2002 Football Season Preview
July 29, 2002
...AND PRE-SEASON HONORS--S Troy Polamalu has been named to several pre-season All-American first teams (Playboy, Athlon, Football News, Lindy's, Street & Smith's) and he was named the top candidate for the Thorpe Award by Street & Smith's. DT-DE Shaun Cody was a pre-season All-American third teamer by Street & Smith's, while QB Carson Palmer, WR Kareem Kelly and PK David Davis made Street & Smith's pre-season All-American honorable mention. Besides Polamalu, Cody and Davis, two other Trojans have been selected to a pre-season All-Pac-10 first team: OG Zach Wilson (Athlon) and OG-C Lenny Vandermade (Street & Smith's).
SCHEDULE--USC, as usual, is playing one of the nation's most difficult 12-game schedules. Seven opponents played in bowls last season and 5 were ranked in the final AP Top 20 (3 were in the Top 10). The Trojans open up 2002 on Labor Day evening against Auburn; the other non-conference games include early road contests at 2001 No. 9 Colorado and Kansas State and the regular season finale at home with Notre Dame. In Pac-10 games, USC hosts No. 19 Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State and California, and goes to No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 Washington State, No. 16 Stanford and UCLA.
NEW USC JERSEYS--In its first major uniform change in 30 years, USC will wear jerseys in 2002 with a style that harkens back to the heyday era of the 1960s. The new jerseys are similar to those worn by Trojan teams from 1958 to 1969 (when Troy won 2 national titles and played in 5 Rose Bowls under coach John McKay). The jerseys feature a single crescent stripe on each shoulder pad and numbers on the sleeve (all stripes and numbers are sewn in). There also is an interlocking 'SC' logo on the bottom of the neckline. Per tradition, there will be no names on the back of the jersey. The last time USC underwent a uniform change of this magnitude was in 1972, when the jerseys worn up until last season (3 stripes on each sleeve) were first introduced. (In 1970 and 1971, USC's jerseys had no markings except for the front and back numeral.)
USC INTERVIEW DAY/PRE-SEASON PRACTICE SCHEDULE--USC Football Interview Day will be at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11, in the Heritage Hall Lounge at USC. The Trojans will conduct all 3 weeks of their 2002 pre-season practices on the USC campus. Drills begin Aug. 12 and lead up to Troy's Sept. 2 opener against Auburn in the Coliseum.
QUOTING PETE CARROLL
THE 2002 TROJANS
'Our goal is to win the Pac-10 championship and win the Rose Bowl. That's our goal this year and every year. In 2002, we must pick up where we left off last year, continuing to develop a winning attitude and style of play. What's evident is that we are much further ahead going into this season than we were last year.
'You build championship teams by surrounding yourself with great competitors. Competition will be high for all positions. We're looking for the young players to compete immediately for playing time and we're counting on the returning players to battle to hold onto their spots.
'We want to play great defense, be aggressive and efficient on offense and always count on our special teams to be a factor. That's the classic blueprint of a successful team. Last season, our strengths were on defense and in the kicking game, and we won the turnover battle. If we can do that again and run the football this year, we can be a factor in the Rose Bowl race.'
'We need to develop the running game so that it complements our ability to throw the football. Last year, we saw glimpses of how effective our wide-open offensive attack can be. But injuries significantly curtailed our running game and that affected our production. We have a deep group of runners this year and our offensive line is a year more experienced.
'We also have to continue to take care of the football. We did a very good job in that area last year.
'If we can be more proficient running the ball and keep our negative plays to a minimum, then our offense will emerge.'
'Our defense made a lot of progress last year and was one of our strengths. We hope it picks right up from there in 2002. We want to continue to be an aggressive, big play defense that scores points. The returning starters are solid and we'll count on them heavily, particularly our All-American, Troy Polamalu. We lost some starters from last year, but I'm confident that we have experienced, quality players to fill in for them. The key is to find starting cornerbacks.
'Our philosophy on defense is to capture the ball. Turnover ratio is a very important statistic for us and we took a huge jump in the right direction last year. That needs to remain one of the markers of our success.'
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
'We need to continue to build upon the performance of our special teams. That was a focus last year and will remain so in 2002. We need to maintain our effort and results in some areas, like field goal kicking and blocking kicks and punts, and we need to be more productive in our punting, kickoffs and return coverage. Last year, we saw the dramatic effect special teams can have on the outcome of a game. We saw how exhilarating good special teams play can be, but also how devastating it can be if you don't perform.
'David Davis should have another strong year kicking field goals and our new punter will be asked to bring us to a new level there. And I'm very excited about the prospect of having some dangerous return men.'
The 2002 Trojans feature 14 starters (8 on offense and 5 on defense, plus the placekicker) who are back from last year's team. In all, 72 squadmen return, including 49 who saw playing time (42 were lettermen and 28 were on the season-ending 2-deep). Some 28 Trojans have started at least once in their career. Joining them are 3 newcomers who enrolled at USC in the spring of 2002 and participated in spring drills, plus 19 new scholarship players (11 were prep and junior college All-Americans in 2001) who begin this fall.
