USC’s Tee Martin focuses on getting Robert Woods to return

USC receivers coach Tee Martin is regarded as a top recruiter, an assistant adept at selling players on the benefits of coming to USC.

Martin’s main priority between now and mid-January is to persuade Robert Woods to remain with the Trojans.

“I’ve definitely been working my tail off trying to recruit Robert,” Martin said Friday.


TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule

Woods, USC’s career receptions leader, is awaiting an NFL draft evaluation. The junior has said he would wait until after the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl to decide whether he will turn pro, but he is thought to be leaning heavily toward leaving USC.

Martin said Woods has regained the speed he displayed as a freshman before he suffered an ankle injury playing basketball. Woods wore No. 13 in 2010 then switched to No. 2 last season.

“He’s looking like No. 13 Robert Woods again,” Martin said.

Woods, however, was the No. 2 option behind sophomore Marqise Lee this season, a situation not likely to change after Lee broke Woods’ single-season receptions record and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting.

Martin said Woods “practices like pro” and “approaches meetings like a pro.”

“I know a lot of people like him on the next level,” Martin said. “But my job here is to try and keep all the good players here.”

Martin said he would support whatever decision Woods makes.

“I’ve tried not to advise him about his future of leaving USC,” Martin said, laughing. “I’ve been advising him about his future of staying at USC.”

Martin, who joined Coach Lane Kiffin’s staff in February, stayed with the Trojans after new Tennessee Coach Butch Jones offered him a job two weeks ago.

Martin quarterbacked the Volunteers’ 1998 national championship team and has a street named after him in Knoxville. Tee Martin Drive is located on the south side of Neyland Stadium.

“I was surprised they kept it up,” he joked. “I wish them well. I think Coach Jones will do a great job with that football team.”

Wittek working

Quarterback Max Wittek remains on track to start against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

Kiffin continues to say that Matt Barkley will practice after the Trojans arrive in El Paso next week, but the NFL-bound senior will almost certainly refrain from playing and risking further injury to his right shoulder.

Barkley attended practice briefly but was gone by the conclusion of the workout.

Meantime, Wittek prepares for his second start.

“I’m prepared to lead this team,” he said.

Life lesson

Quarterback Cody Kessler paid tribute to Nathan Garcia, a 13-year-old Bakersfield boy who died of brain cancer Tuesday.

Kessler befriended Nathan last month and helped in his effort to collect toys for needy children, a drive that produced more than 3,000 donations.

“It was definitely heartbreaking,” Kessler said of Nathan’s death. “It will affect my life no matter how long I get down the road, no matter where I go.

“I will always remember Nathan and think about him. Because of Nathan, I’m a better person.”

Quick hits

Marcus Martin, who started 20 games at left guard the last two seasons, has worked at center during bowl practices…. Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who played last season at El Camino College, will transfer to Arizona and will be eligible for the 2013 season…. USC players had dinner at Kiffin’s home and were scheduled to attend the Clippers’ game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on Friday night.

Twitter: @latimesklein