|USC WR Marqise Lee and South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney have struggled to meet sky-high expectations this season.|
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney have plenty in common, so it is not a surprise they are friends.
Both delivered impressive campaigns in their first season of college football, elevated their games to dominate and earn a slew of national awards and honors last season, were touted as Heisman Trophy frontrunners in the offseason, and are now slogging through disappointing junior seasons for themselves and their teams.
Many have cited Lee and Clowney's down seasons as an argument against the rule that players be three years removed from high school before being eligible to enter the NFL draft, but Lee told CBSSports.com that he supports the rule.
"There's always room for improvement as an athlete," Lee said after Saturday's loss at Notre Dame. "I know I can speak for Clowney, too. I know his main focus is trying to improve and do the things you're supposed to do. But it's hard when people know the type of talent you have and how much they put on you. I think I've enjoyed coming back and doing my third year."
Lee said he still has plenty to work on before being ready to play on Sundays.
"As far as blocking, I haven't reached my potential yet," Lee said. "It's not time to go to the NFL yet. Until that time, I'll continue to work."
With 32 receptions for 403 yards and one touchdown in six games this season, those totals pale in comparison to the sensational statistics Lee delivered in his first two seasons as a Trojan. Lee has been hampered by injuries, including a sprained knee that he aggravated in the 14-10 loss to the Fighting Irish, and he is also adjusting to a quarterback who did not secure the starting position until the third week of the season.
Still, Lee's remarkable athleticism and previous production is likely to see him regarded as the top receiver available should he bypass his senior season of eligibility.
And while Lee and Clowney might not be selected where they were projected after their sophomore seasons, both are almost certain to be walking across the stage at Radio City Music Hall on a Thursday night next May, just another circumstance linking two of the top players in the game.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.