USC Football Ready To Begin A New Era
It's a time of change for the USC football program in 2001.
And, in this case, it appears change is good.
A new head coach. A new staff. Some new players. A new attitude.
Under first-year head coach Pete Carroll-who in his first few months on the job already has assembled a proven coaching staff, recruited a Top 10 class, conducted a productive spring practice and established a sense of camaraderie among his players that has the Trojans feeling confident and optimistic-many believe the Trojans now are headed in the right direction.
'My expectations are to play good football from the word go,' said Carroll, the former head coach of the New England Patriots and New York Jets. 'I'm confident about our abilities and our willingness to meet challenges. But I'm cautiously optimistic until we get on the field and find out. That's where the talking stops and the pads are strapped on.'
Already, signs of Carroll's impact at turning the program around and building a solid foundation have been spotted. For instance, the Trojans have posted impressive numbers in the off-season weight room program and in the classroom. They have quickly embraced Carroll's 'team-first' mentality. And, to a man, they are excited about the opportunity to be tutored by one of the nation's finest coaching staffs.
'It is obvious to me that our players have worked hard and that they understand that it's all about `team,'' said Carroll, who has 26 years of NFL and college experience. 'Their sights are set high on doing something special and restoring USC's winning tradition. And I know we have a great, proven staff. So, now, we'll see how good we are. We'll see if this team comes together like I think it will.'
USC welcomes back starters at 16 positions (8 on offense and 6 on defense, plus both kickers) from a squad which last season was 5-7 overall and tied for eighth place in the Pac-10 at 2-6 for Troy's first-ever last place conference finish. Although the Trojans began the year 3-0 while rising to No. 8 in the nation and later in the season beat crosstown foe UCLA for the second year in a row, 5 consecutive mid-season losses did them in.
'Our overall philosophy is very simple. It's all about the football. When we're on offense, we've got to hold onto it and control it. And when we're on defense, we've got to go get it. It's really as simple as that.'
--Coach Pete Carroll
In all, 74 squadmen return from 2000, including 45 who saw playing time (41 were lettermen and 30 were on the season-ending 2-deep). Some 20 Trojans have started at least once in their career.
Joining them will be a pair of newcomers who enrolled at USC this past spring and participated in spring drills, plus 17 new scholarship players (10 were prep and junior college All-Americans) who begin this fall.
These won't be the only fresh faces around Troy, as most of the coaching staff is new.
'I've been able to assemble what I feel is a dream-team staff,' said Carroll, who will serve as the team's defensive coordinator. 'Our new coaches left very good jobs to come here. We're all here to do something special. The key, of course, was getting Norm Chow. He is arguably the best offensive coordinator in the history of college football, certainly in terms of championships and wins and people he has coached. He is not only a great attraction for us in recruiting and a great asset as a coach, but he allows me to do what I want to do, which is to focus on the defense.'
On the field, the 2001 Trojans will be asked to focus on one thing: the football.
'Our overall philosophy is very simple,' said Carroll, who signed a 5-year contract when he replaced the fired Paul Hackett. 'It's all about the football. When we're on offense, we've got to hold onto it and control it. And when we're on defense, we've got to go get it. It's really as simple as that. We started talking about it in our first team meeting.'
That would be a turnaround from 2000, when USC finished next to last in the nation in turnover margin. The Trojans lost the ball 36 times and had only 17 takeaways.
USC's offense features 3 of the country's premier skill position players: tailback Sultan McCullough, quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Kareem Kelly. McCullough, the fastest Trojan footballer ever (10.17 in the 100 meters), ran for 1,163 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2000. It was the most yards by a Trojan since 1990. He had 7 games with 100-plus yards. Palmer is already fifth on USC's all-time passing and total offense lists, and is on pace to break the school's career completions, passing yardage and total offense yardage records. Last year, his completions (228) and yardage (2,914) were the second most in USC history, but he also tied a school season mark with 18 interceptions. Kelly, who has caught a pass in all 23 games he has played at USC, is already ninth on Troy's career reception list and is on target to eclipse that record (and the receiving yardage mark). He led USC in receptions (55) and receiving yardage (796 yards) in 2000.
Three offensive line starters from 2000-guards Zach Wilson and Faaesea Mailo and center Lenny Vandermade-are back. Wilson is a 2-year starter, Mailo will slide down from tackle in 2001 and Vandermade won Freshman All-American first team honors last fall.
Starters also return at fullback (Charlie Landrigan) and at the other wide receiver spot, where Marcell Allmond and Keary Colbert shared time. Last year, Allmond averaged 15.2 yards per catch before breaking his leg in mid-season and Colbert was second on USC in receptions with 33 as just a freshman.
