Position battles are the name of the game for spring practice, and one of the more interesting battles is taking place with the tight ends. While Anthony McCoy is clearly the front runner right now, his competition might not be with the current roster, but rather the legacy that departed senior Fred Davis left and the expectations that come with being USC's starting tight end.
"Right now I'm hoping to come out and be the player that the coaches want me to be," McCoy said after the second spring workout of 2008. "I want to be an every down player, not just going in on special occasions. I want to be in all the time and earn that starting spot.
"I'm going to have to be the guy that can block; that guy that can get in there on fourth and one.
"Coach (Pete) Carroll likes to take big risks and I have to be that guy that he can count on, that's what I want to be."
McCoy's concerns are centered on building the trust with the coaching staff, and some of those concerns can be quelled with a strong work ethic.
"I'm spending extra time with Brennan Carroll, watching film on things that I need to work on," he said. "(I'm going to) come out here before practice to work on some footwork and blocking drills. Watch coverages and blitz schemes to get on my A-game."
What McCoy has done is taken a page from what Davis did to become the dominate player that he was in 2007.
"I'm trying to take a leadership role and take over where Fred (Davis) left off last year," McCoy said. "He set a real good example for me in the way he came out every day and showed his work ethic.
"I admired that about him and that's what I'm going to try to do."
The fruits of Davis' labor was a Mackey Award; and while McCoy's ceiling might not be that high this season, with or without the award, he wants to shoulder the same load as Davis.
"I always want to be that guy that can open things up for the offense, like Fred did," McCoy said. "But I want to work hard for it so they can trust me and know that I'll be accountable and a guy they can go to in any situation."
The transition that McCoy is making into an impact player is not lost on tight ends coach Brennan Carroll.
"It seems so far this season he has really matured and trying to step into a leadership role," Carroll said about McCoy. "He's done a great job with Coach Carlisle and Coach Carlisle has done a great job with him. He's gotten stronger and faster, and is now in better control of his body. He's catching the ball well and doing a great job on his assignments.
"We're expecting a lot out of him."
But the question remains one about trust.
"That comes from being on the field and doing it," Carroll said about building a trust in McCoy. "You can learn a lot in the classroom, but if you can't do it on the field you can't trust a guy.
"But he's shown a lot in these first two days and he's looking great."
McCoy is certainly going to be a wild-card for the 2008 USC football team. After showing flashes of brilliance last season, and revealing a work ethic and desire to get better this off-season, McCoy has positioned himself to fill the large shoes Davis has left.