Fall Camp: Freshman Lee earning trust

Even former high school teammate Robert Woods is "kind of surprised" by Marqise Lee's development at wide receiver.

LOS ANGELES – Drops have plagued USC wide receivers and tight ends for the better part of a week. There were no fewer than five glaring drops Sunday during the Trojans' second scrimmage at the Coliseum, followed by several more Tuesday.

With Robert Woods, Brandon Carswell and Brice Butler sidelined by injury, the only player on the field than seems immune at this point is true freshman Marqise Lee.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Lee has surged ahead in the past week, drawing comparisons to Woods, who emerged at this point in fall camp a year ago en route to starting every game and earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin actually went back to the film of last season's fall scrimmages to evaluate where Lee is compared to Woods, who caught 65 receptions for 792 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.

"It's very similar. They kind of look a lot alike. It's a good thing," Kiffin said.

With Woods and Carswell sidelined, Lee had a team-high seven receptions for 87 yards in the second preseason game, earning high praise from quarterback Matt Barkley.

"Trust is one of the biggest things you can have with a receiver and I definitely trust him," Barkley said.

"He has been doing a great job of knowing where to be, finding the open window and pretty much always comes down with it."

It has been a stunning rise for Lee. More was expected from his high school teammate George Farmer, a five-star prospect at Gardena (Calif.) Serra.

Lee was actually projected to play safety, the position he manned in 2009 when Serra went undefeated and won a CIF state title. Woods was on that team, but only saw Lee play defensive back.

It wasn't until Woods graduated that Lee got the chance to play receiver, catching 65 passes for 1,514 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.

"I am kind of surprised," Woods said. "I know he's a great player, great attitude. He's a football player. That's why he's able to do so well."

"It has turned out pretty well so far," Barkley said of the decision to put him on offense.

Wright Returns
Sophomore safety Demetrius Wright returned to practice Tuesday, eight days after suffering an injury that looked far more devastating than it actually was.

Wright only suffered a hip pointer, but said he couldn't feel his legs at first lying on the Coliseum turf.

"My hip is fine," Wright said. "I think I'm at 70 (percent) right now. I'm just taking it slow. I think I'll be recovered by the end of the week, by the scrimmage."

While Wright said his conditioning was affected by the layoff, he didn't show it going through the nearly three-hour practice.

Wright, redshirt senior Marshall Jones, redshirt junior Drew McAllister and sophomore Jawanza Starling are competing to start at strong safety, Kiffin declining to identify a leader.

Jones hurt his right knee in practice, but Kiffin does not believe the injury is serious.

Ambles academically ineligible
Sophomore wide receiver Markeith Ambles is academically ineligible to play this season, Kiffin confirmed Tuesday.

Ambles' status with the Trojans going forward is under consideration.

"We're going to sit down and talk about it. It'll be a group decision," Kiffin said.

Ambles would be eligible to redshirt if he remains with the team and would have three years left to play.

Ambles, a four-star prospect from McDonough (Ga.) Henry County, appeared in four games a year ago, catching one pass for three yards at Washington State. He was suspended indefinitely during the season by Kiffin for violations of team rules and announced his intention to transfer before returning to USC in January.

Quick Hits
-Linebacker Chris Galippo aggravated his right shoulder injury during 7-on-7s. Galippo did not meet with the media and said he was going to meet with team doctors.

-Sophomore tight end Christian Thomas had an MRI on his hip and results are pending.

-Running back Curtis McNeal returned to practice after hurting his knee on the opening drive Sunday and showed no ill effects.


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