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Monday, December 19, 2011
Top 10 performers, No. 5: Lee

By Pedro Moura

After concluding our series on the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season, we've started a new series on the Trojans' top 10 performers this year. With one player per day Monday-Friday, the list will last until Friday, Dec. 23.

Coming in the first half of the top 10 were T.J. McDonaldChristian Tupou, Curtis McNeal, Nick Perry and Dion Bailey. Here's No. 5, now: receiver Marqise Lee.

We wrote all about Lee's surprising season during our top 10 moment series, in which Lee produced one of the more memorable moments of the season with his two-touchdown performance against Colorado.

Let's, then, do two things in this space: (1) justify why he's placed in this very spot in the list, and (2) quantify just how much he produced for the Trojans in 2011.

Why is Lee fifth? The five guys before him all fit into one group, in a way, as key contributors but not flat-out stars, and the identities of the four players in front of him should now be fairly clear, although we won't get into them just yet.

It's almost like Lee is in a tier of his own -- and rightfully so, considering the season the freshman posted in 2011. He was downright dominant in the latter half of the year and put up much better numbers than Robert Woods in the final five games.

Perry and Tupou were steady presences who didn't have true big-time performances. McDonald and Bailey each had one memorable big game and several very good games, but nothing more. McNeal was good in every game he started but never ridiculously good.

Lee, on the other hand, had three absolutely gigantic performances, including in the final two games, in which he totaled more than 400 yards from scrimmage on his own and three touchdowns.

With 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns, he was the best freshman wideout in the country, with competition coming only from Clemson's Sammy Watkins, and arguably one of the best freshmen pass-catchers in recent history. There wasn't much he couldn't do, really -- including returning kicks as well. Lee was a constant threat to the opposition.

So quarterback Matt Barkley's clearly in the top four of this list, as is Woods and left tackle Matt Kalil, you can safely assume. Who will take up the last spot, and where do the four remaining players rank?

Our final rankings may surprise you.

Check back Tuesday as we enter the final stretch of our top-10 performers list, this time with a defensive player.