USC had no particular cause for concern when All-American receiver Robert Woods underwent postseason ankle surgery last December, or when lingering soreness unexpectedly kept him out of spring practice in March. Just a couple of routine offseason headlines, right? And despite discouraging MRI results on Friday that confirmed some not-so-routine bone inflammation in the same ankle just a few weeks before the start of fall camp, Woods is still insisting that everything is going according to plan:
"We were expecting that [from the MRI]," said Woods, who observed Friday's unofficial team throwing session with a clipboard in hand. "It's getting better, but it's just taking a long time."
Woods hopes to be ready in a few weeks, although he won't set a specific return date other than "by the time fall camp starts," in the first week of August.
"I thought about it, the possibility of not being healthy for the season, of still being sore," Woods said. "But then I remembered I was sore all last year and I did OK, so I think I'll be all right."
Elsewhere, Woods assured other reporters that "he will definitely be ready for the season" ($) lamenting only that he wasn't able to work on his speed with the track team this spring. Thursday, coach Lane Kiffin said he's "not concerned yet"about his star receiver's wonky ankle, and expected Woods to handle the layoff better than most players because of his experience/obvious mastery of the offense. Presumably that sentiment still stands.
As Woods notes, he "did OK" on a bum ankle for most of 2011, finishing with seven 100-yard receiving games, a Pac-12 record for catches in a season (111) and consensus All-America honors from the national media. He was the only unanimous pick by conference coaches for the All-Pac-12 team. By the end of the regular season, the Trojan offense was a fully operational Death Star.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley may be the engine fueling the carnage, and between Woods, sophomore burners Marqise Lee and George Farmer, incoming freshman Nelson Agholor and sophomore tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble, he may have one of the most well-stocked arsenals in the country at his disposal. But even a few weeks without his most consistently lethal weapon could threaten the push for conference and national titles: After warm-up dates against Hawaii and Syracuse, USC has to get past Stanford and Cal just to make it out September unscathed, and it doesn't get any easier from there. Until then, we can only hope Woods is right that the same can't be said about his ankle.