Though most USC Trojans have been participating in unofficial team workouts in preparation for fall camp and the upcoming football season, one key member of the 2011 team that went 10-2 and finished sixth in the final AP poll remains notably absent: Junior wide receiver Robert Woods.
Woods, who was also unable to take part in spring practice after undergoing arthroscopic ankle surgery in December, told ESPN LA’s Pedro Moura that a recent MRI still showed inflammation in his ankle. On June 8, shortly before the MRI was taken, Woods remarked to ESPN LA that he was hoping to be cleared by team doctors “shortly.”
Despite the setback, Woods hopes to return in time for practice in early August. He played despite the injured ankle for most of last season and has said he will do so again if necessary.
Woods is coming off an All-American 2011 campaign in which he finished with 111 catches, 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. He broke former Trojan Keyshawn Johnson’s long-standing single-season receptions record, (setting a new Pac-12 mark in the process), finished as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award — given to the nation’s best wide receiver — and had at least 100 yards receiving in seven games.
In USC’s opener against Minnesota on Sept. 3, Woods set a single-game school record with 17 receptions, adding 177 yards and three touchdowns in a 19-17 victory. In an Oct. 1 home game against Arizona, Woods finished with 14 catches, 255 yards and two scores as the Trojans beat the Wildcats 48-41.
If Woods isn’t cleared to return to practice in time for fall camp, the Trojans will turn to sophomore Marqise Lee to serve as the team’s top receiving threat. Lee was named the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Co-Player of the Year after putting up 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns on 73 receptions. He was No. 15 in the country in receiving yards and had a career-high 224 yards and two touchdowns in a 50-0 rout over UCLA on Nov. 26.
Other receivers who would take on larger roles include redshirt freshman Victor Blackwell, redshirt junior De’Von Flournoy and sophomore George Farmer, a highly recruited player out of high school who dealt with injury problems in the spring but should be healthy come August. Incoming freshman Nelson Agholor could also see time at wide receiver.