After leading the Trojans in receptions last season as a true freshman, Robert Woods began his sophomore season by breaking a school record set by Johnnie Morton for most catches in a game. Woods tied the record at 15 late in the third quarter against Minnesota. Then he broke the record with two more receptions in the fourth.
So, where does this talented young sophomore stand among one of the greatest wide receiver factories in the history of college football?
Let’s take a look at some of those memorable receivers and the kind of numbers they put up.
1. Dwayne Jarrett became Matt Leinart's roommate and favorite target after Mike Williams was declared ineligible by the NCAA. Jarrett finished his career with 216 catches for 3,138 yards and 41 touchdowns. Although Jarrett only played three years before leaving for the NFL, he is USC's leading receiver in terms of catches, yards and scores.
2. Keary Colbert is USC's No. 2 receiver. Playing in the shadow of Mike Williams, a huge shadow indeed, Colbert was USC's all-time leading receiver when he finished his career in 2003 with 207 catches for 2,964 yards and 19 TDs. He caught a pass in his last 36 games and had six career 100-yard receiving games. He started all four years at USC (2000-2003). Dwayne Jarrett surpassed Colbert playing only three years for the Trojans.
Colbert’s best year was as a junior. He had 71 catches for 1,029 yards and five TDs.
3. Johnnie “Hero” Morton from back in 1993 is the No. 3 all-time receiver for the Trojans in terms of catches. Morton caught 201 passes during his four years at USC. Without the physical gifts of speed or size, Morton had to do it the hard way. He didn't have the speed to separate from defensive backs, but he did have great hands and superior timing to take the ball away from the defensive backs. He was a 1993 Consensus All-American and USC's MVP.
4. Keyshawn Johnson is the No. 4 Trojan receiver with 168 passes for 2,796 yards and 16 touchdowns. His biggest game was a 12-catch, 216-yard performance against Northwestern in the 1996 Rose Bowl.
5. Mike Williams had more catches than Keyshawn Johnson but less yardage. However, Williams would be at the top of this list had he not been declared ineligible his junior year. No doubt he would have broken every receiving record in USC history. The numbers he put up are nothing short of tremendous for a two-year collegiate career..
6. Lynn Swann did not put up the numbers in terms of overall catches and yardage to rank high on the list. But back in 1972, when USC ran a student-body left and student-body right offense and ran over people, Swann was the Trojans' hole-in-one. When John McKay needed the long ball, he called on Swann. An All-American in 1973 and star of the 1972 national championship team, Swann finished his career with only 95 catches for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns but with a tremendous long-ball average of 20.9 yards per catch in 1972 and 17 yards per catch in 1973.
So how does Robert Woods stack up to these other great Trojan receivers?
As a freshman, USC's all-time No. 1 receiver, Dwayne Jarrett, had 55 catches for 849 yards (15.4 average) and 13 TDs. No. 2, Keary Colbert, had 33 catches for 480 yards (14.5 average) with three scores as a freshman in 2000.
As a freshman, Woods had 65 catches for 792 yards (12.2 average) with six TDs. So, in his first season, Woods had 10 more catches than Jarrett for 57 less yards and an average that was 3.1 yards less than Jarrett's. However, he comfortably outdistanced Keary Colbert except for average yards per catch.
Last Saturday, Woods had 17 catches for 177 yards and three TDs to begin his second season as a Trojan. What does he have to do this year to keep pace with Dwayne Jarrett?
In his sophomore season, Jarrett had 91 catches for 1,274 yards (14.0 average) and 16 scores. So, Woods really has his work cut out for him if he hopes to keep pace.
But no doubt, the greatest Trojan receiver of all time would have been Mike Williams if he had received his third year of eligibility. Let's look at what he did in his short two-year career at USC.
As a freshman in 2002, Williams caught a team-high 81 passes for 1,265 yards (15.6 avg.) with 14 TDs. He had way more catches than either Jarrett or Woods and outdid them in yardage by more than 400 yards. As a sophomore in 2003, Williams had 95 catches for 1,314 yards (13.8 avg.) and 16 TDs. So, he bested Jarrett by four catches and 40 yards. Their average was virtually the same as was their touchdown production.
Compared to Woods, the thing about Williams (6'5", 230 lbs) and Jarrett (6'5", 215 lbs) was their size. At 6'2", 180 pounds, Woods will need to rely on his speed, agility and hands if he hopes to leave USC as the all-time leading receiver.
While I cannot say that Woods will not achieve such a goal, he cannot afford to have any bad games or lose time to injuries.
Woods will also need a lot of help.
Jarrett had Leinart, Colbert had Palmer, Woods has Barkley. Like Woods, it goes without saying that Barkley cannot afford to have any bad games or lose time to injuries if either one or both of them are to set any all-time USC records. How well Woods does will depend on how well Barkley does and vice versa.
But Woods also needs help from other receivers. Colbert had Mike Williams, and Jarrett had Steve Smith, No. 11 among all-time USC receivers. Last year, Woods had Ronald Johnson (64 catches, 692 yards, eight TDs). But who will step up this year to give the Trojans a balanced passing attack?
We saw the problem in the second half of last week’s game against Minnesota. After a 42-yard TD catch in the first half, the Gophers played Cover 2 against Woods with a corner covering him directly and a safety spotting him over top. So, for most of the second half, Woods was held to very short gains.
Woods will need the other Trojan receivers to step up around him to loosen that double coverage. He will also need a viable running attack to set up the play-action pass.
If all of these variables fall into place, Woods has an outside chance of breaking Jarrett’s records to become USC’s all-time leading receiver.
As for a two-year college career, however, Mike Williams’ statistics will remain etched forever in the Trojan record books. With 176 catches, nearly 2,600 yards and 30 TDs in only two seasons, Mike Williams is the man!