'I've been able to assemble what I feel is a dream-team staff. Our new coaches left very good jobs to come here. We're all here to do something special.'
--Coach Pete Carroll
Several other key offensive performers return, including tailback Malaefou MacKenzie (765 rushing yards and 37 catches in his career), wide receiver Steve Stevenson (21 career receptions) and fullback Chad Pierson (133 rushing yards and 147 receiving yards in 2000).
Among USC's offensive losses were 4-year starting tight end Antoine Harris (61 career catches, 7 TDs), 3-year starting tackle Brent McCaffrey, 2000 starting guard Trevor Roberts, quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst (ninth on Troy's career passing list with 15 starts and owner of USC's game passing yardage record), tailback Petros Papadakis (a short-yardage specialist with 621 career yards and 16 scores), wide receiver Matt Nickels (32 catches in 2000) and center Eric Denmon (17 career starts).
USC was hit harder with losses on defense, primarily in the front 7. But the entire starting secondary is back, led by returning tackle leader Troy Polamalu at strong safety (83 tackles and 2 interceptions last fall) and 2-year starting cornerback Kris Richard (6 interceptions and 77 tackles in his career), who was also the Trojans' top punt returner last season. The other secondary spots feature returning co-starters: Darrell Rideaux (also a track sprinter) and Chris Cash (2 picks in 2000) at corner and Frank Strong (USC's top kickoff returner in 2000) and DeShaun Hill (2 interceptions in 2000) at free safety.
The other returning starters on defense are Kori Dickerson (32 tackles in 2000), who played linebacker last season but has been moved to tight end now, and co-starters at a tackle spot in Ryan Nielsen (76 career tackles) and Bernard Riley.
Other top defensive players back are end Lonnie Ford (16 tackles for losses and 15 starts in his career), linebackers Aaron Graham (26 tackles with 4 starts last year) and Chris Prosser (2 starts in 2000) and cornerbacks Kevin Arbet (4 career starts) and Antuan Simmons, who sat out last fall with a serious illness but previously had 175 tackles, 7 interceptions and 6 blocked kicks as a 3-year starter.
On defense, USC lost 2 premier linebackers in 3-year starter Zeke Moreno (285 tackles, 33 for losses, 5 picks, 4 TDs in his career), Troy's tackle leader the past 2 seasons, and 2-year starter Markus Steele (152 tackles, 29 for losses in his career), plus 3-year starting tackle Ennis Davis (146 tackles, 36 for losses, 15 sacks in his career). All 3 were NFL draft picks in 2001. Also gone from last year's starting defense are ends Sultan Abdul-Malik (22.5 career sacks), a 3-year starter, and Matt Childers, a 2-year starter. Other top defenders lost are safety Ifeanyi Ohalete (168 tackles and 5 interceptions in 21 career starts) and end-tackle Shamsud-Din Abdul-Shaheed (74 tackles in 14 career starts).
Mike MacGillivray (39.4 career average) is back for his fourth year as the punter. Two of last season's placekickers-David Newbury (15-of-29 in career field goals) and John Wall (5 short field goals without a miss and 9-of-14 on PATs in 2000)-return in 2001 (although Wall might miss the season with a knee injury). They took turns at the job last year, as did the graduated David Bell, primarily USC's kickoff man the past 4 years but who will long be remembered for his game-winning field goal with 9 seconds to go at UCLA last fall.
USC's 11-game schedule is challenging, featuring 7 teams that played in bowls last season and 5 that were ranked in AP's final Top 15. Troy opens its 2001 slate at home on Sept. 1 against San Jose State, also visiting the Coliseum are last year's No. 4 Oregon State, No. 9 Kansas State, Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA. On the road, USC goes to No. 3 Washington, No. 7 Oregon, No. 15 Notre Dame, Arizona and California.
'I'm not going to make any bold predictions,' said Carroll, 'except to say we'll be very competitive and very aggressive.
'We're in the process of putting this team together. We'll be good. The strength of this club will come from its team attitude and willingness to play together and to play hard. That will give us the best chance to reach our potential. I've already seen that in the good work ethic this group has developed in the off-season. The players took to our approach and made sacrifices for the team.'
