In a year where South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is drawing national ire for his underperformance, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee is really suffering the most from the NFL draft restrictions.
Lee, who caught 118 balls for over 1,700 yards in 2012, likely does not come close to those numbers thanks to ill-timed drops, poor quarterback play and missing time due to a knee injury suffered against Notre Drame.
But Lee's only option is to keep powering through the adversity.
Still, there is no shame in opting to sit out, especially if health is in question.
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron took the cautious approach on Saturday with his stud wide receiver, holding Lee out of the tight game against the Fighting Irish. Lee felt as though he could have returned, as ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi reported, including quotes from Lee to that fact:
Coach didn't want me to go back out there because he didn't want me to make it worse than it was, Lee said. So he decided to hold me out.
Lee returned to the USC sideline in the second half in his warm-ups. He didn't need any crutches and wasn't walking with a noticeable limp after the game.
I could've [played], yeah, Lee said. I told him I was all right, but he refused.
Sure, Lee could sit out, and given some of the Trojans' woes and the risk of injury, not many could blame him. However, he wants to play ball, and with that in mind, the best thing for him to do is rehab the knee and get back out there.
2013 has seen the receiver crop for the 2014 draft rise up in a major way. What once was Lee, Clemson's Sammy Watkins and others hoping to add their name to the mix, is now a host of names vying for the top spot. With Josh Huff at Oregon, Paul Richardson at Colorado and Brandin Cooks at Oregon State playing great football, Lee is in a dogfight just to remain at the top of the Pac-12 in 2013.
The key part to this Pac-12 wideout dogfight is, well, being "in it" and that is something Lee still wants to do. Lee has to remind people that he still has not only the great agility and speed that make him a threat in the short and deep game, but the hands to go with it. Drops, like Saturday night's sure touchdown against the Irish have plagued him this season.
It certainly is not time for Lee to pack it in for 2013; the receiver and his teammates have much to accomplish and the kid is a football player above all else. Football players want to be on the field, not watching and waiting for next season, and Lee is no exception as he proved talking to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler:
There's always room for improvement as a athlete, said Lee, who has 32 catches for 403 yards and one touchdown through five-and-a-half games. I know I can speak for Clowney, too, I know his main focus is trying to improve and do the things you're supposed to do. But it's hard when people know the type of talent you have and how much they put on you. I think I've enjoyed coming back and doing my third year.
Last year's Biletnikoff Award winner has his work cut out for him, but it's not impossible for him to get back to the top of his game.