Freshman receiver Marqise Lee missed Wednesday's morning practice because of a family emergency.
He made sure everyone knew he was back by the evening.
The Gardena Serra High product put on display his well-established connection with quarterback Matt Barkley in the 2 1/2-hour night session, catching a number of balls and dropping none. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin made a point of praising him afterward, as he often has in the first two weeks of USC's fall camp.
"He was the star of the practice by far, with nobody even close to him," Kiffin said. "He continued to make a ton of plays."
Lee, like all USC freshmen, is not allowed to talk to the media until next week. But Robert Woods, his high school teammate, provided a quick look at his perspective earlier this week when he said Lee's performance has reminded him of his own from fall camp last year. And a number of his other teammates, Barkley and Brice Butler included, have spoke out on how his on-field and off-field play has resembled Woods'.
What does this all mean? Well, Lee's going to play this season, almost without a doubt. And he could even start across from Woods. As of right now, he's probably just behind Brandon Carswell for the No. 2 spot, meaning he'd still play a ton as a slot receiver.
An interesting wrinkle to that whole race is this: Lee has been practicing at the Z spot, Woods' position, throughout camp. Carswell has been practicing at X, which would seem to give him an automatic advantage. But here's the thing: Lee could switch spots to X, Kiffin said -- and he could switch soon.
Or, Woods could switch back to X, where he played last season while Ronald Johnson started at Z. And that would open up the X spot for Lee and give the Trojans two starting receivers from Serra with a combined one year of college experience.
Could it realistically happen? Yes. Is it likely? No.
“He could play both, physically – definitely,” Kiffin said Wednesday of Lee. “He could play any of our three spots.
"But that’d just be a really hard mental transition after two weeks of being here.”
For his part, Woods started to learn all the receiver spots a bit later on in his USC tenure, a few games into the Trojans' 2010 season. He now knows the X, Z and slot spots -- all there is to know as a pass-catcher, basically.