CULVER CITY-Yes, football is here. The Pac-12 Conference officially kicked off its season with its annual media day with coaches and players being circulated to the press for interviews and photo-ops throughout the day on the lot of Sony Pictures Studios. Only in and around Los Angeles can a sports media day happen at a movie studio.
It was a fitting backdrop to the running expectations of the type of football expected to be played this season in the Pac-12.
The stars lit up the main stage the same way celebrities make photographers ga-ga on the red carpet of a big film premiere. And there were plenty of them. Two of the biggest got their football beginnings from right here playing for Southern California high school powerhouses.
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, except for honors going to linemen, is up for just about every offensive and national college football award there is. And well he should be. Lee, the other side of the Trojans wideout tandem that has put fear in Pac-12 opponents the past three seasons, is now all alone in the spotlight by himself.
Former Serra High School buddy and USC teammate Robert Woods Jr. is now doing his thing with the Buffalo Bills, leaving behind Lee. That’s okay. Thanks to a breakout season last year, all eyes will be on Lee this fall. For good reason. Lee is on the short as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Lee caught 118 passes last season for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs through the air. The game that really put Lee in the national spotlight was against Arizona in which he caught 16 passes for 345 yards. Just looking at those numbers is eye-boggling. Lee, last year’s Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner (nation’s best wide receiver) is one bad dude.
To think that Lee is coming back for another season is enough for Pac-12 defensive coordinators to lose a lot of sleep. But it’s a good notion to believe they’ll be working on containing the explosive wideout by instituting various coverages on Lee, including double-teaming him. Lee believes that the Trojans have enough offensive weapons around him to offset the loss of Woods.
“Robert overall was a great player, but we have numerous players capable of stepping up and taking on that role including one player, Nelson Agholor,” Lee said. “I think I can look over and look at him being Rob, he does an amazing job in class, both on and off the field and we’ve got De’Von Flourney, Victor Blackwell, numerous amount of receivers that are able to step up and handle the business they need to handle.I feel it’s just the same. I think Nelson stepped in Rob’s shoes and fulfilled them as good as possible, so I think we will be all right.”
Always known as a quarterback conference, the Pac-12 Conference is loaded with a plethora of signal-callers capable of starring under the bright lights that is known as college football. Matt Barkley (USC) and Matt Scott (Arizona) have moved on to the next level.
But the Pac-12 is still littered with enough quarterback talent for the pros to come knocking on the door. One of those players they’ll be keeping an eye on is Washington quarterback Keith Price. A former standout at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, Price is the one star in the Pac-12 that many people feel has the potential to shine the brightest during the 2013 college football season.
An electrifying playmaker, Price outgunned RG3 two years ago in the Alamo Bowl, accounting for seven touchdowns in the game. Since that breakout game, Price has been compared to RG3. Up for the Davey O’Brien Award (nation’s best quarterback) and Maxwell Award (most outstanding player), Price and his teammates didn’t have the type of season they expected a year ago. It’s a new day in 2013. Price, who threw for 2,726 yards last season, is looking forward to it.
“I’m ready,” Price said. “I have a lot to prove to myself and a lot to prove to you guys. I can’t wait. I think this is when I perform best, when people are doubting me and people don’t think I can do what I did. I believe I’m going to be better than I was 2011 season, but that’s just me.”