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Robert Woods could make USC history

Sophomore is averaging a national-best 11 receptions per game and might become the first Trojan to lead the country in that category.

September 22, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC wide receiver Robert Woods is hoping for another big game when the Trojans play Arizona State on Saturday.
USC wide receiver Robert Woods is hoping for another big game when the Trojans… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

For all of its storied history as an offensive powerhouse, USC has never produced a national receiving leader.

Former Trojans Willie Brown, Lynn Swann, Johnnie Morton, Keyshawn Johnson and Dwayne Jarrett led what is now the Pacific 12 Conference in receptions. And Morton, Johnson and Damian Williams led the conference in receiving yards.

But Robert Woods might have a chance to do more.

The sophomore enters Saturday night's Pac-12 game at Arizona State averaging a nation-best 11 catches per game.

"It's a good accomplishment, but as of now I guess it's an end-of-season goal," Woods said Wednesday. "For now, the goal is just to keep winning."

Woods caught a school-record 17 passes in the opener against Minnesota and had eight receptions each against Utah and Syracuse.

His value to the Trojans, however, goes beyond his productivity.

With defenses having to account for Woods, receiver Marqise Lee and tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer have thrived.

Telfer was wide open on a 44-yard touchdown pass play against Syracuse, a scenario attributable to what Coach Lane Kiffin calls "The Robert Factor."

"I started almost laughing in my drop-back," quarterback Matt Barkley said, recalling the play and how the Syracuse safety overcompensated for Woods. "If they're going to do that, we're going to score points either way."

Woods is averaging 120.3 yards receiving per game, which ranks ninth nationally. He is averaging 10.9 yards per catch.

"If you have a lot of catches and low yards, it seems like you're catching the ball and not doing anything with it," he said. "With a lot of yards, it seems like you're going the distance or making guys miss."

Lee, Woods' former teammate at Gardena Serra High, has caught nine passes and is averaging 14.9 yards per catch.

"He's ahead of where Robert was a year ago," Kiffin said. "This kid is really special. He's every bit as fast as Robert, but he's bigger and stronger."

Through three games last season, Woods had 11 receptions for 143 yards.

Lee has caught nine passes for 129 yards, including a touchdown.

Happy with situation

The Pac-12's decision not to expand at this time sits well with Kiffin.

"I love where we're at right now," he said. "We're just getting used to this format and the championship game format and the South and the North [divisions]."

In the current alignment, Utah and Colorado have expanded access to the talent-rich Southern California recruiting base.

Had Texas and Oklahoma been allowed to join the conference, those powerhouses also would have had a better opportunity to mine the region.

Asked whether he liked the idea that he would not have to deal with the Longhorns and Sooners treading on what has been USC territory, Kiffin said, "They've always tried to come in here, and so I don't think that would change very much.

"I really don't think just because you play a game one time a year in L.A. on a rotating schedule, I don't think that that really helps that much. You've still got to go a long ways away. So I don't think that would have been a big deal."

Quick hits

Linebacker Lamar Dawson (ankle) and offensive lineman Martin Coleman (shoulder) did not practice…. Freshman offensive lineman Aundrey Walker played well against Syracuse, Kiffin said, but needs to improve in practice. "If Aundrey would practice like he played in that game, he'd be one of our best players," Kiffin said. "Our challenge is to get him to practice that way."

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