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O/NSO: It’s that off-season video time again – Vol. 2 edition

The Obvious: There is little question that in this day and age of USC’s version of the Air Raid offense, there has been a great spotlight shining on the talented Trojans receivers.

The Not So Obvious: While most objective historians no longer refer to the USC offense as Tailback U., they do recognize a new offensive moniker, “Wide Receiver U.” The reality, of course, is that USC has always had outstanding receivers. In Volume 2 of our off-season video package, we focus on some of the great wide receivers in USC history starting from the early 1990s. Some of these videos below may be repeats of glorious USC wide receiver moments you may have already seen, but they never get old for me and hopefully for you, as well.


The Obvious: As aforementioned, USC has truthfully evolved from Tailback U. to Wide Receiver U. and has produced some of the greatest receivers both nationally and regionally of the last 30 years.

The Not So Obvious: The video below gives an overall preview of the great USC receivers since the early 1990s.

The Obvious: Johnnie Morton (6-0, 190) was precision route runner with tremendous quicks. A 1993 consensus All-American, he won the 1993 Pop Warner Award, which was given to the most valuable senior on the West Coast. Not only was Johnnie a 1993 All-Conference first-teamer, but he also had the distinction of being named the Trojans’ Most Valuable Player that same year.

The former Torrance (Calif.) South High star had a remarkable career by the numbers. Morton is seventh on USC’s career receiving list (201 catches). He set two USC career receiving records and three USC season receiving records and two USC single game receiving records. Johnnie also had 13 100-yard receiving games in his career. In his 1993 senior season, he averaged 17.3 yards per catch and for his career averaged 15.9 yards per reception.  

The Not So Obvious: Here are some highlights below to prove Johnnie Morton’s greatness.

The Obvious: Keyshawn Johnson (6-4, 210) was a one-man wrecking crew and a consensus 1995 All-American. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, and his confidence and outgoing personality was off the charts. He could back up anything, and his will to win was top shelf. No question, some consider him in the conversation as the greatest receiver in USC history. He was also drafted in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft by the New York Jets

A member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, Keyshawn was the 1995 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.  He led USC in scoring in 1995 (42 points), is 13th on USC’s career receiving list (168 catches), set two USC career receiving records, two USC season receiving records, and one USC single game record. He had 17 100-yard receiving games and 12 eight-reception games in his career.

The Not So Obvious: Below is a video feature on Keyshawn Johnson.

The Obvious: Rodney Jay “R.J.” Soward (5-11, 175), an electrifying receiver from Fontana (Calif.) High, seemed to come and go like a great comet. No doubt, when you talk about a USC receiver that could bring fans to their feet with the best of them, you can’t leave out the name of Soward. He was simply that gifted and that good when he was focused and disciplined.

During his four-year career (1996-1999), Soward was both a sensational talent yet an inconsistent one. So why is he on the list? Well, let’s not forget that his first reception went for a school-record 97-yard touchdown. That freshman season in 1996, he set the standard for himself. Most will never forget his record-setting six-reception performance, 260-yard gained against UCLA as a freshman. By the time he was finished with his USC career, Soward ranked third on the school’s career lists with 161 receptions for 2,672 yards. He scored 23 touchdowns on receptions and 32 total touchdowns. In addition, he ranks second in school history with 1,414 yards on 56 kickoff returns. 

The Not So Obvious: To get a glimpse of R.J. Soward, we refer you back to the above opening highlight video of great USC wide receivers.

The Obvious: Mike Williams (6-5, 230), who was recruited out of Tampa, Florida/Plant High, was one of the most physical and difficult matchups for any opponent during that era due to his unique size. A consensus 2003 All-American who unfortunately left the university after his sophomore season, he was a member of USC’s 2003 national championship team and actually finished eighth in 2003 Heisman Trophy voting.

Big Mike set Trojans records for touchdown receptions in a career (30), season (16 in 2003),  and game (3, which he did three times). In 2002, he set NCAA freshman season records for receiving yards (1,265) and TD catches (14), the Pac-10 freshman mark for catches (81), and the USC freshman game record for catches (13).

The Not So Obvious: Below is a video bringing back memories of what made Mike Williams so great.

The Obvious: Keary Colbert (6-2, 210) before coming to USC was a star at Port Hueneme (Oxnard, Calif.) High and was an exceptional athlete who was also accomplished in track. Colbert was such a student of the game, it wasn’t completely surprisingly that when he was finished with his playing days, he transitioned into coaching. He is now currently the Trojans’ wide receiver coach. As a USC player, fans won’t soon forget his touchdown reception against Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl. His 149 yards against the Wolverines that day in Pasadena was a career high. Those efforts helped the Trojans capture the AP National Championship. During his time at Troy, USC captured the national championship in 2003 and won the 2003 Orange Bowl and 2004 Rose Bowl. 

Keary started four years (2000-03) at wide receiver. He set the since-broken USC all-time receptions record (207) while gaining 2,964 receiving yards and catching 19 touchdown passes in his career. Keary also caught a pass in his last 36 games and had six career 100-yard receiving games. 

The Not So Obvious: Below is a video on the Keary Colbert years in cardinal and gold.

The Obvious: Steve Smith (6-0, 200) was a 2006 All-American and was a member of Troy’s 2003 and 2004 national championship teams. In 2006, Smith also made first-team All-Conference. Steve, from Canoga Park, Calif./Taft HS, was a clinic when it came to running pass routes and was one of the favorite targets for former USC All-America quarterback Matt Leinart. The Trojans offenses of this time period were some of the greatest in college football history.

Steve is sixth on USC career list for receiving yards (3,019), eighth for receptions (190) and TD catches (22) and had nine career 100-yard receiving games. For his career, Steve averaged 15.9 yards per catch. In his senior season, he had 1083 yards in pass reception.

