|USC junior wide out Robert Woods is going to make himself available in the 2013 NFL Draft. (US Presswire)|
USC's embarrassing 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl was a surprise to some, but hardly anyone was shocked after the game when star junior wide out Robert Woods promptly announced he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Woods had been considering the decision for some time and he was no doubt influenced by a couple of key factors. First, his production in Lane Kiffin's offense plummetted dramatically from 2011 to 2012, mainly due to USC's reliance (some say over-reliance) on Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee. Woods caught 111 passes (a then-Pac-12 record) for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns in his All-American 2011 season, but only 73 passes for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.
Another factor is that another year in college would mean he would enter the draft at the same time as his teammate, Lee, and Clemson's Sammie Watkins, both of whom are likely to be selected ahead of Woods.
Woods certainly has the potential to be a first round pick. He has an excellent combination of production (school-record 248 receptions and 32 TDs in three seasons), work ethic and physical skills (he was an elite track star coming out of high school). Disregard those draft analysts who will call him a ''possession receiver'' during the run up to the draft based on his poor yards-per-catch average in Kiffin's offense. A guy who can run 21.07 in the 200 meters and 46.02 in the 400 meters isn't slow and his average is more a reflection of the scheme in which he operated than his true separation ability.
But Woods has been hampered by a nagging foot injury the past couple of seasons and getting it to heal properly will be key to his Combine performance in February. If he's healthy, he's sure to turn in some elite 40-yard dash times.
For USC, it means that it will enter 2013 without an extra life preserver for whoever the quarterback ends up being. Freshman Nelson Agholor is the next in line to replace Woods. He performed admirably this year, snagging 19 passes for 340 yards. Another possible replacement is Woods' former high school teammate George Farmer, a physically gifted specimen who has been hampered by injuries for most of his career.
No matter what, Woods will go down as one of the best receivers in USC history. If all goes right, he should turn out to be an excellent pro.