USC's Woods Impresses

Everyone knew wide receiver Robert Woods was good based on his true freshman season. He had 65 catches for 792 yards and six touchdowns, including a monster 224-yard game against Stanford. But this season, Woods has gone from a promising prospect to an All-American candidate. He leads the nation in receptions through five games (11 per contest) and is third in receiving yards (149.4 per game)…

Woods taking his game to a new level as a sophomore

Robert Woods set the school single-game record for catches (17) in the opener against Minnesota and nearly established a school record for receiving yards when he had 255 vs. Arizona on Oct. 1. That was five off the USC mark.

"I was really impressed with Robert," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops. "One of the best receivers I have seen in a long time."

And Stoops has seen Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon twice in the past year.

"I can see a huge step from last year to where he is now," Stoops added about Woods. "You can just tell he loves to play football. They move him all over the place. He does everything. He just has a knack for doing everything. I just love the way he plays."

Woods (6-1, 180) has decent size, and he has the speed and moves to turn short passes into big gains. He shows his open-field skills by averaging 26.6 yards on kick returns; he scored on a return last season.

His 55 catches so far this season are the most ever for a USC receiver in a five-game stretch. Woods has at least eight catches in every game.

"He always does things to surprise me," true freshman receiver Marqise Lee told the L.A. Times. "Every week, it's new to me. I've seen it before, but it's like I see it again, and it's just amazing."


--QB Matt Barkley, coming off his school-record 468-yard performance against Arizona on Oct. 1, was selected the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. It was the second such honor of the season for Barkley, and the third of the junior's career. Junior S T.J. McDonald, who intercepted Nick Foles twice, was chosen the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

--It is somewhat surprising that sophomore RB Dillon Baxter has not been a bigger part of the offense this season. In fact, he's barely been a part at all, behind Marc Tyler, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan at the position. Said coach Lane Kiffin about Baxter: "Other guys are playing well when they've gotten in there, and then there's the consistency and trust issue over whether he is going to do everything right when he's in there."

--USC has been outscored 86-68 after halftime, and coach Lane Kiffin put his team through extra conditioning early in its bye-week practices.

BYE WEEK MISSION: Coach Lane Kiffin says he doesn't want to panic about his defense, but it has allowed back-to-back 40-point games to Arizona State and Arizona. The Trojans, with their Tampa 2 defense, struggle against spread offenses -- such as those two they just played. The emphasis in bye-week practices was on red-zone defense because through five games, USC allowed 14 touchdowns in 17 red-zone trips. Kiffin said he hoped the return from injury of CB Torin Harris and LB Lamar Dawson would help shore up the defense. Harris is a starter who allows the team to be more aggressive in coverage. Dawson could be valuable in spelling senior Chris Galippo.

LOOKING AHEAD: USC (4-1 overall, 2-1 Pac-12) needs to get its pass defense in order for an Oct. 13 Thursday-night game at Cal, which features WRs Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. Then comes another road game -- at Notre Dame on Oct. 22. The Trojans have plenty of challenges ahead, including Stanford (Oct. 29) and at Oregon (No. 19), and getting past last season's total of eight wins is no guarantee.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coach Kiffin has a little faith in me now. We're just building that bond together, and it's going to be good in four years." -- Freshman PK Andre Heidari, who made his last five field-goal attempts before the bye.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Trojans are coming off their best game of the season, as they rolled up 582 yards and 48 points against Arizona, although that has to be taken with a grain of salt because of the Wildcats' poor defense. Overall, USC is 27th nationally in total offense (454.4 yards per game) and has developed freshmen talent -- WR Marqise Lee and TE Xavier Grimble -- to go with versatile big-play threat Robert Woods. Marc Tyler returned from his opening-game suspension to reclaim the starting tailback job, and he's an effective, big back who is averaging 84.5 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This is a concern, as the Trojans are allowing 379.6 yards and 26.4 points per game -- and they still have to face the nearly unstoppable offenses of Stanford and Oregon. USC has allowed its past two opponents (Arizona State and Arizona) to complete 66-of-85 passes (77.6 percent). Redshirt freshman Dion Bailey, who moved from safety to linebacker, has been active in his new position, leading the team with 40 tackles. Another freshman linebacker, Hayes Pullard, is second with 29. DE Nick Perry (three sacks) leads the front, which has been mostly neutralized by the quick passing of the spread attacks in the past two weeks.


--CB Torin Harris did not play against Arizona because of a shoulder injury. Anthony Brown, a redshirt freshman, started in his place.

--LB Lamar Dawson (ankle) has missed the past two games. Coach Lane Kiffin is hoping Dawson, a true freshman from Kentucky, can push senior starter Chris Galippo in practice and games.

--LG Marcus Martin, a true freshman, has started the past three games.

--DT Armond Armstead, who has been out because of an undisclosed medical condition, will redshirt this season. Armstead could opt to try the NFL after this season.

--OG Abe Markowitz, who was slated to be starter this season, did not play in the first three games because of a foot injury, then learned he would need surgery for a fracture that will cost him the season. Top Stories