Marqise Lee entered the season the Trojans’ lone Heisman candidate, and he kicks off our 2013 player evaluations, accordingly. The junior didn’t earn any honors, but remained one of USC’s most lethal weapons in 2013.
By the numbers: 57 receptions, 791 yards and 4 touchdowns
What went right: When healthy, Lee was the best player on the football field for big stretches. He may not have been as potent as he was in 2012 and his decline in production certainly reflects that, but it’s hard to argue that anyone else had a bigger impact in USC’s marquee wins than Lee. Against Stanford, Lee was thoroughly hindered with leg injuries, yet fought through the pain to make two of the season’s most pivotal receptions. Lee’s fourth down catch on 4th and 2 with a minute remaining serves as the iconic play of the Ed Orgeron era, and it was Lee’s catch and post-tackle hobble on one leg that added to the drama and impact of the conversion. He didn’t break Robert Woods’ career receptions record in 2013 and wasn’t anywhere near the conference leaderboard in production, but there’s no denying that when healthy, Lee performed with the talent to be arguably the best USC receiver the Trojans have ever seen.
What went wrong: In one word: injuries. Lee sprained his knee against Arizona State back in September and was hampered from then on out. The junior missed a total of three complete games, in addition to leaving the Notre Dame game early and being used sparingly in a big win over Cal, to rest up for Stanford. The knee and shin injuries left Lee needing two weeks between games to get back at full strength, and luckily for the Trojans, the schedule in November allowed him to take games off to rest up for the big ones like Stanford, UCLA and Fresno State. In addition to the injury bug, Lee’s tendency to succomb to the dropsies lifted its ugly head a couple of times, mainly in losses to Arizona State and Notre Dame. At ASU, a Lee drop negated a big gain in leiu of a deflected interception, while a dropped touchdown against the Irish could have given USC an insurmountable lead at Notre Dame.
What’s next: For all intents and purposes, Lee is bound for the NFL. With injuries providing their setbacks, a new offense on the way and an insurance deal from a year ago already bringing forth the assumption of an early departure, it’s of Lee’s best interest to go pro now. He’s been projected as the nation’s top receiver in the draft, and with Dorial Green-Beckham looming in the 2015 NFL Draft pool, there’s no need to wait. Lee will be a top 15 pick and should have a bright NFL future, if he can stay healthy.
Final Grade: A-
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