After USC started slowly at 1-4 in new head coach Pete Carroll's debut season of 2001, he stayed the course and got his troops to rally by winning 5 of their last 7 games (including the final 4 regular season contests) to finish at 6-6 overall. Troy, which won its last 5 Pac-10 games after beginning league play at 0-3, placed fifth in the conference at 5-3 and earned a berth into the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl. Putting an exclamation point on the regular season was a 27-0 blanking of No. 20 UCLA, USC's first shutout in the crosstown rivalry since 1947 and the series' biggest margin of victory since 1979.
Pete Carroll brought big doses of experience, enthusiasm and leadership in his quest to revive the USC football program when he was named the Trojans' head football coach on Dec. 15, 2000 (he signed a 5-year contract). After Troy started off his opening 2001 season slowly at 1-4, Carroll stayed the course and got his troops to rally by winning 5 of their last 7 games (including the final 4 regular season contests) to finish at 6-6 overall. USC, which won its last 5 Pac-10 games after beginning league play at 0-3, placed fifth in the conference at 5-3 and earned a berth into the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl. Putting an exclamation point on the regular season was a 27-0 blanking of No. 20 UCLA, USC's first shutout in the crosstown rivalry since 1947 and the series' biggest margin of victory since 1979. The 50-year-old Carroll has 27 years of NFL and college experience, including 11 on the college level. He is 6-6 as a college head coach. He was the head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots for 3 seasons (1997-99) and New York Jets for 1 year (1994). He guided the Patriots into the playoffs in his first 2 seasons, winning the AFC Eastern Division title at 10-6 in 1997 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, then posting a 9-7 regular season mark in 1998. His overall record in New England was 27-21 in the regular season (including 8-8 in 1999) and 1-2 in the playoffs. He owns the franchise's second-best winning percentage (54.9%). After serving as the Jets' defensive coordinator for 4 seasons (1990-93), he became the team's head coach the following season. His 1994 Jets went 6-10. Only 3 other Jets head coaches won more games in their rookie campaign. He spent the next 2 years (1995-96) as the defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, who won the NFC Western Division title both seasons. The 49ers were 11-5 in the 1995 regular season when they had the NFL's top-ranked defense and then went 12-4 in 1996. Carroll began his coaching career at the college level, serving as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Pacific, for 3 years (1974-76), working with the wide receivers and secondary. He then spent a season each as an assistant in charge of the secondary at Arkansas (1977) under Lou Holtz as the Razorbacks won the 1978 Orange Bowl, at Iowa State (1978) under Earle Bruce (the Cyclones played in the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl) and at Ohio State (1979) under Bruce. That Buckeye squad lost to USC in the 1980 Rose Bowl. He next spent 3 seasons (1980-82) as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at North Carolina State, then returned to Pacific in 1983 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He entered the NFL in 1984 as the defensive backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, then held a similar position with the Minnesota Vikings for 5 seasons (1985-89). The Vikings advanced to the playoffs his last 3 years there, getting to the NFC Championship game in 1987. The 1988 team was 11-5 in the regular season and the 1989 squad won the NFC Central Division crown with a 10-6 mark. His secondary averaged 25 interceptions a season and led the NFL in passing defense in 1989. Carroll spent the 2000 season as a consultant for pro and college teams, doing charitable work for the NFL and writing a column about pro football for CNNSI.com. Carroll was a 2-time (1971-72) All-Pacific Coast Conference free safety at Pacific and earned his bachelor's degree in 1973 in business administration. He received his secondary teaching credential and a master's degree in physical education from Pacific in 1976. He was a 3-sport (football, basketball and baseball) standout at Redwood High in Larkspur, Calif., earning the school's Athlete of the Year award as a senior. He played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He then played football at Marin Junior College in Kentfield, Calif., in 1970. He was born on Sept. 15, 1951 in San Francisco. He and his wife, Glena, who played volleyball at Pacific, have 3 children: sons Brennan, 22, who played tight end at Pittsburgh (he previously played at Delaware) and is now an assistant at USC, and Nathan, 14, and daughter Jaime, 19, a junior at USC who played on the Women of Troy's highly-ranked volleyball team which competed in the 2000 NCAA Final Four. His late father-in-law, Dean Goranson, received his master's degree from USC.
Senior Troy Polamalu (118 tackles, 13 for losses, 1 sack, 6 deflections, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 3 blocked punts in 2001), a 2-year starting strong safety, is a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award in 2002 after last fall becoming USC's first All-American first team safety since Thorpe recipient Mark Carrier in 1989. A 2002 pre-season All-American, he is on the 'Watch List' for the 2002 Bronko Nagurski Award. His jersey currently is on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in the 'Race for the Pantheon' exhibit that highlights the nation's 10 leading candidates for post-season individual honors. He will play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game. Polamalu, who twice won Pac-10 Player of the Week honors in 2001, made big plays in seemingly every game last season. His 118 tackles topped USC and were tied for second in the Pac-10. His tackle totals were game highs 7 times, including a Las Vegas Bowl record 20 against Utah. He returned 2 of his 3 interceptions for touchdowns, blocked 3 punts and recovered a fumble. In his career, he has run back 3 of his 5 picks for scores and blocked 4 punts.
