USC Trojans receiver Marqise Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver, last season, but when he signed with USC back in 2011, he wasn’t even the best prospect from his high school to commit to the Trojans. His Gardena Serra High School teammate George Farmer, who will miss the 2013 season with a torn MCL and ACL was, at the time, a bigger “get” for Lane Kiffin, but their career trajectories have taken dramatically different paths.
Lee quickly claimed the No. 2 spot opposite Robert Woods, then surpassed Woods as Matt Barkley‘s favorite target. During much of that time, Farmer has been on the sidelines nursing a host of injuries — none as severe as the knee injury he suffered in practice earlier this week.
After starting the spring strong and injury-free, Farmer seemed poised to take on a bigger role in the offense. Just a day before he was carted off the field, WeAreSC.com posted a story with the headline: “Farmer healthy, looking to make impact.”
Trojans fans feared the worst when Farmer crumpled to the ground untouched after making a catch, and an MRI Wednesday confirmed early reports of an ACL injury. He’s scheduled for surgery in a few weeks, but the rehabilitation process will be another huge setback in his underwhelming career.
Farmer knew this would be a big spring, and potentially a big season, for him. Lee and sophomore Nelson Agholor are the presumed starters, but with Woods off to the NFL, another receiver would need to step up as a reliable No. 3. Senior De’Von Flournoy has been inconsistent throughout his career, and sophomore Victor Blackwell and freshmen Steven Mitchell and Darreus Rogers haven’t had a chance yet to establish themselves.
Farmer was in the sweet spot; all he had to do was seize the opportunity, and he knew it. He told WeAreSC.com’s Johnny Curren he was focused on making the most of the chance he had now that he was healthy, and that he was making a greater effort to stay on the field.
“I realized that I have to stay and get rehab — not just for the sake of rehabbing, but for injury prevention, and staying in there and preventing my injuries before they happen,” he said.
To finally, finally gain some momentum and see his big chance just ahead, and then suffer another injury — this one more serious than all those he’d struggled with previously — is a huge blow.
Farmer is reportedly “in good spirits” but if he’s secretly wondering if he’ll ever be on the field long enough to be a successful college receiver, he’s not alone.
He’ll be able to use his redshirt season and return with two years of eligibility in 2014, but if the younger receivers follow the path set by Woods and Lee and make an early impact, Farmer will face another monumental challenge to fight his way into the rotation.
Are his best days behind him?
It’s an awful thought, but after injuries have prevented him from making a mark three years running, it’s not out of the question.
Here’s hoping Farmer bounces back better than ever and gets another chance to live up to his billing.