Woods waits for return

One of the most notable absences of the USC spring ball session has been wide receiver Robert Woods, who has not practiced as he continues to rehab from offseason surgery on his right ankle.

It hasn’t been a pleasant experience for Woods, who is spotted every day in his No. 2 jersey pacing the sidelines and following every move of the receiver group.

“I’m very restless,” Woods said. “I just want to hop out there at practice and take a rep sometimes, especially during the one-on-ones. I miss practicing with the guys. Practice is fun, especially when the offense is doing well, making big plays and talking trash to T.J. (McDonald) and Nickell (Robey). I miss that the most.”

The news that Woods is a trash talker might come as a surprise to those who have dealt with the mild-mannered Woods off the field. To his teammates, however, the other side of Woods comes out on the field.

“Rob doesn’t talk much around other people but he does when he’s around his teammates,” wide receiver Marqise Lee said. “He definitely does some trash talking on the field, oh yeah (laughing). He’s a beast when it comes to intensity.”

Unfortunately for Woods, that trash talk is limited to spectator status these days as the coaches and trainers made the decision to sit him out of spring ball in the hope of having his ankle ready for the start of the season.

Woods -- who celebrated his 20th birthday earlier this week -- originally hurt the ankle in April 2011 while taking part in a pickup basketball game. The injury lingered throughout the 2011 season, although he persevered enough to set a USC school record in receptions and be named an ESPN All-American.

“The ankle is doing pretty well right now,” Woods said. “It’s getting better. I think I could practice, I’m trying to beg the trainers to let me out there, but they just tell me to take it safe and just be ready for Sept. 1.”

Instead of practicing, Woods must be content with supporting his fellow receivers, a group that has been depleted at times but still has shown some pleasant production.

“I’m excited for all of them and I’m actually learning through them this spring,” Woods said. “I’m proud to see what Marqise Lee is doing out here. As a freshman Marqise was running the routes but now he’s reading the defenses, too. He understands things a lot better and that allows him to play faster.

“Victor (Blackwell) is doing well. And De’Von Flournoy is making some big-time plays. De’Von is an explosive player and I knew he could do this if he got an opportunity. I just want to get back out there with them as soon as I can.”

Woods has also had a chance to form an impression of the USC defense and he likes what he sees.

“We’ve got a lot of speed on defense,” Woods said. “These guys really fly around to the ball. Of course, Nickell stands out. Isiah (Wiley), he’s always going to play well. Anthony Brown has been consistent. And Josh Shaw looked good when he was out in throwing sessions. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing Josh out here competing.”

As of right now the plan is for Woods to return to action in July to get some work in summer throwing sessions before fall camp begins in August. He knows what is possible for the USC team this year and he thinks the Trojans will be ready.

“I’m definitely excited to get back,” Woods said. “If fall camp starts and the ankle isn’t ready I’m still going to practice anyways, I have to. I know what this team has and our potential.

“We don’t need any outside motivation this year. This team is going to get better because of this team. The defense is going to motivate the offense and the offense is going to motivate the defense. That’s what I like about this program.”