USC receivers coach Ted Gilmore feels comfortable enough through four days of fall camp, he says, to use the word "potential" to describe his unit this season.
"A lot of potential," Gilmore says, first with a little emphasis and then with quite a bit. "A lot of potential."
They do have a lot of potential. They've also got a lot of newcomers, or players who are working with Gilmore for the first time, or players who are just flat-out inexperienced.
Evidence: Five of the Trojans' nine scholarship receivers haven't caught a pass in college. One of the others -- Markeith Ambles -- has caught just one, and he's not even in camp yet. Two of the others -- Brandon Carswell and Brice Butler -- have caught a combined 51 in five full seasons. And the last one is Robert Woods, who, for all of his freshman-year greatness is still just a sophomore with six receiving touchdowns under his belt.
It might be the pass-catching unit with the biggest inverse relationship between talent and experience in the country. So, yes, the word "potential" fits.
"The feeling I’m getting is that, if we work hard as a unit, we can be pretty good," Gilmore said Sunday, after the Trojans' fourth practice of fall camp. "I like what they represent. They’re all ‘we’ guys.
"With all the success that they’ve had, you’d think there be big-time egos and everything, but I don’t get that feeling."
Gilmore wasn't on campus a year ago, but, according to those who were, he would've had that feeling then. A similarly talented receiving unit in 2010 was hamstrung by what players admit now was a lack of togetherness.
“Nobody was on the same page," Carswell said Sunday. "People were older and younger and wanted to do different things."
But they say this year has been better, so far at least. The older, more experienced players -- Woods, Carswell and Butler -- have taken the younger players under their wings early on in fall camp, both indoors and out. Carswell said he's had all three of the freshmen -- George Farmer, Victor Blackwell and Marqise Lee -- approach him during 7-on-7 drills on Howard Jones Field and ask him for clarification on a specific route or playcall. Butler said last week he's been sitting with the freshmen during play-install sessions in Heritage Hall and helping to simplify the process for them.
Gilmore reports that it's working, to a certain extent.
"All three of them are talented kids -- every one of them. Otherwise they wouldn’t be here," Gilmore said. "Are they swimming a little bit? At times. All the installs and things are starting to run together a little bit, but they’ve all got a bright eye to learn, are all eager and are all very competitive, which is a good thing to see.
"They’re gonna be good players.”
In Farmer, USC has what some have described as a just-as-intelligent, bigger version of Woods. Blackwell and Lee may need to sit out a year for balancing purposes but could contribute in a number of ways, even as freshmen. Redshirt freshman Kyle Prater, at 6-5, is a natural red zone target. Ambles is as agile as they come. Redshirt sophomore De'Von Flournoy and Carswell, a senior, have playbook knowledge and steady hands. Butler's speedy and gaining confidence running through the middle of the field. Woods is a true 1,000-yard threat.
USC has a receiver of every prototype, essentially. The question is whether they'll be able to work together as well as they have in the first four days of fall camp until December.
“We have speed, we have size, and we have people that are ready to play their roles," Carswell said. "I don’t think there’s anybody that’s trying to step outside and be that big guy, and that creates a family atmosphere within the whole offense.”
“When we’re clicking, I really feel like nobody can stop us.”