'Troy Polamalu is one of the best players I've ever coached,' said USC head coach Pete Carroll, who has tutored such star defensive backs as Ronnie Lott, Tim McDonald, Aaron Glenn, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and Lawyer Milloy. 'He is a tremendous football player and it shows in every phase of the game: pass defense, run defense, blitzing and special teams. Pound for pound, he is our strongest player (600 pounds in the squat and 353 pounds in the power clean) and he has been a star in our off-season conditioning program. He is a team player, as shown by his desire and performance on special teams. He is also a humble, dedicated team leader who is respected greatly by his teammates, as evidenced by the rare feat of being voted a team captain as just a junior last year. I can't imagine a better safety in college football in 2002.'
Starters return at 8 positions on offense in 2002: quarterback (Carson Palmer), both wide receivers (Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert), tailback (co-starters Sultan McCullough and Sunny Byrd; Byrd will return to fullback in 2002), both tackles (Jacob Rogers and Eric Torres), a guard (Zach Wilson) and center (co-starters Lenny Vandermade and Norm Katnik). USC's top 2 rushers, passers and receivers statistically from 2001 are back. In 2002, offensive coordinator Norm Chow's unit must dramatically increase its offensive production from a year ago. The Trojans ranked in the Pac-10's bottom 4 in every offensive category last fall while averaging just 314.5 yards of total offense and 24.8 points a game. Injuries at the tailback spot left USC's running game anemic; its 87.7 rushing average was 109th nationally (out of 115 teams) and Troy's 1,052 total rushing yards was its fewest since records were kept in 1948. However, the Trojans had only 19 turnovers in 2001 (the second fewest in the Pac-10), quite an improvement after having a nation-leading 36 turnovers in 2000. That ball security must continue in 2002.
Senior quarterback Carson Palmer (221-of-377, 58.6%, 2,717 yards, 13 TDs, 12 interceptions in 2001) is one of the nation's marquee signalcallers. His 58.6% completion rate in 2001 topped the Pac-10. A 3-year starter, he is third on USC's career passing (618 completions) and total offense (7,801 yards) lists. By year's end, he should move up to No. 1 in both categories (he needs 59 completions to break Rob Johnson's mark and 840 yards of total offense to eclipse Rodney Peete's standard) and he is on pace to also break Johnson's school career mark for passing yards (he has 7,876 and needs 597). His first pass attempt of 2002 will be the 1,082nd of his career, equaling Peete's USC mark. Last fall, his 419 yards of total offense at Oregon was a USC record. He will play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game.
Three relatively untested youngsters will battle to back up Carson Palmer at quarterback: sophomore Matt Cassel (1-of-2, 50.0%, 5 yards in 2001), who also played some as a tight end-in-motion (1 catch, 12.0 average in 2001) and on special teams (1 tackle in 2001) last season, and redshirt freshmen Matt Leinart and Billy Hart, who is also a reserve infielder for the Trojan baseball team. Cassel and Leinart emerged from 2002 spring practice as co-No. 2s. Junior Brandon Hance, who started Purdue's first 9 games of 2001 and completed 136-of-258 passes (52.7%) for 1,529 yards with 8 TDs (he also ran for 242 yards and 4 scores), enrolls this fall, but he must sit out the 2002 season per the NCAA transfer rule.
Last year demonstrated why it is critical to have depth in the tailback corps. Injuries decimated USC's runners in 2001 and by midseason a fullback was starting at tailback. It's no wonder the Trojans averaged just 87.7 rushing yards a game last fall. USC is 5-deep at tailback in 2002, including 3 experienced seniors. Speedy senior Sultan McCullough (115 carries, 410 yards, 3.6 average, 5 TDs in 2002, plus 6 receptions 16.7 average, 1 TD) returns after starting Troy's first 6 games of 2001. But he was sidelined the rest of the year with a strained abdominal muscle that required surgery. He ran for 1,163 yards in 2000 and is 14th on USC's prestigious career rushing ladder (1,986 yards). He has rushed for 100 yards 9 times in his career. The 1999 Pac-10 100-meter champion, he is the fastest player ever to wear a Trojan football uniform (10.17). Senior Malaefou MacKenzie, who has 765 rushing yards and 37 receptions in his Trojan career (he has started 4 times), is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2002. He was expected to team with McCullough to give Troy a 1-2 punch at the tailback position in 2001. But he left school at midseason last fall without seeing any action and returned home to Western Samoa (he missed 4 early games with a knee sprain and a fifth to attend his father's funeral). Senior Justin Fargas, who was impressive while serving as USC's scout team tailback in 2001 and had an eye-opening performance in 2002 spring drills (139 and 111 rushing yards in 2 intrasquad scrimmages), will look to make a sudden impact this season. He enters fall camp as the starter. He sat out the 2001 campaign after transferring from Michigan, where he had 362 rushing yards in an injury-plagued career. Sophomore Darryl Poston (8 carries, 16 yards, 2.0 average, 1 TD in 2001, plus 1 catch, 10.0 average) showed flashes last fall, but was bothered by a mid-year knee sprain. He, too, looked good in 2002 spring practice. Prep All-American Hershel Dennis (Poly High in Long Beach, Calif.) joins the tailback fray in the fall as a freshman.
SENIOR TAILBACK TRIO
Few teams in the country can boast of having a trio of senior tailbacks of USC's quality. The combined career stats of Sultan McCullough, Malaefou MacKenzie and Justin Fargas: 696 carries, 3,113 yards, 4.5 average per carry, 20 TDs, 21 starts, 11 100-yard games...oh, and seven surgeries!
