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USC true freshman wide receiver Robert Woods had 19 receptions for 340 yards and five touchdowns the past two weeks.Photo by Jeff Lewis
Robert Woods last two performances has made him a star with local media.Photo by Jason Lewis The former Gardena Serra high school standout has played out of this world the past two games.By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
USC freshman wide receiver Robert Woods must have a cape tucked under his jersey, because he has turned in Superman like performances the past two weeks. Freshmen simply do not catch 19 passes for 340 yards and five touchdowns over a two-week period against legitimate division I-A programs. It seems like Woods does not realize that 18-year-olds are not supposed to dominate at this level. Coming from a football factory like Gardena Serra high school, Woods is well prepared for big time football.Woods, the 2009-10 ESPN RISE Cal-Hi Sports Boys Athlete of the Year, is not only a speed burner (he anchored Serra’s 4x400 relay team to a state title), but he shows intelligence on the football field (Woods carried a 4.0 grade point average his senior year and a 3.5 over all average). Running routes in not all about running faster than the defensive back. Chances are the defensive back is just as fast, if not faster, than the wide receiver. Remember, a cornerback has to be fast enough to run the wide receiver’s route backwards. So getting open is more about running precise routes.On Woods’ first touchdown reception this past Saturday against Cal, he ran a simple comeback pattern to the outside. Many receivers run 15 yards up the field and then cut to the outside. The problem with that is that the cornerback can easily read the route and then turn outside with the receiver and easily cover the play. But Woods ran the pattern in a way that the defender did not have a chance to make a play on the ball. As Woods took the defender up the field for 18 yards (he ran the pattern three yards into the endzone to make sure the catch would go for a touchdown), Woods cut inside towards the post. The cornerback had the post pattern perfectly covered, and then Woods broke hard to the outside, causing the cornerback to have to slam on the breaks and dig hard to close the gap that Woods had just created.USC quarterback Matt Barkley released the ball just before Woods made his break, so the ball got to Woods before the defender could get to him to make a play. The result of running the pattern in that fashion was separation from the cornerback and an easy 16-yard touchdown reception for Woods. Talent is not always about being the biggest, strongest, or fastest, but a lot of times it is about being the smartest, which is one attribute that Woods displays. After not being utilized much the first five games (Woods did not catch a single pass against Washington three weeks ago), Barkley seems to have gained confidence in throwing the ball Woods’ way.Woods exploded two weeks ago against Stanford on national television with 12 receptions for 224 yards and three touchdowns, and this past week against Cal he finished with seven receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Coming into the season, USC fans did not seem like they had much to root for because the Trojans are not eligible for post season play, but the way Woods and USC’s offense is playing, there is some buzz this year about the program. There may be even more buzz coming next year. Serra wide receivers George Farmer and Marqise Lee are both lighting it up in their senior years, and both are on USC’s radar. USC already struck gold once with a Serra wide receiver, so they might look to do it again. It would be pretty amazing to see Woods, Farmer, and Lee line up in a three wide receiver set for the Trojans.