USC: Steve Smith

Lunch links: Pro day reports

March, 13, 2014
3/13/14
11:30
AM PT
A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."

Woods could break Jarrett's all-time mark this week

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
6:43
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Robert Woods has 212 receptions in his USC career. Five more and he'll pass Dwayne Jarrett to become the Trojans' all-time receptions leader.

Averaging six catches per game this season, Woods is on pace to break the record this Saturday, at home against Colorado.

"It would mean a lot to me," Woods said Tuesday. "But I never came into USC saying I'm gonna break this record or break that record. I came to USC wanting to play receiver and catch passes.

"Fortunately, I've been catching a lot of passes."

Jarrett set the record of 216 catches in just three seasons. If Woods, a junior, were to stay for his senior season in 2013, he'd have the opportunity to obliterate any mark he goes on to set this year.

He entered the 2012 season tied for sixth all-time with Mike Williams at 176 receptions. Woods then surpassed Steve Smith (190), Johnnie Morton (201) and Kareem Kelly (204) over the first few weeks of the season, and he tied Keary Colbert's second-place mark of 207 earlier this month against Utah.

He said he recently has spoken to Colbert and other ex-USC receivers about what the record would mean.

"Growing up and watching those guys and seeing how they played, I looked up to them, in awe watching them play," Woods said. "Then to be on top of them now with the record, it's surprising.

"Well, not surprising. I knew I could do it. But it's a shock still."

Interestingly, Woods' career trajectory has followed Jarrett's thus far. He caught 65 passes as a freshman to Jarrett's 55, then jumped up to 111 as a sophomore. Jarrett had 91 catches in his second season and then 70 in his final year.

Woods is on pace to finish the 2012 regular season with 72 catches for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He already owns the school record for receptions in a single game, with 17 in the 2011 season opener, and in a single season, with that 111 mark last season.

High praise for Marqise Lee

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
2:07
PM PT
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.”

Robert Woods is adjusting quickly

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
7:45
PM PT
It could be argued that Robert Woods was the least heralded of the star-studded trio of freshmen receivers in the USC class of 2010 at the start of fall camp.

Kyle Prater had joined the team in the spring, and -- despite being hampered by a variety of nagging injuries -- impressed the coaching staff. Markeith Ambles had gathered up a whole lot of attention via his tweets and school-switching prior to Signing Day.

Woods was silent. He didn't enroll early, he didn't announce his decision on national television -- he didn't even waver from his commitment to USC when Pete Carroll resigned and Lane Kiffin replaced him.

He has, however, been the most impressive of the three through two and a half weeks of fall camp -- by far.

Displaying impressive body control day in and day out and a well-developed chemistry with both Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound speedster has earned comparisons from Kiffin to Steve Smith and Keary Colbert -- on and off the field.

Monday, the 18-year-old Woods talked with the media for the first time. There was an underlying trend of the questions asked: How have you adjusted so quickly to life as a Trojan?

"What helped me was living not too far, I got to come up here and practice during the summer throwing sessions sometimes," Woods said, looking calm and composed. "That helped me a lot to get to know some of the plays, read some of the corners. Once I got to the field I already knew what they were doing and that's helped me in camp."

Woods says he has gone to Barkley for advice on how to get on the field during his freshman year. As of right now, Woods is -- along with Ambles and De'Von Flournoy -- the backup to Ronald Johnson at flanker. But his play could eventually warrant time as the slot receiver or even as the starting flanker in a two-receiver set with Johnson playing across him at split end.

That's all contingent on Woods knowing what to do on the field. But, judging on comments from Kiffin and his teammates on Woods' tendency to eat meals while reading his playbook, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"My playbook is very important," Woods says. "It's the football Bible."

"You gotta know your plays. You don't know your plays, you don't play."

That has been more of a problem for Ambles, a surprisingly strong 215-pounder who has been inconsistent with his route-running. Woods is very complementary of his fellow freshman.

"Markeith is putting in work," Woods said. 'He's great competition. He was All-American so I know he knows the same things I do. I try to help him and he tries to help me. It's a great competition here -- we compete in everything."

Asked about his team-clocked 40-yard dash time, Woods recalled it being in the 4.6 range -- not an overly impressive time considering his height and weight combination.

Then, Woods said, Kiffin saw him running a route in practice and said something must have been wrong with the original time.

It was too slow. Woods is faster than that.

"That was good news," Woods said, laughing.

