First-year freshmen and their numbers

Marqise Lee wanted to wear No. 9 for the USC Trojans, and he let their coach, Lane Kiffin, know that as he soon as he arrived at the school this summer as part of the Class of 2011.

Lamar Dawson, a middle linebacker from Kentucky, didn't make his number preference known but was told by the Trojan coaches he'd be wearing No. 55 for USC, a historic number that brings with it a long line of stars like Chris Claiborne, Junior Seau and Keith Rivers.

Dawson, the top-rated prospect in the state, got the number right away; Lee, a high-school teammate of George Farmer at Gardena Serra, didn't. But both players have impressed this fall and, lo and behold, both players are now wearing the numbers they wanted to wear originally.

Kiffin gave Lee the No. 9 jersey over the weekend and the 6-foot, 190-pound receiver began sporting it in practice Tuesday, another one of the many sessions in which the speedster has shined this fall. Kiffin spotlighted him again afterward, saying he was both "great" and "doing well."

And now the Trojans' No. 9 is slated to get significant time this season as a first-year freshman behind Robert Woods and likely starter Brandon Carswell. Is that connected to the fact that Kiffin did his best to use a motivating tactic on him?

Probably not. But it sounds like it didn't hurt.

"In order to get the number that you want, I feel that you have to work for it," Lee said Tuesday during his first session with the media of his college career. "Therefore, I worked hard to get this number."

Of course, Dawson's situation was different. The soft-spoken linebacker -- he said he was doing "decent" this fall -- didn't make much of a big deal out of the number in speaking with the media, but it was also clear he understands what it means and what is now expected of him.

"They told me I was going to be No. 55 and there were going to be some challenges that came with it," Dawson said. "I'm stepping up to the challenges."