Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: For Marqise Lee, the time is now


Since arriving at USC in 2011, Marqise Lee has been a source of amazement for Trojan fans and frustration for opposing defenses.

However, this season, Lee has frustrated Trojan fans alike.  Battling injuries, and a bad case of untimely drops, Lee has not been his usual dynamic, dominating self.

A one-time Heisman candidate, Lee has too often been relegated to a supporting role.

With a game against No. 4 Stanford looming, that can all change.

One thing Lee has traditionally done in big games is produce.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t always translated into a victory for the Trojans.

Dating back to his freshman year, Lee has gradually increased his production under the brightest lights.

2011 vs. Stanford

Not quite developed into his own yet, Lee wasn’t prolific, recording 11 receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown.

It was a back-and-forth game that the Trojans lost 56-48 in triple-overtime.

As the 2011 season wore on, Lee showed signs of what kind of athlete he was, and what he could develop into.

He didn’t light the Cardinal secondary up a la Robert Woods in 2010, but as a true freshman playing against a physical defense, Lee held his own.

2011 vs. Oregon

At the time, this was Lee’s coming out party.

He leaped over an Oregon corner back to haul in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to give the Trojans an early 7-0 lead.

Lee finished the game eight receptions for 187 yards and one touchdown in the 38-35 Trojan victory.

He led the Trojans in receiving yards and for good measure added 134 kick return yards.

2012 vs. Stanford

Without center Khaled Holmes, the offensive line failed to consistently protect Barkley and open up lanes for the running backs.

As a result, the entire offense struggled to establish any semblance of rhythm.

Lee still managed to catch eight receptions for 100 yards in the 21-14 loss.

2012 vs. Arizona

This game didn’t garner much hype leading up to it and the Trojans lost 39-36, but it embodies what Lee is capable of.

With 16 receptions for 345 yards, two touchdowns, and 469 all-purpose yards, he single-handedly kept the Trojans in the game with one logic-defying move after the other.

Lee’s 345 receiving yards remain a conference record.

2012 vs. Oregon

In the shootout, which the Trojans lost 62-51, Lee had 12 receptions for 157 yards, two touchdowns, and 408 all-purpose yards.

Flashing his breakaway speed, Lee scored the Trojans’ first touchdown on a 75-yard pass from Barkley.

Lee also had a costly fumble that kept the Trojans from potentially cutting into their deficit prior to halftime.

Looking back on it, this game was part of the beginning of the end for Lane Kiffin as the Trojans closed out the season losers in five of their last six games.

Stars always shine

Nelson Agholor’s emergence has helped fill the void that’s been left by Lee and his modest production.

Given Lee’s struggles this season, the script may get flipped with the Cardinal opting to primarily focus on Agholor and not Lee.

Should that happen, Lee needs to step up and remind everyone of the kind of player he is.  He has the physicality and speed to give Cardinal defensive backs fits.

If Lee is able to revert to form and it coincides with a Trojan victory, it would be as much vindication for him as it would for the program.

As a veteran leader, it’s time for Lee to put the team on his shoulders and return to his dominating ways.

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