football

17 for '17: Daniel Imatorbhebhe

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Our countdown of USC’s most intriguing players to watch in spring practice continues. Note: This is a list of guys who have the most to gain and are best positioned to do so.

For each player, we examine the depth chart, back story, outlook, key questions and how their role could swing in spring.

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12. DANIEL IMATORBHEBHE

Profile: 6-4, 240, redshirt sophomore

Current pecking order: He begins spring practice as the clubhouse leader at tight end, ahead of junior Tyler Petite and redshirt freshman Cary Angeline.

Background: After sitting out 2015 because he transferred from Florida (following just one semester), Imatorbhebhe had to play catch up last year. It didn’t take him long to show that he was not only the best tight end on the team but maybe one of the better ones in recent memory at USC. The numbers don’t exactly reflect that, as he hauled in a modest 17 balls for 250 yards and four touchdowns. But his impact definitely felt greater, specifically in competitive games against Colorado and Washington. He technically started five games but was really USC’s second tight end, with departing senior Taylor McNamara getting about a half-dozen more snaps per contest.

Outlook: Imatorbhebhe can grow into one of the best USC tight ends in school history. He’s that good and has that much potential (and doesn't have any notable weaknesses in his game). Expect to see him eventually playing on Sundays. But that won’t be the case for at least another year, if not three. Imatorbhebhe will be happy right where he’s at since he’s positioned to have a breakout year. He might even lead the team in receiving. The last time USC didn’t have a clear go-to wide receiver, tight end Fred Davis won the Mackey Award. Spring will be a time for Imatorbhebhe to not only solidify his starting spot but build upon his already strong rapport with Sam Darnold. The two have basically came up together these past two years, from being on the scout team in the fall of 2015 to the second team in the spring of 2016 to their respective rises last fall. While Darnold has shown he’s not the sort of quarterback who is overly reliant on one receiver, Imatorbhebhe’s natural playmaking figures to make him a prime target. The stars seem perfectly aligned this year for him to become one.

Key questions: What specifically does he need to improve on? Will he be Darnold’s favorite target? How high is his ceiling?

Swing potential: He can be one of the best players on the team, or the other tight end when USC rotates or employs two at the same time. While his stardom is not promised, it appears doubtful he won’t be a starter.

Discuss on Trojan Talk

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17 FOR '17

No. 17: Andrew Vorhees

No. 16: Chris Hawkins

No. 15: Jamel Cook

No. 14: Vavae Malepeai

No. 13: Clayton Johnston

Bonus: Michael Brown

No. 11: Josh Fatu

No. 10: Jordan Iosefa

No. 9: Deontay Burnett

No. 8: Marlon Tuipulotu

No. 7: Roy Hemsley & John Houston

No. 6: Chuma Edoga

No. 5: Jack Sears

No. 4: Matt Fink

No. 3: Michael Pittman

No. 2: Jack Jones

No. 1: Vaughns, Imatorbhebhe & Jones

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