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USC TE Xavier Grimble likely to return, put off NFL draft

David Zalubowski/Associated Press
USC TE Xavier Grimble could see his numbers improve next season in Steve Sarkisian's offense.

USC looks to have one prominent draft-eligible pass catcher returning for next season, but it is not wide receiver Marqise Lee. Tight end Xavier Grimble told reporters Monday that he is leaning toward bypassing the 2014 NFL Draft and returning for his redshirt senior season.

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"I feel like with everything that happened this season, I think it would be best for me to stay in school," Grimble said. "So that's probably what I'm going to be doing."

Grimble made 23 catches for 248 yards this season, ranking third on the team in both categories, despite missing one game and being limited for several others with a shoulder injury.

Grimble also caught two touchdown passes, surprisingly equaling Lee in that tally this season.

Possessing prototypical size and strength (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), Grimble is a natural at attacking the seams of a defense. However, Grimble was rarely targeted when former head coach Lane Kiffin was in charge of the offense. Grimble's production ticked up after offensive coordinator Clay Helton took over playcalling responsibilities.

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In the five games he played in with Helton at the helm, Grimble has 13 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown and will have a chance to add to those totals in the Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State. Grimble attended Nevada prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman and told the Los Angeles Times he has been inundated with ticket requests.

"It's always a dream playing in front of family and friends in my hometown, so I'm happy to be able to go back," Grimble said.

With Steve Sarkisian returning home to coach the Trojans, Grimble could be in for a big senior season. Sarkisian's offense featured tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (143 receptions for 1,803 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons), with the junior one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award.

If finally given the chance to showcase his skills, Grimble could dramatically elevate his draft stock next season.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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