USC's keys to success: No. 1, WR Marqise Lee
AUG 29, 2013 8:32a ET
There's a difference between playing hard and smart.
That lesson, with all due respect to the NCAA, is you don't touch the franchise.
Sure, technically, the USC No. 9 jersey is no longer available for sale at the NCAA shop, but that doesn't diminish Marqise Lee's importance to the team as he checks in at No. 1 on the FOXSportsWest.com USC Keys to Success for the 2013 season.
If there's one player this team can't afford to lose, it's Lee.
The wide receiver corp. is thin as it is with just five scholarship players in that position group -- they're also very inexperienced. As Lee sat out of practice to nurse a shoulder injury, head coach Lane Kiffin got a glimpse into the future that he'd probably care not see.
With Lee out, that represented just one player out of 11 but the production missed was so much greater.
USC has had some exceptional receivers come through the program since the Biletnikoff Award was first handed out in 1994.
Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett, and Robert Woods are some of those players. Not one of them had the honor of being a Biletnikoff Award winner. Lee did last year becoming the first Trojan to receive that accolade.
He finished last season fourth in Heisman voting after leading the nation with 118 receptions. He'll begin this season as a candidate for that award as well.
The spotlight that shined on him this time last year is even brighter this time around, but he doesn't mind it. Because of that, he knows his value to this team.
"I've did a lot of things over my years so therefore a lot of attention is towards my way but in that case that's good because I can be the decoy," Lee said.
In order to be a "decoy" he'd have to be on the field.
Lesson learned: don't touch the franchise.
Importance of Lee
Lee is one of the most electrifying players in all of college football. He has the ability to make game changing plays every time he touches the ball. Take USC's first play from scrimmage in 2012 against Hawaii. He caught a bubble screen, made one move, and was gone -- 75 yards. Or how about USC's visit to Arizona last season where he totaled 469 all-purpose yards -- the second highest total in NCAA history. Today, he's just not making plays, he has a bigger voice. Not only is he the one his fellow wide receivers look up to but he was also recently voted a captain by his teammates.
Number of note: 1,721
As dynamic as Lee is and as exciting as it is for Kiffin to call his number and Trojans fans see him with the ball in his hands, if Lee reaches 1,721 receiving yards this season, that may not be a good thing for this team. That means there are less yards for the likes of Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers, Randall Telfer, and Xavier Grimble. Not to mention, USC is supposed to have a revamped running game to provide even more balance. For USC's success, less could mean more.
Lee became the first wide receiver in USC history to win the Biletnikoff Award in 2012. Last season, he led the nation with 118 receptions and was second in the country with 1,721 receiving yards. He also led the team with 206.4 all-purpose yards per game.
"I'm not going to continue to get the same amount of balls as I had last year but at the end of the day, who cares?" Lee said.
"I'll be glad when I can walk into the Coliseum and be on the same sideline (as him) instead of the opposite sideline," defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "That's for sure."
With a new quarterback in the fold, expecting a 118-reception, 1,721-yard performance from Lee in 2013 could be a reach. Robert Woods received a lot of double teams last season. This season the double teams will, in all likelihood, roll to Lee. That doesn't take away the fact that he's a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. That includes on special teams where he averaged 28.5 yards per kickoff return in 2012.
If Agholor can show any resemblance of being a productive No. 2 receiver forcing opposing defenses to pay attention to him as well, then everyone will excel. Lee will have a chance to repeat as the Biletnikoff Award winner and claim a seat in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation in December.
If not, it could be a long year for the passing game with a lot of forces in the direction of Lee leading to a lot of turnovers similar to last season.