Senior Sunny Byrd (123 carries, 336 yards, 2.7 average, 4 TDs in 2001, plus 11 catches, 7.4 average and 5 tackles) enjoyed folk hero status last fall when he took over for McCullough at tailback and provided some hard-nosed running. He had never touched the ball at USC before then, but he started USC's last 6 contests and led the Trojans in rushing 5 times (he had at least 20 carries in 6 outings). He'll return to fullback in 2002 and will compete with another senior, Chad Pierson (4 carries, 11 yards, 2.8 average in 2001, plus 3 catches, 20.3 average, 1 TD), for the starting job. Pierson, who started once in 2000 and proved to be just as effective a runner and receiver as a blocker, missed the first half of 2001 with a back injury. Also in the mix at fullback to replace Charlie Landrigan, a 3-year starter known for his leadership, rugged blocking and good hands (49 career receptions), are redshirt freshman David Kirtman and freshman Brandon Hancock, who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors at Clovis West High in Fresno, Calif.
Swift senior Kareem Kelly (49 catches, 16.3 average, 3 TDs in 2001, plus 6 carries, 38 yards, 6.3 average), a starter the past 3 years, is fifth on Troy's career pass catching list (158 receptions). He is within range of Johnnie Morton's school records for receptions (201) and receiving yards (3,201; he has 2,499). He has a catch in all 35 games he has played as a Trojan, 2 short of tying John Jackson's USC mark. He has had 100-yard receiving games 9 times in his career. He also sprints and runs relays for the USC track team.
OTHER WIDE RECEIVERS--
Like last year, USC's wide receivers are a deep and talented group with starters returning at both spots. Besides Kareem Kelly, junior Keary Colbert (34 catches, 13.0 average, 2 TDs in 2001, plus 1 carry, 9 yards, 9.0 average) returns at the other wideout spot. The consistent 2-year starter has 67 career grabs. Two other Trojans started a game last fall: senior Grant Mattos (10 catches, 10.4 average in 2001), who missed part of 2001 with a knee sprain, and junior D. Hale (7 catches, 15.1 average in 2001, plus 2 carries, 14 yards, 7.0 average), a one-time walk-on who earned a scholarship this past spring. Another junior, Sandy Fletcher (2 catches, 5.5 average in 2001), also saw time in 2001. Also looking to break into the rotation are redshirt freshmen William Buchanon and Frank Candela, junior Jason Mitchell, a 2001 junior college All-American at Los Angeles (Calif.) Harbor Junior College who enrolled at USC this past spring, and redshirt freshman walk-on Greig Carlson. Freshmen coming aboard this fall are prep All-Americans Mike Williams (Plant High in Tampa, Fla.) and Chris McFoy (Chino High in Chino, Calif.).
For the second consecutive year, USC will start a new tight end, this time in place of Kori Dickerson, the one-time linebacker who had 25 catches and 2 scores last fall. Junior Alex Holmes (22 receptions, 7.5 average, 2 TDs in 2001) is the most experienced tight end on the roster, as he has seen significant action the past 2 seasons as the backup. He has 29 career catches with 2 touchdowns. Also available are seniors Doyal Butler and Scott Huber, who played some at fullback in 2001, and sophomore Gregg Guenther Jr., who at 6-8 also was a reserve center on the 2002 Trojan men's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA tourney, but their combined career action is minimal. Prep All-American Dominique Byrd (The Breck School in Minneapolis, Minn.) enrolls this fall as a freshman.
USC's offensive line from a year agosave for 2-year starting guard-tackle Faaesea Mailocomes back. But this group needs to improve its performance if the Trojan offense is to click. Senior guard Zach Wilson has started the past 3 years on the right side and has been solid. Junior tackles Jacob Rogers (left side) and Eric Torres (right side) started for the first time in 2001 and did commendable jobs. Steady junior Lenny Vandermade has started at center the past 2 years, but was moved to left guard in 2002 spring practice and will start there in 2002 (he started 5 times there in 2000). And junior Norm Katnik, the line's utility man after having started at all 3 positions in 2001 (5 times at guard, 4 at center and once at tackle), will handle the starting center job in 2002. Angling for backup duty are senior Phillip Eaves, juniors Nate Steinbacher and walk-on Justin Brown at tackle, sophomores Joe McGuire (he likely will miss 2002 with a shoulder injury) and Travis Watkins at guard and senior Derek Graf, and junior walk-on Joe Boskovich (also the short snapper) at center. None of these players has seen appreciable action yet. Freshmen help arrives this fall with a quartet of prep All-Americans--tackles Winston Justice (Poly High in Long Beach, Calif.) and Kyle Williams (Highland Park High in Dallas, Tex.), guard Fred Matua (Banning High in Wilmington, Calif.), who can also play defensive tackle, and center-guard Chris Doyle (Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif.)plus guard Kurt Katnik (Foothill High in Santa Ana, Calif.), Norm's younger brother.