Starters return at 8 positions on offense in 2001: tailback Sultan McCullough, quarterback Carson Palmer, wide receiver Kareem Kelly, guards Zach Wilson and converted tackle Faaesea Mailo, center Lenny Vandermade and fullback Charlie Landrigan, plus co-starters Marcell Allmond and Keary Colbert at wide receiver. Four others who started at least once in 2000-tailback Malaefou MacKenzie, wide receiver Steve Stevenson, fullback Chad Pierson and tight end Scott Huber-also are back. USC's top passer, plus its top 2 rushers and pass catchers, from 2000 return. Troy will try to repeat its offensive production from last fall in terms of yardage-USC led the Pac-10 in total offense (415.9, its highest output since 1989) and was 23rd nationally in passing offense (262.3)-but it must dramatically cut down on its turnovers (a nation-high 36, its most since 1977).
USC's offensive strengths should be at quarterback and its production, speed and depth at the running back and wide receiver spots. However, a starting tight end must emerge, as well as several starters and some depth on the line.
'Offensively, we want to control the ball with the passing game, while still being balanced,' said Carroll. 'That's what Norm Chow has been a master of. It's an offense that is designed around precision, which means the system has to be quarterback-friendly. It is set up so the quarterback really can be successful. Our goal is to complete 63 percent of our passes.
'With this offense, we can attract highly-skilled quarterbacks, receivers and running backs, and spread the field so we can use their talents. When we put all the ingredients together, we can have an extraordinarily effective offense. When we spread the defense out with our formations, it also will open up the running game. Draws and traps and counters should allow our running backs to split the defense and get in the secondary in a hurry with nobody around them. I think our runners are well-suited for that style.
'We want to bring out the best of what we have on offense and that's some special quality athletes. We have a number of skill players who have proven to be productive. Now, we must build up the offense around their special talents. Our plan is to expand the offense to highlight a wide-open attack.'
Chow, who was the offensive coordinator at Micronpc.com Bowl champ North Carolina State last season, spent the previous 27 years at BYU, where he coached 6 of the NCAA's top 12 career passing efficiency leaders and was involved with squads that hold 11 of the top 30 single season passing yardage totals in NCAA history. During his tenure, BYU played in 22 bowls and won the 1984 national championship. He'll be joined by offensive line coach Keith Uperesa, who had an impressive track record at Idaho State and Snow Junior College, running backs coach Wayne Moses, who has coached Pac-10 running backs the past 11 years, wide receivers coach Kirby Wilson, who has 13 years of college and NFL experience, and tight ends coach Lane Kiffin, the son of longtime pro and collegiate coach Monte Kiffin.
USC has one of the nation's best signalcallers in 2001 in junior Carson Palmer (228-of-415, 54.9%, 2,914 yards, 16 TDs, 18 interceptions in 2000). He already ranks fifth on Troy's career passing list (397 completions). He is also fifth on USC's all-time total offense chart (5,050 yards). His 5,159 career passing yards is the most by a Trojan at the end of his sophomore year. He is on pace to break Rob Johnson's school career records for completions (676) and passing yardage (8,472), plus Rodney Peete's USC career total offense yardage mark (8,640). With 20 career starts under his belt, he has completed at least 60.0% of his passes 9 times (including 4 contests at 70.0%-plus). After missing the last 9 games of 1999 with an injury, in 2000 he showed signs of brilliance (his completions and yardage were the second most in USC history) and rustiness (he tied the school interception mark). Look for him to thrive now in Chow's offense.
However, no other quarterback on the Trojan roster has ever thrown a pass in college. Redshirt freshman Matt Cassel could be Palmer's backup in 2001. The other returning quarterbacks are walk-ons: sophomore Richie Wessman and redshirt freshman Matt Harris.
This fall, 2 promising QBs-prep All-Americans Billy Hart (Mission Viejo High in Mission Viejo, Calif.) and Matt Leinart (Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif.)-will compete immediately for backup duty.
|Matt Cassel, Rs. Fr.|
|Matt Harris, Rs. Fr.|
|Billy Hart, In. Fr.||`00 prep All-American|
|Matt Leinart, In. Fr.||`00 prep All-American|
|CARSON PALMER, Jr.||No. 5 USC career passer|
|Richie Wessman, So.|
Troy returns a 1,000-yard runner in 2001 and he's a good one: speedy junior tailback Sultan McCullough (227 carries, 1,163 yards, 5.1 average, 6 TDs in 2000, plus 9 catches, 2.8 average). And he should only get better. His rushing total last fall was the most at USC since 1990. He hit the 100-yard rushing barrier 7 times in 2000 (the most by a Trojan since 1989), including 4 games in a row. That was good enough to earn him All-Pac-10 second team acclaim in 2000. The 1999 Pac-10 champion in the 100-meter dash, he is the fastest player ever to wear a Trojan football uniform (10.17 in the 100 meters).
