You are 6-5 and 210 pounds of route-running allusiveness. Rivals.com thinks you are the third-best player in the country and the best wide receiver in the class of 2010. You have a scholarship offer from any school you desire, and eventually the glitz and glamour of Southern California are too much to turn down so you decide to take your talents west and join the Men of Troy. Two years later you have one reception for six yards. You are Kyle Prater, a five-star receiver from Chicago, and you got buried by the talent of USC’s receiving core. The USC Trojans, where Prep All-Americans go to serve water.
One of my favorite personal debates from the past week was “Who is the best wide receiver in the country for 2012?” But when I was weighing the exploits of two USC receivers against each other I was one part jealous of Matt Barkley and two parts in awe of the collection of weapons the Trojans have for 2012. Shove aside the Kyle Praters of their receiving depth chartand focus on the two insanely talented receivers at Matt Barkley’s disposal this fall: 6-1, 190-pound junior Robert Woods and 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Marqise Lee.
Robert Woods – Fresh off a sophomore campaign that resulted in 1,292 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns, Woods returns as the drafts no. 1 receiving prospect and a player that had several scouts downgrade Justin Blackmon because they were enamored by the prospect of possibly sucking again and drafting Woods next year. Woods possesses good size for the position but rarely gets a chance to use his body because of his rare speed. Frankly there aren’t many college corners that can match Woods step-for-step, so a corner is placed in the precarious position of needing to provide Woods enough of a cushion that he can’t fly by for an easy fade. But after giving Woods at least a 7-yard cushion he has more than enough room to operate underneath in USC’s mostly pro-style offense. It’s the Catch-22 that college football’s greatest receivers present. In the attached video you’ll notice the amount of yards that Woods gets on simple screen and digs, all created by the fear of him breaking over the top. On several of the screen plays you’ll notice tackles out in front of him blocking because the secondary gave him enough respect to allow an offensive lineman to run the 20 yards to get in front before they could react to the football. The Trojans also take advantage of his game-breaking ability by sliding him around the field and even taking a page out of Percy Harvin’s playbook by giving him swings behind the line or from the backfield. They used to do similar action and misdirection with current Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis, which tells me that Woods is also a physical enough player to take chipping at the line.
Marqise Lee - Most elite schools get a player of Robert Woods’ talents once every decade, but USC is USC for a reason. Just when the country is collectively dropping its jaw watching RobertWoods, they ask “Who the heck is this guy?!” I remember the exact moment I first anointed Lee even better than Woods. My Notre Dame fan friend texted me after Woods scored his second touchdown of the game, and although Lee had a sub-par outing against the Irish (who couldn’t stop the run) I sent back a daring “Marqise Lee is actually better” text. And although daring at the time, I see no reason to eat crow. When Lee exploded, so did the USC offense. He was only a freshman yet he earned enough playing time and respect to grab 1,143 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and the most impressive part of it was nobody else really had a chance. If you look at his short highlight film you’ll notice that no other defenders look like they belong on the same field, and he won’t be eligible for the NFL Draft for another 2 years! Lee’s amazing speed, body control and hand-eye coordination remind me of a really scary ReggieWayne/Desean Jackson hybrid. The reports out of USC spring camp say Lee looks better and is providing plenty of “wow” moments despite being matched up against the best cornerbacks that he’ll play all season.
The combination of Woods and Lee provides horrific prospects for Pac-12 defenses. Pessimistically enough for the rest of the country, you just aren’t going to stop either of these guys. USC will aim to get the ball to Woods and Lee early and often, and they’ll succeed unless a team’s defensive front is dominating and physical enough to impose its will, but the Trojans won’t play a team capable of that until they have a prospective trip to the BCS National Championship (note that I’m not predicting them in the National Championships, just saying their receivers and offense won’t be stopped). Last year from September 17 onwards they didn’t score less than 30 points in a game, and in that span they eclipsed 40 points six times. And to defensive coordinators and fans closing their eyes tightly for Woods to graduate so they can at least double and safety bracket Lee, USC picked Nelson Agholor in 2012, another stud from Speed City, Florida.
Do you hate USC? Do you think Woods is better than Lee? Are you mad that you’re a Kansas fan and I didn’t show your school any love in my USC article? Tweet me @Einsane to appear in this week’s Gold Rush!