Thanks to his immense talent level, it’s been a foregone conclusion for more than a year that Marqise Lee would leave USC early for the NFL. Thanks to myriad nagging injuries in 2013, that thought’s been further cemented in the minds of most draft observers.
For his part, though, Lee is only focused on the here and now at the moment even as an early jump remains inevitable.
Tuesday, the wide receiver told reporters that he hasn’t made a decision yet on returning to the Trojans for another season or making himself available for the April draft.
“I’ve been focusing on trying to leave all the outside stuff out,” Lee said. “Just focus on the weekend and actually getting the job done.”
Lee did not play against Colorado last Saturday, the third complete game he’s missed this season because of various knee and shoulder issues. He is, though, on track to play against archrival UCLA this weekend.
His first two seasons with the Trojans, Lee totaled 191 receptions and 25 touchdowns, including 118 and 14 in 2012. Because of the injuries — and Matt Barkley‘s departure — Lee has just 44 catches and two touchdowns. He’s caught two or fewer passes in three of nine games this season; that had happened just four times in 25 career games entering 2013.
Obviously the coaching staff wants him to return — even as they may not — with Lee’s position coach already getting his pitch to stay lined up.
“My deal for him is, ‘Do do you want to come back and try to see if you want to be a top-five pick?'” receivers coach Tee Martin said. “‘If just being a first-rounder is good for you, then go ahead.”