Giving the Trojans a 1-2 punch at tailback is powerful and experienced senior Malaefou MacKenzie (41 carries, 284 yards, 6.9 average in 2000, plus 27 catches, 9.2 average), a threat running and receiving. He was second on the Trojans in rushing last season and his 27 receptions were the most by a USC running back since 1996. In his career (which includes 4 starts), he has 765 rushing yards and 37 receptions.
None of Troy's other tailbacks has seen the field yet in a cardinal-and-gold uniform: senior walk-on Mark Gomez, junior Miguel Fletcher, who also sprints for the Trojan tracksters (with a best of 10.36 in the 100 meters), sophomore walk-on Brien McMullen, and redshirt freshman Chris Howard, who is coming off 2000 knee surgery.
Junior Justin Fargas, a highly-acclaimed prep All-American tailback in 1997 who spent the past 3 years at Michigan (where he suffered a serious broken leg in 1998), enrolled at USC this past spring but must sit out the 2001 season after transferring. Coming aboard this fall will be freshmen Darryl Poston (Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif.), a prep All-American, and David Kirtman (Mercer Island High in Mercer Island, Wash.).
Senior Charlie Landrigan (8 carries, 34 yards, 4.2 average in 2000, plus 8 catches, 5.9 average), an outstanding blocker, returns as the starting fullback. He'll be pushed for time by junior Chad Pierson (31 carries, 133 yards, 4.3 average, 1 TD in 2000, plus 10 catches, 14.7 average, 2 TDs), a 1-game starter last fall who proved to be just as effective a runner and receiver as a blocker (he lined up at tailback at times in 2000). Senior Sunny Byrd, who redshirted last fall after transferring from a junior college, and sophomore walk-on Jeffery Hill also are available.
|Sunny Byrd, Sr., FB|
|Justin Fargas, Jr., TB||Michigan transfer|
|Miguel Fletcher, Jr., TB|
|Mark Gomez, Sr., TB|
|Jeffery Hill, So., FB|
|Chris Howard, Rs. Fr., TB|
|David Kirtman, In. Fr., TB|
|CHARLIE LANDRIGAN, Sr., FB||`00 starter|
|Malaefou MacKenzie, Sr., TB||765 career yards|
|SULTAN McCULLOUGH, Jr., TB||1,163 yards in `00|
|Brien McMullen, So., TB|
|Chad Pierson, Jr., FB||1 start in `00|
|Darryl Poston, In. Fr., TB||`00 prep All-American|
USC's wide receiver corps in 2001 has a nice blend of experienced, speedy veterans and talented newcomers.
Kareem Kelly (55 catches, 14.5 average, 4 TDs in 2000), an acrobatic, fleet junior, headlines the group. He already is ninth on Troy's all-time pass catching chart with 109 grabs. He is within sight of Johnnie Morton's school record for receptions (201) and receiving yardage (3,201). He has a reception in all 23 games he has played as a Trojan. Last fall, he topped the Trojans in receptions and receiving yardage (796). He also sprints for USC's track squad (his 5.67 clocking in the 50-meter dash is an American collegiate and world junior record).
Last year's co-starters at the other wideout spot also return in junior Marcell Allmond (16 catches, 15.2 average in 2000) and sophomore Keary Colbert (33 catches, 14.5 average, 3 TDs in 2000). Allmond, who doubles as a hurdler and decathlete on the Trojan track team, was off to a good start last fall before breaking his leg in the fifth game and sitting out the rest of the way. Colbert took over for him and ended up second on the team in receptions (the second most ever by a USC freshman).
Also in the mix are junior Steve Stevenson (15 catches, team-high 18.9 average, 2 TDs in 2000), who has 21 catches and 3 starts in his career, and soph Sandy Fletcher, plus a trio of walk-ons (senior Ryan Kaiser, sophomore D. Hale and redshirt freshman Forrest Mozart).
USC could have one of the more interesting stories in college football in 23-year-old freshman Frank Candela, who joined the Trojans this past spring. He spent the past 4 years playing minor league baseball after a fine prep gridiron career. He will compete for time at wide receiver and likely serve as USC's primary kickoff and punt returner.
