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USC FOOTBALL

USC tight end McCoy is proving he is the real deal

His big receiving game against Notre Dame gets him more attention as an NFL prospect, and he impresses with his range and confidence.

October 21, 2009|Gary Klein

Charles Young watched USC tight end Anthony McCoy play against Notre Dame and marveled.

Young, an All-American tight end on USC's 1972 national championship team, saw McCoy produce more receiving yardage than any tight end in USC history, often spectacularly.

"I like his style," said Young, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a three-time NFL Pro Bowl player. "I like the way he walks onto the field with panache.

"He exudes confidence that says, 'I'm the best.' "

McCoy looked like the best tight end in college football against the Fighting Irish, catching five passes for 153 yards and setting up two touchdowns and a field goal in the Trojans' 34-27 win at Notre Dame.

After waiting two seasons behind Mackey Award winner Fred Davis, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound McCoy has developed into an upper-round NFL prospect in his second season as a starter.

"He's got the whole package," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "Few guys are that flashy and effective as receivers that can also block.

"He's going to be a tremendous prospect at the next level."

McCoy enters Saturday's game against Oregon State averaging a team-best 25 yards a reception. He has caught 14 passes, second on the team to wideout Damian Williams, and overcome a few early drops to become a short, mid-range and deep threat.

"He can stretch the field," freshman quarterback Matt Barkley said. "It's been such an advantage to have that. . . . The way he can run vertically and just have a knack for catching the ball and finding that open window is huge."

Huge might be the appropriate description of McCoy when he arrived at USC in the summer of 2006.

At Fresno Bullard High, he was a lithe 225-pound wide receiver who caught 70 passes as a senior and also played defensive end.

McCoy chose the Trojans over California and Fresno State, hoping to follow in the footsteps of rangy wideouts such as Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett.

"I was like 'OK, they like big receivers,' " McCoy said.

But after undergoing shoulder surgery following his senior season, McCoy got just plain large.

Lack of physical activity after the operation combined with a part-time restaurant job led to his undoing.

"I worked at Round Table delivering pizzas," he said, chuckling, "and eating them."

By the time McCoy arrived at USC for summer workouts, he had gained 40 pounds.

"I came in here at 265 thinking I was playing receiver," he said. "I'd go out for 7-on-7 [workouts] with older guys and they're like, 'Dog, you're playing tight end. You're not playing receiver.' "

Lane Kiffin, USC's former receivers coach and offensive coordinator, quizzed McCoy daily about his weight. The incoming freshman was too embarrassed to admit the truth.

"I would lie and say, 'I'm at 250,' but I was at 260," he said. "I was going on all these salad diets and late at night I was ordering pizza.

"Finally I said, 'Man, just give me the tight end playbook.' "

With his failed attempts at calorie-cutting behind, the position switch allowed McCoy to grow naturally into the position.

"He just fit like a glove," his father, Anthony, said.

Not that it was initially an easy fit.

McCoy had spent his high school years watching NFL players such as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. He knew of star tight ends such as Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, but never paid attention to their exploits.

He spent his first two seasons at USC learning at the elbow of upperclassmen Fred Davis and Dale Thompson.

Blocking did not come naturally.

"My footwork was horrible," McCoy said. "I was getting knocked off the line and I was getting thrown around. I was basically just a guy in the way, an obstacle."

McCoy played in four games but did not catch a pass as a freshman and then caught two passes as a sophomore in 2007, when Davis won the Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football.

Last season, McCoy started and caught 22 passes, one for a touchdown.

"I wanted to be a bigger contributor," he said. "So I worked a lot on route running and speed drills in the off-season."

McCoy had mostly solid performances in the Trojans' first five games before his breakout game against the Fighting Irish, which featured a leaping catch for a 35-yard gain and a 60-yard catch and run that saw McCoy carry several would-be tacklers 15 yards.

"He's way more focused than he's ever been," tight ends coach Brennan Carroll said. "It took everyone until Game 6 to notice."

McCoy is well known to NFL scouts.

"He's one of those guys who can do it all," said a scout who could not be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the record. "He's 250, but he plays bigger."

Charles Young, who was 6-4 and 228 pounds and also hailed from Fresno, had a similar profile when he was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the sixth pick in the 1973 draft.

Young sees a bright pro future for McCoy.

"He has the mentality, the range and the speed," Young said. "And he has the hands."

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

Times staff writer Sam Farmer contributed to this report.

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