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Marqise Lee's Emergence
He was recruited as an athlete. And boy has he proved it.
When he beat out senior Brandon Carswell as the Trojans' No. 2 receiver, the media understood. The Serra High product made acrobatic grab after acrobatic grab during fall camp and showed grit and toughness that many players don't embody even after years in the system.
But the Trojan receiver who also played safety in high school is clearly meant for offense. After catching 11 touchdowns for USC as a true freshman, Lee earned All-American honors and was named the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.
With the duo of Lee and Robert Woods, it's been an unbelievable ride for USC's passing attack, and a pure headache for opposing defenses. And the light is blinding when you look at Lee's upside. Always striving to be better, with an eternally upbeat demeanor, the only challenge Kiffin faces might be in deciding who to give the ball to more.
It's hard to call anyone's season perfect, especially with two losses and seven interceptions. But Barkley had as close to a perfect season as any Trojan quarterback had at USC.
The only item that puts an asterisk on that statement is the lack of a bowl to showcase Barkley's abilities one more time in 2011.
Palmer, Leinart, Sanchez all competed in a Rose Bowl. Even Marinovich got to lead his team in the city of roses.
Aside from perhaps the game at Cal, Barkley to Woods and Barkley to Lee seemed an eternal flame, torching opposing defenses week after week.
While 2011 will surely be a season to remember, fans want more. They want the chance at another Rose Bowl, with Barkley at the helm in 2012. A three-year starter, Barkley will undoubtedly go down as one of the best Trojans to ever play at USC.
The question now becomes whether that name will be an eventual Heisman winner, a first-round NFL pick, or both.
Trumping the Ducks
Oregon had won 19 consecutive games at Autzen Stadium. Their intimidating blur offense had shredded opponents.
USC had already notched two losses in its season. The Ducks just one. USC had theoretically nothing to play for. Oregon had a chance at a national championship. The Trojans had lost to a team in Stanford that Oregon demolished.
Despite the point spread, the chilly Oregon weather, the load of information that favored the home team, USC came into the House of Loud and shut the Ducks up. It was the best and most exciting win of the Lane Kiffin era.
It was also the most shocking. More than Armstead, Baxter or Farmer --or the win over rival Notre Dame -- USC coming into a top-five program that is as flashy as it is talented, and winning, was the most jaw-dropping event of the Trojans' 2011 season.