Figuring in this fall will be freshmen William Buchanon (Oceanside High in Oceanside, Calif.), a prep All-American who is the son of ex-NFL star cornerback Willie Buchanon, and David Boler (Charter Oak High in Covina, Calif.).
|MARCELL ALLMOND, Jr.||30 career catches, 15.9 avg.|
|David Boler, In. Fr.|
|William Buchanon, In. Fr.||`00 prep All-American|
|Frank Candela, Fr.||Spent 4 years in pro baseball|
|KEARY COLBERT, So.||33 catches in `00|
|Sandy Fletcher, So.|
|D. Hale, So.|
|Ryan Kaiser, Sr.|
|KAREEM KELLY, Jr.||USC's No. 9 career receiver|
|Forrest Mozart, Rs. Fr.|
|Steve Stevenson, Jr.||21 career catches|
USC has quite a challenge in finding a replacement in 2001 for dependable 4-year starting tight end Antoine Harris, who had 61 catches and 7 scores in his career. The 8 candidates for the job have just 12 catches and limited offensive playing time to their names.
The likely starter came from an unlikely spot: defense. Rangy senior Kori Dickerson (32 tackles, 2 for losses, 1 deflection, 1 forced fumble in 2000) was last season's starting strongside linebacker. He was moved to tight end this past spring and was impressive (if injuries hit the linebacking corps, he could move back there). He doubles as a 6-8 high jumper for the USC track team.
There also are a pair of juniors in Doyal Butler (4 catches, 13.0 average in 2000) and Scott Huber (1 start last fall but no receptions) and a pair of sophomores in Alex Holmes (7 catches, 7.6 average in 2000), a Freshman All-American second teamer last year, and Chad Cook, who missed last season with a knee injury, plus redshirt freshman Gregg Guenther Jr., who was sidelined in 2000 with a back injury.
Arriving this fall will be freshman Kolomona Kapanui (The Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, Hi.)
|Doyal Butler, Jr.||4 catches in `00|
|Chad Cook, So.|
|KORI DICKERSON, Sr.||`00 starter at LB|
|Gregg Guenther Jr., Rs. Fr.|
|Alex Holmes, So.||7 catches in `00|
|Scott Huber, Jr.||1 start in `00|
|Kolomona Kapanui, In. Fr.|
Three-fifths of USC's starters on the offensive line are back in 2001 and each is an outstanding player. But the rest of the unit is relatively inexperienced, which is a concern since Troy must fine a pair of tackles and develop some reliable depth along the line.
Manning the guard spots will be senior Faaesea Mailo, who started at tackle last season but has 6 starts earlier in his career at left guard, and junior Zach Wilson, a 2-year starter on the right side. Both tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. Mailo, the only senior lineman, will fill the left guard spot held by Trevor Roberts last fall. He also has been used in the past as a short-yardage fullback, a la Refrigerator Perry, and proved to be a devastating blocker.
Sophomore Lenny Vandermade returns as the center after earning Freshman All-American first team honors last year (he also started some at guard in 2000).
Seven players will fight it out for the tackle jobs vacated by 3-year starter Brent McCaffrey on the left and Mailo on the right: junior Phillip Eaves, who redshirted last year, sophomores Norm Katnik (he worked mainly at center in 2000), Jacob Rogers (he missed last spring's practice while recovering from shoulder surgery), Eric Torres (he saw limited time in 2000), Nate Steinbacher (he also was a shotputter for the USC track team) and walk-on Justin Brown (a spring transfer from Fresno State), and redshirt freshman Joe McGuire. Of that group, only Rogers has seen significant line action in the past.
Junior Derek Graf, who has seen brief action in just 1 game in his career (his father, Allan, played on the Trojan line), and redshirt frosh Travis Watkins (also a Trojan shotputter) and walk-on Spencer Torgan are looking to earn backup duty at the guard positions. Redshirt freshman A.J. Single, a converted linebacker, will contend for the backup center role.
|Justin Brown, So., OT|
|Phillip Eaves, Jr., OT|
|Derek Graf, Jr., OG|
|Norm Katnik, So., OT|
|FAAESEA MAILO, Sr., OG||Started at OT in `00|
|Joe McGuire, Rs. Fr., OT|
|Jacob Rogers, So., OT|
|A.J. Single, Rs. Fr., C||Converted LB|
|Nate Steinbacher, So., OT|
|Spencer Torgan, Rs. Fr., OG|
|Eric Torres, So., OT|
|LENNY VANDERMADE, So., C||`00 Freshman All-American|
|Travis Watkins, Rs. Fr., OG|
|ZACH WILSON, Jr., OG||2-year starter|
Six positions have starters returning from 2000: free safety (Troy Polamalu), both cornerback spots (Kris Richard on one side and co-starters Darrell Rideaux and Chris Cash at the other), strong safety (co-starters Frank Strong and DeShaun Hill) and a defensive tackle (co-starters Ryan Nielsen and Bernard Riley), plus a linebacker (although Kori Dickerson has moved to tight end). Five others who have started at least once in their Trojan tenure also are back in defensive end Lonnie Ford, linebackers Aaron Graham and Chris Prosser and cornerbacks Antuan Simmons and Kevin Arbet. Five of Troy's top 10 tacklers from last fall return, as do its 2000 co-interception leaders. Although USC's total defense figure (343.0) in 2000 was a slight improvement from the previous season, the Trojans will have to be more opportunistic on defense in 2001. Their 17 takeaways last fall were USC's fewest since at least 1952 (that was quite a turnaround from 1999 when the Trojans led the nation with 39 takeaways). Troy managed only 7 interceptions in 2000, its lowest total since 1957, after getting 21 the year before.
