a little bit easier during the season so you don’t have that much to worry about.
"Right now, during the spring, is when you take the heavier load. I think that’s what I’m going to start doing from here on out.”
USC staffers will surely keep careful watch over him in the spring. Farmer wasn't present at the first team throwing session earlier in the week and could miss more team functions to focus on academics. But he said academics have never caused him much trouble and won't this year either.
“I’m not worried about it," he said. "That’s the last thing on my mind.”