Five defensive starters return from 2001: All-American safety Troy Polamalu, tackle-end Shaun Cody, end Kenechi Udeze and linebackers Mike Pollard and Matt Grootegoed. Seven others who have started games in the past also are back in tackle Bernard Riley, safety DeShaun Hill, cornerbacks Darrell Rideaux, Kevin Arbet and converted wide receiver Marcell Allmond, and linebackers Aaron Graham and Chris Prosser. USC's top 2 tacklers and its co-interception leaders from 2001 return. The Trojans last fall led the Pac-10 in scoring defense (17.3, 11th nationally) and were second in pass defense (179.2, 16th nationally) and total defense (330.8), all significant improvements from 2000. But opponents averaged 155.2 rushing yards a game, nearly 30 more yards an outing than 2000 despite USC's Pac-10 co-high 37 sacks. However, Troy had a stunning reversal in its turnover margin in 2001, tying for fifth nationally at +1.3. USC had 35 takeaways last year after getting only 17 in 2000. The Trojans intercepted 20 passes (they had just 7 in 2000), recovered 15 fumbles and scored 8 touchdowns on defense last fall. That trend needs to remain a focus.
Although half of last year's 4-man defensive front2-year starting end Lonnie Ford (81 tackles, 30 for a loss, 16 sacks in his career) and 3-year starting tackle Ryan Nielsen (107 career tackles)is gone, USC is still in good shape here in 2002. Two of the nation's top young defensive linemen return as sophomore starters: tackle-end Shaun Cody (39 tackles, 7 for losses, 5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery in 2001), who was a Freshman All-American first team pick last season, and end Kenechi Udeze (35 tackles, 9 for losses, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 3 forced fumbles, 1 deflection in 2001), a Freshman All-American second teamer last year. Both are destined for big things at USC. Senior tackle Bernard Riley (26 tackles, 5 for losses, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 1 deflection, 1 interception in 2001), who started Troy's first 5 games of 2001 before injuring his knee (he also started in 2000), also is back. Senior Anthony Daye, who can also play end, and sophomores Mike Patterson (9 tackles, 5 for losses, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries in 2001) and walk-on Spencer Torgan, a converted offensive guard, also are available at tackle. The other end spot could be manned by junior Omar Nazel (15 tackles, 4 for losses, 3 sacks, 1 deflection, 1 interception in 2001), sophomore A.J. Single, a converted center, redshirt freshman Austin Jackson, a converted linebacker, or walk-on sophomore Jay Bottom...or by a newcomer. Joining USC this fall will be a pair of junior college All-Americansends Daniel Urquhart of Los Angeles (Calif.) Southwest Junior College, who will be a junior, and Van Brown of Pasadena (Calif.) City College, who will be a sophomoreplus freshman end LaJuan Ramsey (Dominguez High in Compton, Calif.).
The linebacking corps, an area of concern last year because of 3 new starters, has become a position of strength for USC in 2002. Two starters return from 2001: reliable senior Mike Pollard (81 tackles, 8 for losses, 7 deflections, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles in 2001) in the middle and versatile sophomore Matt Grootegoed (32 tackles, 8 for losses, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 2 deflections in 2001) on the strong side. Pollard was second on the Trojans in tackles and first in deflections last fall. Grootegoed broke his leg near the end of last season. Junior Melvin Simmons sat out last season after transferring from Washington State, where he was a starter in 2000, but he has emerged as the likely weakside replacement for Strong, who had 82 tackles and 2 interceptions in his career (he also was a safety, tailback and returner at USC). There is plenty of quality depth behind these linebackers. Senior Aaron Graham (11 tackles, 1 for a loss, 1 sack in 2001) has started 5 times in the middle in his career, but will work on the weak side in 2002. Junior Chris Prosser (20 tackles, 4 for losses, 2 sacks, 1 deflection in 2001) has 5 career starts (including 3 last year) on the strong side. Sophomores Lee Webb (8 tackles, 1 forced fumble in 2001) in the middle and Bobby Otani (1 tackle in 2001) on the weak side saw measurable action last fall, although Otani suffered a midseason knee injury. Also available are junior Matt Hayward (1 tackle in 2001), who is the long snapper, junior walk-on Alex Bottom, who doubles as a backup snapper, and redshirt freshman Collin Ashton. Two prep All-AmericansOscar Lua (Indio High in Indio, Calif.) and Dallas Sartz (Granite Bay High in Granite Bay, Calif.)will join this group this fall as freshmen (Sartz also can play safety).