The Trojans are loaded in the secondary, but must virtually rebuild its front 7. They'll rely on Carroll, whose background primarily has been on the defensive side of the ball, to mold this unit into a feared presence as the defensive coordinator. Assisting him will be fourth-year defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, regarded as one of the nation's best tutors at his position (he'll also serve as Troy's recruiting coordinator), secondary coach and assistant head coach DeWayne Walker, who spent the past 3 years with the NFL's Patriots after 10 years in the college ranks (he was Carroll's first hire at USC), and linebackers coach Nick Holt, who arrived from Louisville.
'I've always coached a very aggressive, attacking style of defense,' said Carroll. 'It starts up front with how we attack the line of scrimmage with our defensive linemen. But we'll make our opponents contend with all of our defenders, because they'll all be part of our blitz package. They'll all pressure. We'll mix man-to-man with zone-blitz pressure. We'll keep people off balance and force the kinds of errors that allow us to change the game with turnovers.
'We'll have a pro-style defense. It will be an attacking, up-the-field approach for our front 7 and an aggressive, bump-and-run style of play in the secondary. We'll run a 4-3 scheme, but with 3-4 personnel.'
The situation on the USC defensive line in 2001 is not as dire as it might appear. Although starters are gone at 3 positions-tackle Ennis Davis (who had 146 tackles, including 36 for losses with 15 sacks, as a 3-year starter) and ends Sultan Abdul-Malik (a 3-year starter who had 22.5 career sacks) and Matt Childers (a 2-year starter)-USC has plenty of quality bodies to fill in.
Last year, senior Ryan Nielsen (25 tackles, 3 for losses, 4 deflections, 1 forced fumble in 2000) and junior Bernard Riley (20 tackles, 3 for losses, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked kick in 2000) shared a tackle spot. This season, look for Nielsen-a 2-year starter-and Riley to be side by side at tackle.
One end spot will be a pseudo-linebacker, giving USC's 4-3 look a 3-4 feel. Senior Lonnie Ford (16 tackles, 6 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 deflections, 1 forced fumble in 2000), who has 16 tackles for losses and 15 starts in his career, seems an ideal candidate for that job.
The other end could be soph Omar Nazel, who saw brief action in 5 games last season without making a stop.
Others competing for time at end will be senior Bobby DeMars, junior Anthony Daye, who has played briefly in just 1 game in his career, and redshirt freshmen Nathan Goodson, Jamaal Williams (he missed last season with a broken leg) and walk-on Jay Bottom.
Reinforcements will arrive this fall with junior college transfer Daniel Pryor (Compton College in Compton, Calif.), a junior end, plus 4 prep All-American freshmen: ends Shaun Cody (Los Altos High in Hacienda Heights, Calif.), who was USA Today's national Defensive Player of the Year, Raymond Tago (Poly High in Long Beach, Calif.) and Jason Wardlow (Upland High in Upland, Calif.), plus tackle Mike Patterson (Los Alamitos High in Los Alamitos, Calif.).
|Jay Bottom, Rs. Fr., DE|
|Shaun Cody, In. Fr., DE||`00 USA Today prep Def. MVP|
|Anthony Daye, Jr., DE|
|Bobby DeMars, Sr., DE|
|Lonnie Ford, Sr., DE||15 career starts|
|Nathan Goodson, Rs. Fr., DE|
|Omar Nazel, So., DE|
|RYAN NIELSEN, Sr., DT||2-year starter|
|Mike Patterson, In. Fr., DT||`00 prep All-American|
|Daniel Pryor, In. Jr., DE|
|BERNARD RILEY, Jr., DT||`00 co-starter|
|Raymond Tago, In. Fr., DE||`00 prep All-American|
|Kenechi Udeze, Rs. Fr., DT|
|Jason Wardlow, In. Fr., DE||`00 prep All-American|
|Jamaal Williams, Rs. Fr., DE|
|Malcolm Wooldridge, Rs. Fr., DT|
Of any area on the USC team, the linebacking corps faces the biggest challenge in 2001. After all, Troy must replace all 3 starters, including a pair of elite linebackers: 3-year starter Zeke Moreno, who posted 285 tackles (33 for losses), 5 picks and 4 touchdowns in his career while topping the Trojans in stops the past 2 seasons, and 2-year starter Markus Steele, who made 152 tackles (29 for losses) in his career. Last year's starter on the strong side (Kori Dickerson) has moved to tight end.
