During Tuesday’s Pac-12 media day, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis answered questions tossed to him from the assembled media about a wide range of topics. But given the opportunity to suggest his own topic, Slovis wanted to address some of the incoming pass catchers the Trojans claimed out of the transfer portal.
“I didn’t get any questions about the transfers, specifically,” Slovis said quickly when asked what question he hadn’t been asked that he’d like to answer. “They all came in and have done a great job. I’ve been shocked.”
Former Memphis wide receiver Tahj Washington and former Texas wide receiver/tight end Malcolm Epps are the two about whom Slovis went into specific detail. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Washington caught 43 passes for 743 yards and six touchdowns last season, on his way to being named to the Football Writers Freshman All-America first team. With so much talent assembled in the USC wide receiver room, it was Washington who drew the nod this past week as USC’s second honoree on the Biletnikoff Award watch list, alongside Drake London.
“Tahj came in and, obviously he’s on the Biletnikoff watch list, but he came in and worked every day and has gotten better and better and has shocked me,” Slovis said. “Every time he runs a route, I’m like, ‘Dang, that kid’s fast.’ He can run and his route-running is incredible. He doesn’t really have a weakness, I think, as a receiver.”
Slovis admitted that maybe Washington’s slight frame could be used as a knock, but was quick to dismiss the concern.
“He plays so physically that it kind of makes up for it,” Slovis said. “He’s really impressed me.”
Epps was an interesting addition for USC. He made much more of an impact at Texas while playing outside receiver than inside at tight end. Ultimately he was passed up at tight end and elected to look elsewhere. USC announced him as a tight end, where he joins a pretty loaded group, with veterans Erik Krommenhoek and Josh Falo, along with promising talent in Jude Wolfe and Ethan Rae, plus incoming freshmen Lake McRee and Michael Trigg. But the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Epps brings some experience of his own as a fourth-year player, and he’s another guy whose work ethic is making an impression.
“Malcolm Epps has really impressed me, too,” Slovis said. “He’s gigantic and he can run. That’s the thing. Most guys that size, they can get to top speed but it takes a while. He’s probably a 4.5 guy. It’s really impressive.
“And he’s come out to work, too,” Slovis said, recounting a story about Epps approaching him after a workout and offering to run extra routes in order to catch more passes from Slovis. “He’s like, ‘I’m just trying to get work with you.’ And that’s something you love to see in a receiver.”
The wide receiver position is shaping up to be an interesting one this fall. London returns as the clear leader at the position and both Bru McCoy and Gary Bryant Jr. did enough last season to feel comfortable expecting big steps forward from them this fall. If Kyle Ford is back to full health, he could be an interesting piece of the unit given his size and athletic ability. John Jackson III is a steady presence. True freshman Michael Jackson III made a significant impression this past spring as an early enrollee, and is now joined by fellow freshmen Kyron Ware-Hudson and Joseph Manjack IV. And Washington and Epps are just two of the transfer pass catchers, going along former Colorado receiver K.D. Nixon, who joined the program for spring ball, and former Texas receiver Jake Smith, who will be at USC in time for fall camp.
“Our receiver depth is pretty sick right now in terms of skill set, and the unique skill set allows us to move guys around,” Slovis said. “We have so many different opportunities. If we see something against a certain team, we can mix it up. I’m excited to see how it all meshes together and how the puzzle fits. I’m excited to have this group of guys on my team.”