There were no chants of “One More Year” for USC junior wide receiver Robert Woods, and even if there were, chances are, he wouldn’t listen. Nor should he. After the Trojans’ disastrous loss to Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve, Woods officially announced that he would forego his senior season at USC and enter the NFL draft.
“I feel like I accomplished a lot at USC and I’m very prepared to play at the next level,” Woods said after the game.
USC fans certainly shouldn’t blame him. A Biletnikoff Award finalist a year ago, Woods’ catches declined this season as quarterback Matt Barkley locked in on sophomore receiver Marqise Lee. Lee broke Woods’ Pac-12 and USC records for receptions in a single season with 112, while Woods’ 2012 numbers matched Lee’s from last year.
Lee, an All-American this season, is a true sophomore. He has, at minimum, one more season with the Trojans, so had Woods decided to stay, he still would’ve been competing with Lee for targets.
When redshirt freshman Max Wittek took over at quarterback at the end of the year, after Barkley was injured, it seemed like Woods might get more looks, but Wittek’s abysmal performance in the Sun Bowl didn’t give any of the USC receivers much to look forward to in 2013.
Working with a new, relatively inexperienced quarterback and competing for carries with the reigning Biletnikoff winner and a stable of young, talented receivers isn’t a recipe for a stellar senior season. There’s a chance Woods could rebound and get back to his 2010-11 form, but there was a greater chance his numbers – and draft prospects – would continue to fall, through no fault of his.
Besides, the 2012 USC football season was enough to make anyone want to get out of Los Angeles. The team was more talented yet less prepared and less motivated than most of their opponents. Barkley and senior safety T.J. McDonald both returned for a final year to chase national title hopes, but not only did the team fall miserably short of that goal, their draft stocks took a hit as a result.
The 2013 Trojans won’t have the same glorious aspirations; they’ll be lucky to be bowl eligible if they don’t markedly improve by next fall.
While Woods’ numbers weren’t quite as good this year, they could continue to decline with another year at USC, and with an early second-round grade in the draft evaluations, it’s smarter to move on before things get worse. Better to take his considerable talents to the next level and get paid for putting himself on the line every week than to stick around to crash and burn at the Coliseum with Lane Kiffin and Co.