Receivers Talent Apparent, Lineup Not

The starting receivers at USC look clearer after Sunday's scrimmage, but there is still much to be decided.

Two weeks until the Trojans' season opener versus Minnesota at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 3 and the only thing certain about USC's receiving core is the talent.

The starting picture looks a little like a blurry cloud interspersed with a few solid lines.

We know Robert Woods, if healthy, will start. We figure redshirt senior Brandon Carswell will, too. But a new crop of freshmen, a few redshirters waiting their turn and a receiver who came back for a second chance all want that third spot. But one spot can't make five happy.

After Sunday's intersquad scrimmage at the Coliseum, the bright light shone on Woods and flickered back and forth onto Marqise Lee. Both Lee and Woods hail from Serra High School and both are equipped with unique physical gifts. The pair scored four of the Trojan's nine touchdowns.

"You could feel the need for speed out there. I thought we looked faster today with [Woods] being out there and with Marqise [Lee], I think it makes us look different," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.

The offense is unquestionably different with Woods in the game. Without him, as in USC's second scrimmage, the play looked flat and the energy low. Matt Barkley has struggled a bit this camp, but any worry dissipates once he connects with No. 2.

"I felt like I was in a groove [Sunday] making the throws," Barkley said. "[Robert] adds a level of, I don't know what it is, but we're just on the same page, whether it's telepathically or something else I just know what he's going to do."

But the Trojans still need that X receiver, that Y and even a fourth receiver in certain sets. Because Barkley connects so well with Woods, maybe the signalcaller should decide that third spot based on potential connections.

To Carswell's advantage, Barkley has been throwing passes to the Milpitas, Calif. product for three years now. Carswell was unofficially named Mr. Consistency in the first two weeks of Fall Camp. But recently he has dropped a couple passes. Kiffin said Sunday that Lee might play above the redshirt senior.

"Marqise is making a running for that, the way that he's playing. [Carswell] had a couple chances to make some plays early, and wasn't able to come up with them. So it's definitely narrowed, how close I don't know we'll figure that out."

New or ‘old,' Barkley won't complain as long as the guy can do his job.

"[Lee]'s been doing great, he's been showing that he can play. He understands everything. It's fun when you get a guy out there whose just willing to work and it turns out that he's making plays," Barkley said.

That 'X' receiver is traditionally bigger, and might go the way of either Chicago native Kyle Prater (a redshirt freshman) or comeback kid Brice Butler, who almost transferred this past spring. Both have been inconsistent, the former recovering from an ankle injury and the latter trying so hard to impress that he's doing the opposite.

Three freshmen come into this class. Victor Blackwell, who caught passes from Barkley at their alum Mater Dei, looks like he'll be redshirting. Farmer, the most physically gifted of the three, has played well, but not ‘starter' well.

And then there is De'Von Flournoy, whose good days are scorching but bad ones are icebergs. And then Robbie Boyer, who earned a scholarship Saturday, and is Barkley's cousin. And then a slew of walk-ons to consider.

This list is long, as it is with many other positions for USC. Seems great on paper, but all that matters is: who can catch the ball?

The Trojans have two weeks to figure it out.


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