The Not So Obvious: Below is a video featuring Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett, both 2006 All-Americans.

The Obvious: Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 215) was Troy’s first-ever two-time All-American wide receiver, which is quite remarkable when you consider all who came before him. The New Brunswick (N.J.) HS native was really in the midst of the great Pete Carroll out-of-state recruiting triumphs. Considering that Jarrett was a unanimous All-American in 2005 and a consensus in 2006, one realizes how important Dwayne was in those great offenses of that time period.

Jarrett’s signature play, of course, was that 2005 4th and 9 audible by quarterback Matt Leinart deep in Notre Dame territory as Irish fans in Notre Dame Stadium thought their beloved Irish were about to upset the No. 1 Trojans. However, it was not to be as Jarrett and Leinart connected on an incredible 61-yard fade pass-and-run that set the stage for the famous “Bush Push” to win it with just seconds remaining.

For his career, Jarrett, a finalist for the 2005 Biletnikoff Award, set since-broken USC career mark for receptions (216, third at USC) and Pac-10 career touchdown receptions record (41), had 3138 career receiving yards, 13 career 100-yard receiving games, and caught a pass in all 38 games he played (with touchdowns in 25 of them).

The Not So Obvious: Check out below some of Dwayne Jarrett’s highlights below.

The Obvious: Robert Woods (6-1, 190), from Gardena, Calif./Serra HS, was the consummate receiver, who richly deserved being named a 2011 consensus All-American. It’s no surprise that when he left the Trojans as a second round 2013 draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, he continues to this day to be a vital member of the hometown Los Angeles Rams. BTW, in 2021, Robert will wear his familiar USC No. 2 number for the upcoming NFL season.

As a Trojan, Robert set 12 Trojan records in his career, including USC career receptions mark (252) and since-broken Pac-12 season receptions record (111) in 2011. He also caught a Pac-12 game record-tying four TD passes against Colorado in 2012.

The Not So Obvious: Below are some wonderful Robert Woods video highlights.

The Obvious: Marqise Lee (6-0, 195), also from Gardena, Calif./Serra HS,  could make a case for being the greatest receiver in the history of USC football. After all, he was USC’s first Biletnikoff Award winner and a 2012 unanimous All-American. Marqise also won the 2012 Warfield Award and was a finalist for the Hornung Award and Walter Camp Award and was fourth in the final Heisman Trophy balloting.

If you’re into statistics, consider that Marqise established USC career receiving yards record (3655), had 57 catches for 761 yards and four TDs in 2013 (he missed 3 games with injuries), and set Pac-12 season records for receptions (118) and receiving yards (1721) in 2012. And did we mention that Lee had a school-record seven games with double digit receptions in 2012 and set Pac-12 records with 345 receiving yards at Arizona and 251 kickoff return yards in 2012? If you still aren’t impressed, consider that Lee made the Pac-12 All-Century Team released in 2015.

The Not So Obvious: Watching Marqise Lee video highlights below reminds us why he is on that elite platform of all-time USC receivers.

The Obvious: Nelson Agholor (6-1, 190) was yet another remarkable out-of-state signee, hailing from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep. He was flat out a tremendous athlete. A 2014 All-American, No. 15 won the Trojans’ Offensive Perimeter Player of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014. Not only was Agholor an electric receiver, he was also an excellent punt and kickoff returner.

Agholor’s numbers stand up to the hype. Nelson is 10th on USC’s career reception list (179) and eighth on USC’s career punt return chart (540). He also had eight 100-yard receiving games (two for 200 yards). Nelson averaged 14.4 yards per catch and accounted for 20 career touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious: Let’s relive some of Nelson Agholor’s best moments in cardinal and gold with the video below.

The Obvious: JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-1, 215), from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly HS, was one of the physically toughest wide receivers in USC annals. With a tremendous desire to achieve success at the highest level, JuJu each year at SC got better and better to the point where he seemed unstoppable. Although he may not be considered one of the very elite receivers in Trojans’ history, he can present some impressive statistics.

For his USC career (2014 – 2016), JuJu had 213 receptions, 3092 receiving yards to go along with 25 touchdowns. Smith-Schuster’s 25 receiving touchdowns during his time at Troy placed him 12th in all of NCAA football. Although not considered an explosive receiver on the surface, he battled through injuries, yet he could still make a mockery of defenses to  make an impact on games.

The Not So Obvious: Let’s take a look at some JuJu video highlights below.

The Obvious: Michael Pittman Jr. (6-4, 220), from Westlake, Calif./Oaks Christian HS, progressed each season as a Trojan (2016-2019) and carved his name to become one of Troy’s great receivers of his decade. A physical specimen who was double-teamed and physically challenged, Michael proved without a doubt that he was literally head and shoulders above most secondary opponents he encountered. Pittman’s ability to “high-point” the football made him into a virtual impossibility to defend at the collegiate level.

For his career in cardinal and gold, Pittman played in 48 career games (30 starts) at Troy and compiled 171 receptions for 2,519 yards and 19 touchdowns. Additionally, he totaled 17 tackles, three blocked kicks, five kickoff returns for 31 yards and had six punt returns for 156 yards and one touchdown. Michael finished 12th on the Trojans’ career receptions list.

The Not So Obvious: Enjoy the Michael Pittman Jr. USC highlights below.

The Obvious: And finally, the aforementioned videos bring back such a positive vibe that they are worth watching over and over again, and you have to admit the Trojans have had a bevy of receiving greats for close to three decades.

The Not So Obvious: As the off-season continues, the O/NSO will continue to intersperse some of our favorite moments that many of you have experienced in person and for those of you that only know from what you’ve read or heard.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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