At first glance, the secondary appears to be an area of worry for USC in 2002, considering that 3 top-quality starters have departed. Gone are 4-year starting safety-cornerback Antuan Simmons (208 tackles, 9 interceptions, 6 blocked kicks in his career), who beat a life-threatening illness in 2000 and had an impressive 2001 season (he'll long be remembered for his amazing between-the-legs interception for a TD versus UCLA), and cornerbacks Kris Richard (125 tackles, 8 picks as a 3-year starter) and Chris Cash (86 tackles, 4 interceptions as a 2-year starter), both who were NFL draft picks. But things are not as dire as they appear, especially not when the Trojans return perhaps the nation's best safety in previously-mentioned senior All-American strong safety Troy Polamalu. Add a collection of experienced players alongside Polamalu and, if the cornerback positions are solidified, USC's secondary could be as effective as it was last season (defensive backs accounted for 15 of the Trojans' 20 interceptions and 6 of the defense's 8 touchdowns; USC was 16th nationally in pass defense). The new cornerbacks will be chosen from among a pair of seniors who have started in the past4-time starter Kevin Arbet (25 tackles, 3 for losses, 2 sacks, 6 deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery in 2001), who won All-Pac-10 first team laurels last year as a special teams player and who returned 1 of his 3 picks for a TD, and 6-time starter Darrell Rideaux (8 tackles in 2001)plus junior Marcell Allmond, a converted wide receiver who redshirted last fall while suspended from USC for a student conduct violation (he has 30 career catches while starting 6 times on offense, but he last played defense as a 1998 high school senior), senior Miguel Fletcher, senior walk-on Marcus Johnson, soph walk-ons Justin Tolliver (1 tackle, 1 interception in 2001), Forrest Mozart (1 tackle in 2001), another converted wide receiver, and Chris Bocage, and redshirt freshman walk-on Alex Gomez. Rideaux (sprints, relays), Allmond (hurdles) and Tolliver (sprints) also compete for the USC track team. Senior DeShaun Hill (42 tackles, 1 for a loss, 1 deflection, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble in 2001) has the inside track on the starting free safety job, as he has started 8 games in his career. Other safeties include sophomore Jason Leach (8 tackles, 1 deflection in 2001), redshirt freshman John Walker, and a trio of walk-ons in sophomores Matt Lemos and Kyle Matthews and redshirt frosh Andre Woodert, a converted wide receiver. This fall, look for junior college All-American Ronald Nunn of San Francisco (Calif.) City College, who will be a junior, and prep All-American Justin Wyatt (Dominguez High in Compton, Calif.), who will be a freshman, to compete at cornerback, and incoming freshman Mike Ross (St. Petersburg Catholic High in St. Petersburg, Fla.) to battle at safety (incoming freshman linebacker Dallas Sartz also might work at safety).
SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW--
USC's placekicker (David Davis), short snapper (Joe Boskovich), long snapper (Matt Hayward) and top punt returner (Kevin Arbet) and kickoff returner (Darrell Rideaux) from 2001 are back. But the punter, holder and kickoff man will be new in 2002. Last year, USC's special teams were markedly improved over 2000. The Trojans were particularly effective in field goal accuracy (83.3%, tops in the Pac-10), blocking kicks and punts (5) and kickoff return coverage (20.2-yard average). But they were average in other areas (8.4-yard average on punt returns and 18.9-yard average on kickoff returns, with no scoring runbacks) and inadequate in others, including punting (39.0-yard average) and kicking off (only 1 touchback on 62 kickoffs). So, there is room for improvement in the special teams.
Senior David Davis (15-of-18 field goals, 31-of-34 PATs in 2001) had an impressive showing in 2001 after transferring from a junior college. The lefty was the Pac-10's most accurate field goal kicker last fall (83.3%) and was tied for 18th nationally in field goals (1.3). He hit 12 field goals in a row at one point. He even ran for a short TD on a fake field goal. He is on the 2002 Lou Groza Award 'Watch List.' However, a new kickoff man must be found for David Newbury, who compensated for a lack of leg strength by pooching his kickoffs (which resulted in 14 fair catches). Those short kickoffs accounted for USC's creditable kickoff coverage average of 20.2 yards in 2001 (second best in the Pac-10), although only 1 of Newbury's 62 kickoffs was a touchback and just 7 pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line. Sophomore Ryan Killeen, a transfer from Mt. San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif., could get the job. USC's punter the past 4 seasonsMike MacGillivray, who set school career records for punts (298) and punt yardage (11,700) while owning a 39.3-yard averagehas graduated. The Trojans are hoping his replacement will be more consistent. Although a pair of untested walk-onsjunior Tommy Huff and redshirt freshman Zach Sherwoodare back, the new punter will be freshman Tom Malone, who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors at Temescal Canyon High in Lake Elsinore, Calif. He showed a strong leg in 2002 spring practice. Both of USC's snappersjunior center Joe Boskovich, who hikes on placekicks, and junior linebacker Matt Hayward, who snaps on puntsare back after doing flawless work last fall. Also available is walk-on junior linebacker Alex Bottom. A new holder must be found now that MacGillivray, who handled the job last year, is gone. Among the untested candidates are Malone, redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Leinart and junior cornerback Marcell Allmond. USC's top punt returnersenior cornerback Kevin Arbet (25 punt returns, 9.0 average in 2001, plus 3 kickoff returns, 17.7 average)and kickoff returnersenior cornerback Darrell Rideaux (19 kickoff returns, 19.1 average in 2001)from last year are back. Others who might figure in the return game are senior wide receiver Kareem Kelly (8 punt returns, 6.4 average in 2001), redshirt freshman wide receiver Frank Candela, junior wide receivers D. Hale and Jason Mitchell, sophomore tailback Darryl Poston, and a pair of incoming freshmen in tailback Hershel Dennis and cornerback Justin Wyatt.
GONE FROM 2001--
USC's offensive losses include 3-year starting fullback Charlie Landrigan, a good blocker and receiver, linebacker-turned-tight end Kori Dickerson and 2-year starting guard-tackle Faaesea Mailo. The defensive starters gone are 4-year starting safety-cornerback Antuan Simmons, who overcame a life-threatening illness in 2000 to star in 2001, NFL drafted cornerbacks Kris Richard (a 3-year starter) and Chris Cash (a 2-year starter), 2-year starting end Lonnie Ford, 3-year starting tackle Ryan Nielsen and linebacker Frank Strong, who also was used at safety, tailback and as a returner at Troy. And 4-year starting punter Mike MacGillivray, who owns USC records for career punts and punt yardage, must be replaced.
