Thursday, September 29, 2011
High praise for Marqise Lee
By Pedro Moura
It's becoming normal now, but freshman receiver Marqise Lee again had Trojans coach Lane Kiffin talking after Thursday's practice, another session in which Lee starred throughout and made a tremendous touchdown grab on a deep throw from Matt Barkley.
Asked afterward about Lee's progress so far, Kiffin went all-out with his praise.
"I know it’s early to say, but I think he is going to be one of the best receivers ever to play at this school," the head coach said.
Consider the company just over the past 40 or so years: Lynn Swann, Curtis Conway and Johnnie Morton. Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Steve Smith, Keary Colbert and, now, Robert Woods.
Kiffin thinks Lee fits right in there. The true freshman from Gardena Serra continues to improve in his first season with the Trojans, catching 13 balls through four games for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He's been Barkley's most consistent No. 2 target after the superstar Woods.
Even so, he hasn't gotten as involved as the Trojans would like. The go route he scored a touchdown on Thursday has been fruitful in game situations as well, but Barkley hasn't found on him much other stuff and other factors have gotten in the way of a truly big day for him.
Take last week's loss to Arizona State, for example, when he had one scoring catch for 24 yards but missed out on another sure score when lineman Marcus Martin was beaten by a defensive tackle, who got to Barkley in time to disrupt the throw.
"We've got to do a better job of getting him the ball," Kiffin said Thursday. "He continues to make plays almost every opportunity we give him. Unfortunately, last week, he ran right by the right corner and was going to score another touchdown on about a 50-yard go route and up front the left guard didn't block.
"Otherwise he was going to walk into the end zone, similar to the go route he ran the week before at home."
What Kiffin sees in the freshman is clear: A 1-2 tandem at receiver in Woods and Lee could potentially be one of the best in college football in recent history. Woods is already about to hit 500 yards receiving on the year and could be a legitimate Heisman candidate as a junior in 2012. And Lee, his longtime teammate, will be right there with him.
"We’re obviously really excited for the fact that our two top receivers in our mind are a true sophomore and a true freshman," Kiffin said. "He is bigger and stronger than Robert, kind of a mix of George (Farmer) and Robert.
"The future is bright.”