Looking to fill in at middle linebacker for Moreno are juniors Aaron Graham (26 tackles, 2 for losses, 1 sack, 2 deflections, 1 forced fumble in 2000), who started there for USC's final 4 games last fall when Moreno moved to the weakside for an injured Steele, and redshirt freshmen Lee Webb, a converted fullback, and walk-on Aaron Orndorff.
Either sophomore Chris Prosser (7 tackles in 2000), a 2-game starter on the strong side last year, or senior John Cousins, who redshirted last season with a finger injury, will emerge as the starter at Dickerson's strong side spot.
Three frosh will arrive this fall: prep All-Americans Austin Jackson (Serra High in Gardena, Calif.), the son of ex-USC offensive tackle Melvin Jackson, and Marvin Simmons (Poly High in Long Beach, Calif.), plus Bobby Otani (St. Bonaventure High in Ventura, Calif.).
|John Cousins, Sr.|
|Aaron Graham, Jr.||4 starts in `00|
|Austin Jackson, In. Fr.||`00 prep All-American|
|Aaron Orndorff, Fr.|
|Bobby Otani, In. Fr.|
|Mike Pollard, Jr.|
|Chris Prosser, So.||2 starts in `00|
|Marvin Simmons, In. Fr.||`00 prep All-American|
|Henry Wallace, Sr.|
|Lee Webb, Rs. Fr.||Converted FB|
There is an embarrassment of riches in the USC secondary in 2001 in terms of experience and depth. Eight players have started there in their careers.
Junior Troy Polamalu (83 tackles, 5 for losses, 1 sack, 2 interceptions with 1 TD, 7 deflections, 1 fumble recovery in 2000) was the team's No. 2 tackler last fall while starting all season at strong safety.
Senior Frank Strong (20 tackles, 1 interception, 4 deflections, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick in 2000), who was USC's top kickoff returner last year (21.6 average on 25 runbacks), and junior DeShaun Hill (39 tackles, 3 for losses, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 5 deflections in 2000) shared the starting free safety duty last season and could do so again this year. Strong also might be used some at tailback, the spot he played earlier in his career.
Three redshirt freshmen are also available at safety: Matt Grootegoed, who sat out last year with mononucleosis, and Jason Leach, plus walk-on Kyle Matthews (the son of ex-USC and NFL linebacking great Clay Matthews).
The corners are equally stacked. Senior Chris Cash (39 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 7 deflections, 2 forced fumbles in 2000) and junior Darrell Rideaux (21 tackles, 4 deflections in 2000), also a sprinter for USC's track team with a best of 10.30 in the 100 meters, once again will fight it out for the spot they shared in 2000. On the other side, there's senior 2-year starter Kris Richard (19 tackles, 5 deflections in 2000), who also was Troy's top punt returner last season (7.5 average on 13 runbacks). He has 6 career picks. Backing them up will be junior Kevin Arbet (31 tackles, 1 for a loss, 2 deflections in 2000), a 4-game starter last year and the stepson of ex-USC receiver Jeff Simmons, senior Eric Reese (4 tackles in 2000) and a pair of walk-ons in junior Marcus Johnson and redshirt freshman Matt Lemos.
The wild card in the secondary is senior cornerback Antuan Simmons, a 3-year starter who sat out the 2000 campaign while battling a life-threatening illness (a benign abdominal tumor that left him hospitalized for 6 weeks). He has slowly worked his way back into shape now and was impressive in last spring's practice. He is an impact player, with 175 tackles, 7 interceptions and 6 blocked kicks in his career.
