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USC's Robert Woods to announce his plans for next season on Monday

Woods, the Trojans' all-time leader in receptions, says he will announce immediately after the Sun Bowl whether he will declare for the NFL draft or return for a senior season. He is thought to be leaning heavily toward turning pro.

December 27, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC wide receiver Robert Woods catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Max Wittek on Nov. 24.
USC wide receiver Robert Woods catches a touchdown pass from quarterback… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)

EL PASO — USC receiver Robert Woods will announce Monday whether he will make himself available for the NFL draft or return for a final season, the junior said Wednesday after the Trojans arrived for the Sun Bowl.

Woods, the Trojans' all-time receptions leader, said he would make his decision public immediately after the game against Georgia Tech.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Woods is thought to be leaning heavily toward turning pro. He said he received an NFL draft evaluation that ranged upward to the second round.

TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule

Woods said he wanted to establish a time for the decision so he could enjoy the week and not constantly answer questions about it.

"It's better than having that talk every single day leading up to the game," he said after practice.

Woods, 20, caught a school-record 111 passes last season. He has 73 this season while sophomore Marqise Lee has eclipsed the record with 112. Lee won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting.

Cornerback Nickell Robey said he also received a draft evaluation that indicated he would not be selected in the first three rounds.

But that might not deter the junior from turning pro.

Robey said he would decide "a couple of days" after the Sun Bowl.

"I know I can play in the NFL," he said.

Only a formality

Coach Lane Kiffin said he would announce Thursday whether quarterback Matt Barkley would play against Georgia Tech. But it's all but a foregone conclusion that redshirt freshman Max Wittek will start.

Barkley has not practiced since suffering a shoulder sprain against UCLA on Nov. 17. With the NFL scouting combine approaching, he is not expected to risk further injury. On Wednesday, the Trojans practiced in full pads while Barkley, dressed in sweats, performed conditioning drills. He politely declined to speak to reporters after practice, saying he would address the media Thursday.

Meantime, Wittek reiterated, "I'm ready for this game."

With a start against top-ranked Notre Dame on Wittek's resume, Barkley has given Wittek room to prepare without offering intensive assistance.

"He sees that I'm growing up," Wittek said, "and I'm ready to take over."

Late arrival

USC did not get off to a good start in bowl-week activities.

The Trojans arrived about an hour late for a dinner Wednesday that was scheduled to involve both teams and bowl officials. Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson and his team were leaving as the Trojans arrived.

A USC athletic department spokesman said the Trojans' tardiness was because of their late arrival at the airport, which pushed back the start of practice and their return to the team hotel before they departed for the dinner. The spokesman said USC apprised bowl officials of its delays.

Quick hits

Linebacker Anthony Sarao and safety Gerald Bowman, who were traveling from the East Coast, were expected to join the team Wednesday night. ... The Trojans were met at the airport by mariachis and dancers. Kiffin complimented the welcome his team received — "This is definitely a first-class event with first-class people" — and briefly donned a sombrero presented to him by a member of the Sun Bowl court. But he was in a knit beanie and then a visor for practice. "I didn't think that looked real good on me," he said about the sombrero. "It kind of didn't stay on … They're heavier than you think."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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