Before the season, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were considered the top receiving tandem in the nation. Woods, who was a first-team All-American, was supposed to continue his enormous success as Matt Barkley's top target.
However, it was clear after Lee scored a 75-yard touchdown on USC's first offensive play of the season that Woods was no longer that guy.
Woods caught a then-USC record 111 passes in 2011. In his lone monster game of this season, he broke USC's all-time reception record by catching his 217th pass against Colorado. However, this season Marqise already broke Woods' single-season reception record, and he is almost certain to become USC's all-time reception leader next season.
Lee has become the top target for USC, simply because he is the most talented receiver in the country. He had seven games of double-digit catches this season. Woods had one. Lee had eight 100-yard receiving games. Woods had one, and he also had one game in which he accumulated negative receiving yards.
In fact, Woods had just 73 catches for 813 yards this season, a far cry from his 2011 output.
His stock has dropped this season, but he's still projected as a second-round prospect. However, Woods shouldn't gamble by trying to increase his stock by staying in school for another season. Woods should declare for the NFL Draft this year so his stock doesn't drop even further.
Woods should look at his own team for the warning signs. Teammates Barkley and T.J. McDonald both stayed for their senior seasons after outstanding junior campaigns. Both had extremely disappointing 2012 seasons, and now they will pay because of it. They are both expected to be drafted lower than if they had declared for the draft last season.
And let's not forget about Matt Leinart as well, who went from being regarded as the top overall pick after his junior season to being selected 10th overall the following year. Staying for your senior season is admirable, but it's also extremely risky.
If Woods does stay his senior year, expect him to disappear even more in USC's offense. Lee will be a Heisman favorite, so expect coach Lane Kiffin to feed him the ball often.
Nelson Agholor has incredible potential and arguably more natural talent than Woods, and he will have a bigger role in the offense next season. Also, expect Kiffin to run a more balanced offense next year, which means more carries for Silas Redd and less targets for USC's receiving corps.
Fighting for targets with Lee and Agholor will make Woods frustrated, just like this season.
Woods also struggled this season because of his injured ankle. However, even if his ankle is completely healthy next season, I still don't expect him to reach his sophomore receiving totals. He won't be able to become USC's top target again, and he could have a tough time without Barkley.
Woods will have a new quarterback that he'll need to develop a rapport with. However, don't forget that Woods did have a strong game against Notre Dame with Max Wittek under center. Yet, Woods was open a majority of the time because the Irish were focused on not letting Marqise Lee beat them.
After USC plays Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Monday, Robert Woods is expected to make his decision regarding his future with USC. I will definitely be rooting for him to come back and attempt to lead the Trojans to a national championship in his senior year. However, the smart move for his football career is to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.
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