EL PASO -- Receiver Robert Woods will forgo a final season at USC and make himself available for the NFL draft, the junior announced Monday after the Trojans’ 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
“It was a hard decision,” he said, “but I feel like this was the best decision for me.”
Woods caught three passes against Georgia Tech, pushing his USC career record to 252.
Woods thanked USC and Coach Lane Kiffin for the opportunities he was afforded. He said he made up his mind to leave before the Sun Bowl after consulting with his family and promising his mother that he would return to graduate.
Woods set a USC record with 111 receptions last season and was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist.
But he caught only 76 passes this season as sophomore receiver Marqise Lee became the focal point of the Trojans’ offense and eclipsed Woods’ mark en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award.
Lee caught six passes Monday to finish with 118 receptions.
Asked how much of Lee’s ascent entered into his decision, Woods said, “Not much. I mean if the coaches wanted to keep me another year they would have probably got me the ball, so that had nothing to do with play calling or anything. It was just, that’s just how it went this whole year. So that had nothing to do with it, but I just feel like the coaches prepared me.”
Woods was part of a 2010 recruiting class that endured a two-year bowl ban and saw this season’s expectations turn into a 7-6 finish.
“My goal was to come in here to USC and be one of the top receivers to ever play at this school,” he said. “And I think I’ve accomplished that.”
Junior cornerback Nickell Robey said he was still deciding whether to return for a final season or turn pro.
He said Woods’ departure will have “some influence” on his decision, “but I wouldn’t say that because he’s going, I’m going.”
In Monte Kiffin’s final game as USC’s assistant head coach for defense, his unit performed fairly well, limiting Georgia Tech to 21 points, 13 below its average, and 369 yards, 77 yards below its average.
Will he miss coaching under his son, Lane?
“Not really,” he joked, laughing heartily. “Like I’ve said, it hasn’t been a father-son deal, it really hasn’t.
“Now, would I have went to Tennessee if he wasn’t my son? No. But … it’s been very professional.”
Asked whether he felt like a sacrificial lamb for USC’s struggles, he said, “Not at all. We should have played better.”
With Max Wittek struggling through a three-interception performance, Lane Kiffin said he did not turn to redshirt freshman Cody Kessler because of the cold and wind and a struggling running game. “I didn’t think that was really the right move at the time.… I think I’ve had a long leash in general, anyway.”
Kessler said he warmed up to fend off the cold and in case Wittek needed to come out for one play or more.
Asked whether he was disappointed that he did not get an opportunity, Kessler said, “Whatever Coach thinks is best for this team, obviously, he’s going to go with. I was just waiting and supporting Max.”
Cornerback Torin Harris and offensive lineman Abe Markowitz made the trip but were sent home because they were academically ineligible, Kiffin said…. USC’s 205 yards were its fewest since it also totaled 205 in a 23-17 victory over California in 2004.… Defensive lineman J.R. Tavai was carted to the locker room during the game because of an undisclosed injury.