De'Von Flournoy following Carswell's model

In five years at USC from 2007-2011, Brandon Carswell caught 40 total balls for 386 yards and two touchdowns -- not exactly the type of numbers that make for an example for coaches to point to as examples of successes under their watch.

But that's exactly what Lane Kiffin's doing with Carswell's case this spring, using the since-graduated receiver's example to show redshirt junior De'Von Flournoy how he can be a valuable piece in his final two seasons with the Trojans.

Never mind that Flournoy didn't catch a single ball during his first three years at USC -- Carswell only caught six in the same span and then was on the field in most every big passing situation as a senior, a key cog to the Trojans' success.

This spring, Flournoy is competing with two younger players to be the No. 3 receiver this year. But because of depth issues at the position, it's likely he'll at least get to see the field, even if he loses the battle to line up in the slot. Kiffin's just hoping his blocking and consistency will allow the Trojans to keep him there on a semi-regular basis and get him Carswell-caliber numbers.

"What we can hope is that we have a Carswell story," Kiffin said on Saturday of Flournoy after he starred in the scrimmage at the Coliseum. "The same type of deal -- a guy under the radar who kind of moves around and doesn't really do much his first couple years in the program, then be very productive."

That's become a motto for the Trojans, with plenty of players -- especially at the skill positions -- getting overshadowed early on in their careers and then contemplating transfers to smaller schools where playing time won't be at a premium. Carswell had his bags packed for Cincinnati in the summer of 2010 before Kiffin convinced him to stay, and he's said since then he's glad he did. But fellow receiver Travon Patterson, who was in the same situation, chose to leave to Colorado and caught more balls his senior season than Carswell did in his junior or senior years.

It can be a tough decision, which is why Kiffin and his staff push so hard in cases like Flournoy's.

"We kinda have a saying: 'If you stay, you play,' " Kiffin said. "If you have the right attitude and you stay long enough, usually you'll play, regardless of how buried you are on the depth chart, because you'll pass newcomers up because you know the stuff better.

"Hopefully that'll be another example of that."