NEW ASSISTANT COACHES--
There are two new full-time assistant coaches in 2002: Greg Burns, who handles the secondary, and Tim Davis, who is in charge of the offensive line (guards and centers). Burns, a one-time Washington State defensive back spent the past 4 years at Louisville after a year at Idaho. Davis was at Wisconsin the last 5 years after a 7-year stint at Utah. Also, Brennan Carroll (head coach Pete Carroll's son who was a tight end at Pittsburgh the last 3 years, joins the staff as a graduate assistant working with the offense and special teams. Several returning assistant coaches have different responsibilities in 2002. Steve Sarkisian, who was the offensive graduate assistant in 2001, now works fulltime as the quarterbacks coach. Kennedy Pola, last year's special teams coordinator, adds the duty of running backs coach. Lane Kiffin switches from tight ends to wide receivers coach. Keith Uperesa, last year's offensive line coach, now is in charge of offensive tackles and tight ends. And offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who also was USC's quarterbacks coach in 2001, will just handle the coordinator duties in 2002.
STATS OF NOTE, THE GOOD...
STATS OF NOTE, THE BAD...
IN THE NFL--
USC is always well-represented in the NFL. At the start of training camp this summer, there were 39 ex-Trojans on NFL rosters. Last year, there were 26 Trojans on opening day NFL rosters, including players such as LBs Junior Seau and Chris Claiborne, OL Tony Boselli, DL Willie McGinest, WRs Keyshawn Johnson, Johnnie Morton and Curtis Conway, QB Rob Johnson and DBs Jason Sehorn, Sammy Knight, Rashard Cook and Daylon McCutcheon. Five NFL head coaches have USC ties (either as former players or assistants): New York Giants' Jim Fassel, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Seattle's Mike Holmgren, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci and Miami's Dave Wannstedt. Eleven current USC players have relatives with NFL playing backgrounds: DE Van Brown (brother, Chad Brown), WR William Buchanon (father, Willie Buchanon), DE Austin Jackson (father, Melvin Jackson), WR Kareem Kelly (cousin, Rashard Cook), OG-DT Fred Matua (cousin, Manu Tuiasosopo), S Kyle Matthews (grandfather, Clay Sr.; father, Clay Matthews; uncle, Bruce Matthews), TB Sultan McCullough (brother, Saladin McCullough), S Troy Polamalu (cousin, Nicky Sualua), CB Justin Tolliver (father, Kevin Williams), OG Travis Watkins (uncle, Tom Watkins) and OT Kyle Williams (uncle, Eric Williams; grandfather, Roy Williams). Additionally, head coach Pete Carroll was an NFL head coach and assistant coach, and assistant Lane Kiffin was an NFL assistant. For assistant coaches played professionally: Keith Uperesa in the NFL, Norm Chow, Steve Sarkisian and Tim Davis in the CFL (Davis also played in the USFL).
USC is one of America's most televised teams. The Trojans have appeared on live national, regional or local telecasts 295 times, including 161 of the past 163 games. In fact, USC had an amazing streak of 111 consecutive games on some form of live television from 1988 to 1997 (snapped against Oregon State) and another streak of 48 in a row from 1997 to 2001 (broken against California).
USC IS THE PLACE TO BE
Based on several national accolades it has received recently, USC can stake its claim as one of the nation's premier schools. USC was named the 'College of the Year' by the 2000 edition of the Time/Princeton Review College Guide because of the remarkable bonds it has forged with the local community. The editors said USC has one of the most ambitious social-outreach programs of any university in the nation and cited the school's model of service learning (applying academic theory to real-life situations through public service). They also pointed out that USC's undergraduate applications have nearly doubled over the last few years and it is enrolling the most academically accomplished freshman classes in its history. Troy also was selected as one of America's nine 'hottest schools' by the 2001 edition of the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide because it lives up to its reputation as a top-notch institution of higher education. Students quoted in the guide said that what attracted them to the university was Los Angeles' ethnic diversity, the offer of scholarships, the small classroom sizes and USC's standing in academe. Also in 2001, the Association of American Colleges and Universities picked USC as one of 16 'Leadership Institutions' for providing stimulating educational experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. USC was cited for emphasizing a campus culture featuring new learning techniques, curriculum and organizational structure and for demonstrating a strong commitment to liberal arts education relevant to the contemporary world. The organization said USC not only linked liberal arts and pre-professional study, but offered students the opportunity to learn by doing through off-campus work in community projects and internships. Also, USC was lauded for stressing critical thinking, effective communication and contributing to a diverse society.
