Breaking news: The USC receivers are really good.
Trojans fans know that. ASU fans know that. Everyone knows that.
Coach Todd Graham and the ASU secondary definitely know it. Sophomore Marqise Lee and junior Robert Woods present them with a monumental challenge on Saturday and the Sun Devils are preparing to control them this week in practice.
“Marqise Lee is hands-down the best receiver in the country,” Graham said. “He can catch the short screen pass, he can catch the vertical route and he can take it to the house any time he puts his hands on the ball.
“Obviously, Woods is right there. He gets the ball the most. They have other receivers as well, but Woods is a special receiver.”
This season, the combination of Woods and Lee is averaging 16.4 receptions and 215.8 yards per game. Between the two of them, they have scored 22 receiving touchdowns this season as well.
It is easy to see why the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Woods and 6-foot, 195-pound Lee can dominate a game. They are both athletic and strong receivers.
There is more to their game than what meets the eye, however.
Redshirt junior cornerback Osahon Irabor said fans should notice how both receivers gain yards after the catch. He said they are very well coached to execute the little things enough to turn a small reception into a big play.
For redshirt junior Deveron Carr, the receivers — especially Lee — pose a different kind of threat that ASU hasn’t seen all season.
“I don’t know if anybody notices that he is very physical off the line,” Carr said. “That is going to be a challenge because we haven’t seen too many physical receivers.”
Their receivers are clearly talented, but what is ASU doing about it?
For the ASU cornerbacks, Carr and Irabor said it is all about getting back to what made them successful: their fundamentals.
Graham said earlier this week that the secondary has improved a lot this year fundamentally. The progression they have made gives the secondary unit confidence heading into Saturday.
It’s true that the secondary is going to be under pressure this weekend because of USC’s receivers. Irabor said that the rest of the defense also must play well to combat them.
“We need to get back to doing what got us here, which is playing as a unit,” Irabor said. “All 11 guys got to be on the same page, and we should be fine.”
Over in Los Angeles, the Trojans’ passing attack is also preparing for the contest.
Coming off of two straight losses, the Trojans receivers are looking to rebound as well. Woods said that they could succeed against the ASU defense if the Trojans stick to what has given them success in the past.
“Just play our game,” Woods said. “We have different change-ups in the offense. So whether it’s in the ground game or in the air, just attacking them both ways and it should bring big plays.”
With the recent struggles that the ASU secondary has had in the past couple games, this challenge against USC presents a new opportunity. Shutting down Woods and Lee would be the best way for the Sun Devils to bounce back.
“It would be a huge statement,” Carr said. “That’s probably the best receiving corps in the country. Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, you couldn’t ask for a better receiving corps.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com