LOS ANGELES -- The presence of wide receiver Nelson Agholor won't make USC fans forgive Lane Kiffin, but continued growth from the junior-to-be could speed up the process of forgetting the former head coach.
For all his many faults during his time leading the Trojans, Kiffin knew how to identify wide receivers. Robert Woods was a second-round pick in the 2013 draft, Marqise Lee seems certain to be a first-round selection this year, and Agholor could be in that same strata next year, all three recruited to campus by Kiffin.
Assistant coach Tee Martin recently told College Football 24/7 that Agholor is well on his way to matching Woods and Lee, two of the most accomplished wide receivers in school history.
"Nelson is the consummate pro when you are talking about preparation, studying the game, the leader in the room," said Martin, one of the two holdovers on the staff under new Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Agholor (6-foot-0, 185 pounds) had only 14 receptions during his entire high school career at Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep, spending most of his time playing running back or defensive back. But it has been a seemingly seamless transition to working out wide for Agholor, leading the team with 918 receiving yards and six touchdowns while averaging 16.4 yards per catch.
Martin credits Agholor's development to his intense focus, which shined through early on amongst a position group featuring future professionals.
"Even as a true freshman with Robert Woods being there and Marqise Lee having the kind of season (he had), you could see where he was going to be special as a leader," Martin said. "The moment never gets too big for Nelson. He welcomes it. He wants to be the guy."
In his style of play, Agholor represents a happy medium between Woods the technician and Lee the game-breaking athlete. Agholor has the physical attributes to create explosive gains from anywhere on the field, but is especially effective on intermediate routes that showcase his precise route running.
Without the uncertainty at quarterback or midseason change in playcalling that hindered USC in 2013, Agholor seems poised for even greater production this upcoming season.
Consider it Kiffin's going-away present, one that USC would gladly accept, even without mentioning you-know-who.