Two of USC's most recent graduation rates for football were the highest in USC history. The 2001 official NCAA graduation rate for Trojan football players was 82%, an all-time high (topping the previous USC high of 80% in 2000). That rate compared to 73% for the general USC student body...and it was about 30 percentage points higher than the national football average for Division I schools. Among the top scholars on the 2002 Trojan squad are: FB Brandon Hancock (team-high 3.81 GPA, business), S Andre Woodert (3.43), QB Billy Hart (3.35, business), LB-SNP Matt Hayward (3.29, business), QB Matt Cassel (3.23, communication), P Tom Malone (3.2, kineseology), DT Spencer Torgan (3.04, business), LB Melvin Simmons (3.01, social sciences/history), TE Scott Huber (2.97, communication), FB David Kirtman (2.92, business), C-SNP Joe Boskovich (2.87, business), OT Justin Brown (2.82, business) and DE Jay Bottom (2.78). Huber was a 1999 and 2000 Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention choice. In its history, USC football has produced 22 Academic All-American first teamers (tops in the Pac-10 and sixth in the nation), 20 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winners, 12 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 4 NCAA Today's Top Six winners, 1 Rhodes Scholar and 1 Academic All-American Hall of Famer.
FB Sunny Byrd, on his first name:
'My parents are hippies. My younger sister is named Coral, my brother is Jade and my older sister is Niaja. My parents? They're Pat and Lisa!'
WR Frank Candela, on how he ended up at USC:
'I was unfulfilled by baseball. I wanted to give football another shot. So I sent letters to a variety of Division I coaches in December of 2000. I was hoping and praying. USC called and asked me to send a tape. I sent it. I guess Coach Carroll got it as he was going out Christmas shopping. He took it with him, popped it into a VCR at a Best Buy and he liked what he saw. He called me on my cell phone and said, 'Listen, Frankie. I'm at Best Buy right now. I just watched your film and I wanted to ask you, do you want to be a Trojan?' I heard shoppers in the background cheering the tape. I told him, 'You've got my 100 percent commitment!''
DT-DE Shaun Cody, on his 'SC' tattoo:
'When I signed my letter of intent, I got the tattoo. I had thought about it for a while. I thought about the double meaning, how 'SC' also can mean Shaun Cody and all that. But the tattoo also looks like the school logo, so that kind of gives away the true meaning.'
TB Malaefou MacKenzie, on rugby versus football:
'I never knew what football was until I came to the United States. I used to think it was a wussy sport, compared to rugby. I'd tease my brother when he had it on TV. But I found out football is not a wussy sport. Both are physical, but I think rugby is more physical because there are no pads. But in football, people are bigger and stronger.'
TB Sultan McCullough, on fellow TB Justin Fargas:
'He's my boy. He should have been here from the start. I always tell him that. We need him now. We make a great 1-2 punch. It's his turn to shine. He's like a power back. It's funny, but in high school I hated his guts. I was a running back. He was a running back. In high school, you wanted to be the best. I wanted him bad, whether it was in football or track.'
TB Sultan McCullough, on football versus track:
'It's not my fault that I'm fast. People think I'm a track guy playing football. I want to get that off people's minds. I'm a football player who also runs track.'
TB Sultan McCullough, on his first name:
'Growing up, I didn't know what my name meant. I asked my mom and she told me it meant 'King.' I thought I was kind of special. I thought I couldn't die. I thought I could endure pain. Then I got beat up a few times and found out that wasn't true.'
QB Carson Palmer, on offensive coordinator Norm Chow:
'He's old-school. When I say he's old-school, I mean he dresses old-school, too! His shorts are up over his belly button and his shirt is tucked into his shorts.'
QB Carson Palmer, on his hype:
'A lot of that stuff about me is falsethe Golden Boy, Gold Arm, all that crap. It's just the media talking. I think I know who I am. I really don't pay attention to what all those other people are saying. I haven't done anything yet. I haven't won any big games. I don't even think I've played well. There are a lot of people on magazine covers, so it really doesn't mean a whole lot. What matters is who's on the magazine covers at the end of the season.'
S Troy Polamalu, on his uncle, USC assistant coach Kennedy Pola:
'There's absolutely nothing I don't like about having him on the coaching staff. He helps me out so much, just being there to talk to him. I'd hate to see what it would be like without him. Plus, I can hit him up for money whenever I need it! Just kidding.'
OT Jacob Rogers, on being a reserve punter in 1999:
'I kind of miss punting. Every once in a while, I mess around with it. It's something that's hard to do after putting on all the weight that I have. My first spring here I was able to punt pretty well. Then I put on 30 pounds and it just wasn't the same.'
OT Eric Torres, on why he took a ballet class:
'Ballet helps your flexibility and coordination. It did wonders for me. But it was hard. Sometimes I didn't want to go. I sort of dreaded it because my feet were sore. I eventually believed in what I was taught and saw that I could transfer what I learned to what I could do in the weight room, and that's get lower and bend my knees. It allowed me to be a better football player and lift weights with better technique. But a big dude in a ballet class looks funny. It was serious, but at the same time I was having fun.'
DE Kenechi Udeze, on weighing 355 pounds in high school:
'It was hard to do things at that weight. It was hard to tie my shoes. It wasn't until my high school coach said that schools wouldn't recruit me because of it that I started to do something about it. Basically, what I did was I stopped eating a lot of carbohydrates and stopped drinking soda. I exercised a lot and lifted weights. A lot of it took care of itself. I also didn't eat past 9 p.m. That's when I used to call Pizza Hut and say, 'Can I get two large pizzas?' I lost 25 pounds in the first month of my diet.'
Thu 1/25 | 6:30pm PTLive