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How will Marqise Lee and Jadeveon Clowney bounce back?

Two of the nation's brightest college stars are off to a slow start this season.

Let's refrain from hitting the panic button just yet about USC WR Marqise Lee and South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, though.

With that said, we should have no doubt that evaluators around the country are watching to see how Lee and Clowney navigate through tough times. We can learn a lot from when and how these players bounce back. This is a test of their determination.

Through two games last season, Lee had 21 catches for 263 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was averaging 12.5 yards per catch. This season he has 15 grabs for only 131 yards and zero TDs. He's averaging 8.7 yards per catch.

Lee is not able to catch the ball on the move. He's not able to catch it downfield. Everything USC is throwing for the most part is bubble screens, hitches and short slants, and they're so inconsistent at quarterback. He's the best receiver in the country, but he may not be the best receiver in terms of impact this season if USC's quarterbacks don't come through.

I have to believe former Trojans QB Matt Barkley, a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles this year, is watching this and saying "I was pretty good, wasn't I?"

I think what we need to watch, though, is how Lee handles this. Will he be able to not let frustration boil over? Will he continue to run hard on his routes? Will he continue to work on his craft and get better? I'm betting that he will because I have a lot of confidence in his position coach at USC, former Tennessee QB Tee Martin.

Martin knows he's coaching an unbelievable talent, and he knows that means he has to coach him harder than anyone else.

No matter how much your quarterback is struggling, receivers have to do their job and find a way to help a struggling quarterback. They have to make an unbelievable catch on a poorly thrown ball.

The great ones find a way, and I have no doubt that Lee is in that category.

As for Clowney -- who has the same numbers he did through two games last season (six tackles, one sack) -- the biggest compliment he has is that offenses are double- and triple-teaming him.

They're terrified of him and offensive coordinators are calling for a quick-hitting passing game every time Clowney is on the field.

He has to continue to work on his game and try to affect it in other ways.

If he can't get a sack, he needs to get his hands in the passing lane and alter the throw. Find a way to make a big play in the run game. Whether they run right at him or he slips a block, he needs to get in the backfield and create a loss of yardage or maybe a fumble.

His sack number could easily go down this year after he made 14 last season. But that doesn't mean he can't still be a great player.

We know before this season is over there will be a game or two or three where he has a monstrous impact even though offenses are trying to avoid him.

OSU's Miller doesn't need to change style

Speaking of stars that have encountered some challenges right out of the gate -- Ohio State QB Braxton Miller's Heisman campaign has hit a snag.

He sprained his knee on the first drive of the Buckeyes' game against San Diego State last week and his status for Saturday's meeting with Cal is not clear as of this writing.

Durability has long been an issue for Miller, one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks, but I don't think he can change the way he plays. I think that you're always on the lookout to get what you can as a runner if you're a quarterback. As coaches have rightly pointed out to me, think about the blindside shots pocket passers take. Tom Brady doesn't use his legs much, and he missed an entire season on a hit in the pocket.

Miller can work on doing a better job of protecting himself. Sometimes quarterbacks just get hit, though. It's the nature of football.

The major concern for Ohio State right now is keeping him on the field. He's everything for them.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.

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