Joining this group in the fall will be freshman cornerback John Walker (Birmingham High in Van Nuys, Calif.)
|Kevin Arbet, Jr., CB||4 starts in `00|
|CHRIS CASH, Sr., CB||2 interceptions in `00|
|Matt Grootegoed, Rs. Fr., S|
|DeSHAUN HILL, Jr., S||2 interceptions in `00|
|Marcus Johnson, Jr., CB|
|Jason Leach, Rs. Fr., S|
|Matt Lemos, Rs. Fr., CB|
|Kyle Matthews, Rs. Fr., S|
|TROY POLAMALU, Jr., S||USC's No. 2 tackler in `00|
|Eric Reese, Sr., CB|
|KRIS RICHARD, Sr., CB||6 career interceptions|
|DARRELL RIDEAUX, Jr., CB||Also a track sprinter|
|Antuan Simmons, Sr., CB||3-year starter, ill in `00|
|FRANK STRONG, Sr., S||Also USC's top KO returner|
|John Walker, In. Fr., CB|
Simply said, the play of USC's special teams must improve. Last fall, the Trojans missed 8 field goals and 10 PATs, had 12 kicks and punts blocks (2 blocked punts were returned for TDs), blocked only 4 kicks and punts themselves, averaged just 36.2 yards per punt (Troy's lowest mark since 1987), finished last in the Pac-10 in net punting (28.4, fifth worst in the country) and ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in kickoff returns (19.5). It's obvious this is a high-priority area in 2001.
Carroll has appointed Kennedy Pola, the former Trojan player who handled USC's running backs last fall, as the special teams coordinator.
'The performance of our special teams will be a focal point,' said Carroll. 'We must be efficient and effective in our special teams play. Under the direction of Kennedy Pola, we will create continued competition at every position of this unit.'
The punter (Mike MacGillivray), short snapper (Joe Boskovich) and top kickoff returner (Frank Strong) and punt returner (Kris Richard) all are back, as are the part-time starting placekickers (David Newbury and John Wall). But the kickoff man and a holder will be new.
Senior Mike MacGillivray (39.1 average in 2000), who owns a 39.4 career punting average while holding the job the past 3 years, is a battle-tested veteran who has struggled with his consistency. An effective placement punter, about a third of his 219 career punts have pinned opponents within the 20-yard line. He is within range of breaking John Stonehouse's USC career records for punts and punt yardage.
Sophomore walk-on Tommy Huff, who has yet to take the field for Troy, will back up MacGillivray.
USC's placekicking was an adventure in 2000 and 2 of the 3 kickers are back. Senior David Newbury (4-of-9 field goals, 9-of-12 PATs in 2000) began the year as the kicker, but he was inconsistent. He was replaced midway through the season's fifth game by sophomore John Wall (5-of-5 field goals, 9-of-14 PATs in 2000). All of his field goals were within 27 yards and his 5 missed extra points were all blocked. When he was sidelined by a groin injury and then a knee injury in the final 3 contests (he might miss the 2001 campaign while recovering from the knee injury), the now-graduated David Bell took over. Primarily USC's effective kickoff man the past 4 years (nearly 50% of his 243 career kickoffs were not returned past the 20-yard line, with 62 touchbacks), Bell will long be remembered for his game-winning field goal with 9 seconds to go at UCLA last fall (it was only the second three-pointer of his career and the first after 3 misses in 2000).
Junior walk-on Anthony Boscarini, who joined the team last spring, is available, too.
Sophomore walk-on center Joe Boskovich handled the snaps on USC's placekicks last year and now also might be asked to do the punt snapping that Zeke Moreno did in 2000. Other snapping possibilities are walk-on sophomore Alex Bottom and sophomore offensive tackle Norm Katnik, plus incoming sophomore linebacker Matt Hayward (Glendale Community College in Glendale, Ariz.).
There will be a casting call for a new holder on the placekicks, since last year's holder (Matt Nickels) and his backup (Mike Van Raaphorst) have graduated. Senior punter Mike MacGillivray came out of spring drills as the likely holder, backed by junior wide receiver Marcell Allmond.
All of USC's kickoff and punt returners from 2000 are back. They did a solid-if unspectacular-job, so who gets the call in 2001 still is up for grabs.
Senior safety Frank Strong (25 kickoff returns, 21.6 average in 2000) led the team last year in kickoff returns. Others who might give it a crack are senior tailback Malaefou MacKenzie (4 kickoff returns, 22.8 average in 2000), redshirt freshman safety Matt Grootegoed and freshman wide receiver Frank Candela.
Senior cornerback Kris Richard (13 punt returns, 7.5 average in 2000) topped Troy in punt returns last fall. Freshman wide receiver Frank Candela and junior wide receiver Kareem Kelly (6 punt returns, 3.7 average in 2000) also could give it a try.
|Anthony Boscarini, Jr., PK|
|Joe Boskovich, So., SNP|
|Alex Bottom, So., SNP|
|Matt Hayward, In. So., SNP|
|Tommy Huff, So., P|
|MIKE MacGILLIVRAY, Sr., P||3-year starter, 39.4 average|
|DAVID NEWBURY, Sr., PK||15 career field goals|
|JOHN WALL, So., PK||5-of-5 field goals in `00|
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