USC receiver Darreus Rogers is fully aware of the opportunity that lies in front of him this spring. With the starting job opposite Nelson Agholor open for the taking following Marqise Lee's jump to the NFL, not to mention the arrival of Steve Sarkisian’s highly anticipated up-tempo offense, the rising sophomore knows that the upcoming practice sessions could be the perfect setting for his emergence from promising contributor into the latest in a long line of star wideouts at USC.
And with what he showed as a freshman last fall in a somewhat limited role, hauling in 22 passes while showcasing a unique blend of size, sure hands and playmaking ability, there’s reason to believe that the former Carson (Calif.) standout is on the cusp of doing just that.
“My mindset is to come in and step in for Marqise so the offense doesn’t miss a beat,” Rogers said. “I’m just focused on coming out and working hard each and every day.”
And that doesn’t just mean during spring drills. Rogers has been back on the grind this entire offseason, and physically he believes that he’s far ahead of where he was just a few months ago, thanks in part to new strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis.
“He’s made a big impact on my game,” said Rogers of Lewis following a conditioning workout earlier this week. “Probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me is having a strength coach like him. My body feels different. I can see a difference in how I’m running, my flexibility, and I’m excited to see what I can do on the field.”
Part of the secret to the success of the training regimen is the frenetic speed in which Rogers and his teammates are put through their paces -- a direct byproduct of Sarkisian’s no-huddle offense. According to Rogers, that faster, quicker mode of doing things is something that the coaches have made a concerted effort to engrain in every player on the USC roster.
“When we go out there everything is rapid-fire,” said Rogers, who currently stands 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. “No walking -- get after it and get it done. Everything, and I mean everything, we do is fast. Eat fast, shower fast, wake up fast … everything around here is done quickly now. We’ve had to get used to it.”
And while Rogers and his offensive teammates won’t be able to fully immerse themselves into Sarkisian’s system -- which the new head coach has described as being essentially a fast-paced, pro-style scheme that contains some spread principles -- until they hit the field in pads this spring, he’s excited about the future based on what he’s already learned.
“I can’t wait to play in this offense,” Rogers said. “For a receiver this is the type of offense that really showcases you. It’s no-huddle, spread it out and pass, so I really feel like it’s a blessing for me.”
With the prospect of George Farmer and Steven Mitchell participating in spring ball on a full-time basis still potentially in doubt as each are coming off knee injuries, and acclaimed freshmen Juju Smith, Rahshead Johnson and Ajene Harris still a few months away from arriving on campus, Rogers will be part of a receiver corps that will possibly include just two other scholarship performers in Agholor and Victor Blackwell.
Therefore, Rogers is expected to be relied upon heavily, and the experience of working closely this offseason with Agholor, the team’s leading returning pass-catcher, has proven to be especially helpful in preparing him for the increased responsibility.
“I’ve just been staying in Nelson’s right pocket all the time,” Rogers said. “Having a receiver like him coming back for me to work with gives me a great opportunity, so I’m just taking advantage of it every day.”
After having been away from live action since late December, Rogers, as well as the other Trojans players, are now less than two weeks away from hitting the field again as a team -- this time under a new coaching. It can’t come soon enough for Rogers.
“It just feels great to almost be back out there again,” Rogers said. “We ended last season with 10 wins, and that was good, but I feel like we could have done better. And this year we just have a chip on our shoulder -- just to try to be the best and to show our fans what we can do. I can’t wait.”