University of Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee figures to be one of the most productive wide receivers in the 2013 college football season.
He's also a likely Heisman Trophy contender in his junior season.
Even as a sophomore complemented by fellow wideout and Buffalo Bills second-round pick Robert Woods, Lee was an absolute force in 2012 who actually took targets away from his high-profile teammate.
If that's not any indication of how explosive Lee is or how promising his impending season is looking, perhaps the Trojans' independently assembled highlights from last year are worth a gander.
Now that former West Virginia star Tavon Austin has also graduated to the NFL, Lee's agility, lateral quickness and vision as a ball-carrier make him the most lethal weapon in the open field in the country.
These talents will allow whichever starting quarterback—Max Wittek or Cody Kessler—to have a much easier time reading defenses. A player like Lee makes it simple: If he's at all separated from the defender, put the ball in his hands and watch what he does with it.
Lee's rapid acceleration and breakaway speed allow him to be dangerous on end-around handoffs, though, so there are other ways to get the ball in his hands.
Combine those talents with Lee's knack for returning kicks, and he is precisely the type of all-around offensive threat that could walk away with the Heisman hardware.
Last season, Lee caught a silly 118 receptions for 1721 yards and 14 touchdowns, ranking first, second and third in the FBS in those respective categories. On top of that, he has taken a kickoff to the house in each of his first two seasons for the Trojans.
Woods' absence may lend to more passes flying Lee's way, but then again, it may allow the defense to focus exclusively on him.
Plus, let's face it, the Wittek/Kessler combo is nothing near what Matt Barkley was as a four-year starter.
According to ESPN.com's Gary Paskwietz, head coach Lane Kiffin is intent on deploying more of a ground-and-pound attack. Kiffin previously noted that successful programs such as Alabama and Stanford have reached championship-winning caliber with that physical brand of football.
All those factors should lead to Lee's numbers taking a bit of a hit, but it should also allow the Trojans—who don't have an especially difficult schedule—to improve upon a nightmarish 7-6 season.
Being the top offensive weapon on a better team will still allow Lee to emerge as a strong Heisman candidate and he should get off to a fast start in the first six games.
None of the Trojans' first six opponents are ranked and four of those contests are at home. That should allow Lee to pad his numbers ahead of the trip to South Bend, where USC will take on archrival Notre Dame.
If Lee performs well in that showdown—and particularly if the Trojans win to improve to 6-1 or 7-0—he should be at the center of the Heisman discussion.
Thursday's game at Hawaii opens the season for Lee, who should take advantage of a traditionally shaky defense and put up huge numbers to get his year off to a great start.
Even without a Heisman, Lee should repeat as the Biletnikoff Award winner as the country's best receiver, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and garner All-American honors.
That will be enough to garner first-round NFL draft status should he choose to go pro and secure his status as one of the greats in USC's deep tradition of prolific receivers.
- Biletnikoff Award (2012)
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