***

Here's video of Woods' meeting with the media:

Tuesday evening practice report

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
11:37
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's evening practice, arguably the most exciting, hardest-hitting yet:
  • It may seem counter-intuitive, but, according to Lane Kiffin, two-a-days create more energy -- not less. The Trojans had to wait almost seven hours between morning and evening practices on Tuesday, and Kiffin said that he has found in each of his coaching stops that players respond well to such situations. Plus, the Trojans' morning practice was lighter than a typical two-a-day -- and there's the night-time factor, which Kiffin said adds to it all. "It creates more energy, being under the lights," he said. "And the players respond to it."
  • Practice highlights: a huge, bone-crushing hit from middle linebacker Devon Kennard on running back Marc Tyler and an impressive come-from-behind tackle by defensive end Kevin Greene of running back C.J. Gable after Gable broke a run through the secondary and nearly took it to the house. Two impressive interceptions and a reception in a crowded end zone are also detailed below.
  • Injury report: senior offensive lineman Butch Lewis had an MRI on his hip Tuesday morning, Kiffin said. Immediate results were not available. Freshman safety Dion Bailey sat out of practice while waiting to be cleared after suffering a concussion. Defensive ends Armond Armstead and James Boyd, tight end Blake Ayles, receiver Kyle Prater, left tackle Matt Kalil and fullback Stanley Havili all returned to the practice field, while receivers De'Von Flournoy (shoulder) and Brandon Carswell (thigh) remained out.
  • While freshmen Dillon Baxter and Markeith Ambles spent the morning practice running on the sideline as punishment for arriving late to a team function, only Baxter was forced to continue with the punishment during the evening practice. From start to finish, Baxter did a variety of brutal drills, including rollovers across the end zone for a good 45 minutes. Asked why Ambles was allowed to return to practice, Kiffin indicated that Ambles' transgression was an honest mistake -- whereas Baxter made the choice fully knowing he was in the wrong. "I hope it's a good lesson for him to learn," Kiffin said of Baxter.
  • The trio of freshmen wideouts -- Ambles and Prater, plus Robert Woods -- have received much of the pass-catching pub during the first week of fall practice, leaving redshirt sophomore Brice Butler -- the projected starter at split end at the end of spring practice -- a bit out of the spotlight. But Butler had a nice performance Tuesday evening, making two big catches in traffic near the end of practice and one in particular that Kiffin complemented. "Brice has made a number of plays, but he has not made the really tough play for us," he said. "He made one today, which was nice to see. He's going to have to go take it away like the big body guys we had before did."
  • Both Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain threw their first interceptions of the fall in the final 15 minutes of Tuesday's practice. On a deep ball in which Kiffin said that Woods made "a rookie mistake" on, Torin Harris picked off Barkley. And Mustain delivered a ball fairly well to Prater near the sideline, only to have true freshman cornerback Anthony Brown strip it away from him and grab the interception.
  • On Woods, Kiffin went out of his way to compare the freshman's off-the-field mentality to current USC graduate assistant Keary Colbert on Tuesday, making the Gardena Serra product now a cross between former Trojan receivers Steve Smith and Colbert in Kiffin's eyes. Hyperbole aside, Woods had a very good practice under the lights. His ability to adjust to balls as they travel toward him is simply superb, and Kiffin mentioned that he frequently sees Woods at mealtimes with his head in the playbook.
  • Final notes: Defensive end Nick Perry made the Hendricks Award watch list today, awarded to the nation's best defensive end...Practice is scheduled to resume at 3 p.m. tomorrow before another two-a-day Thursday...Joked Kiffin when asked about the host skill position players his squad boasts compared to a dearth of offensive linemen: "Do you think they'd let us play 7-on-7? We'll challenge anybody."

***

Kiffin had many positive things to say about his team after the high-energy day they had Tuesday. Hear his thoughts on the offense answering an early surge from the defense, Woods' off-the-field habits and more from Tuesday's post-practice media session:



***

Former Trojan safety Sammy Knight returned to USC earlier this year to be the defensive graduate assistant under Kiffin. Knight, 34, essentially works under defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza while working primarily with the safeties.

Hear from Knight on his journey to the NFL and back from USC, plus get his thoughts on his pair of young safeties slated to start come September, Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald:

Smith talks end-zone drills, linebacker outlook, more

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
12:37
AM PT
USC linebacker Malcolm Smith has had plenty to deal with this spring, with a lingering ankle injury that limited him for several early practices and the pressure of Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo competing for one job next to him at middle linebacker.

A friendly poke at UCLA fans in a Tweet this week threatened to add more to his shoulders, but Smith dispatched any outcries with relative easy by quickly apologizing to UCLA fans. And Smith, a senior and the younger brother of former Trojan (and now-New York Giant) wide receiver Steve Smith, stood out in Tuesday's practice to USC coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin said he noticed right away that Smith made plays on three of the first eight snaps in team drills.

Smith, ostensibly the Trojans' weakside linebacker this season, talked Tuesday about the end-zone drills that concluded Tuesday's practice, dealing with the Twitter outcry, and the battle at middle linebacker:

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PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler452315382639
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen27614895.411
J. Davis1295954.64
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N. Agholor104131312.612
J. Smith5472413.45
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Offense158.2294.6452.8
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