USC Football Goes To Pullman To Face Washington State After Year's Hiatus
Sept. 29, 2002
USC (3-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) vs. Washington State (4-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-10), Saturday, Oct. 5, 4 p.m. PDT, Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
After a year's hiatus, it's the resumption of the Trojan-Cougar series, which has been decidedly in USC's favor (however, the teams have split the last 4 meetings). USC has lost only twice in Pullman (and not since 1986). It's also rare when USC and Washington State meet when both are ranked. WSU is the fourth ranked team in a row that USC must play (it's no wonder that Troy is playing what the NCAA says is the nation's toughest schedule). USC is coming off a dominating shutout over Oregon State and has won its last 6 Pac-10 games. WSU last week came back big in the second half to win at California. USC is back on the road for the third time in the past 4 games. USC leads the nation in both total defense and pass defense and is sixth in scoring defense, while WSUseventh nationally in pass offenseis averaging 430 total yards and 36 points a game. Two of the league's premier quarterbacksUSC's Carson Palmer and WSU's Jason Gesserwill be showcased. The game, to be televised live nationally on TBS Superstation cable, will be the 300th game in Trojan history on live TV.
USC is ranked 18th by AP and 20th by USA Today/ESPN. Washington State is 17th by both AP and USA Today/ESPN.
USC leads its series with Washington State, which dates back to 1921, 50-7-4 (85.2%, USC's best winning percentage against any Pac-10 team). The Trojans have won 27 of the last 30 meetings (and 33 of the past 37). Playing against the Cougars in the state of Washington (Pullman, Spokane and Seattle), USC is 14-2-2, with both losses (1930 and 1986) and both ties (1937 and 1950) coming in Pullman. In Pullman games, USC is 10-2-2, with wins in its last 6 trips there.
In the teams' last meeting, in the Coliseum in 2000, USChampered by turnovers, miscues, penalties, big plays and sackswas eliminated from post-season bowl consideration as it dropped a 33-27 decision to Washington State. The loss guaranteed USC its first-ever last-place conference finish and gave the Cougars consecutive Coliseum wins over Troy for the first time ever. The Trojans fell behind 12-0 at halftime as FL Milton Wynn ran 25 yards for a touchdown on a reverse and then RB Jeremy Thielbahr pounced on a punt in the end zone that was blocked by MLB James Price, both in the second quarter. USC changed quarterbacks in the second half, as Mike Van Raaphorstin his first action in 13 gamesreplaced an ineffective Carson Palmer, who was 12-of-26 for 145 yards and an interception. Van Raaphorst seemingly energized the Trojans and led them to a score (a 34-yard TD pass to WR Kareem Kelly) on the opening drive of the second half. He then drove USC to the Cougar 11 on Troy's next possession, but the Trojans couldn't convert on fourth-and-1. On WSU's ensuing play, QB Matt Kegelmaking his first-ever starthit WR Marcus Williams for an 88-yard TD (it was the longest pass against USC since a 90-yarder by UCLA in 1992 and the second longest in Cougar history). Then, early in the fourth quarter, Van Raaphorst lost the ball as he was sacked and DE D.D. Acholonu raced 35 yards with the fumble for a TD. But USC closed to within 26-20, first when LB Zeke Moreno raced 56 yards for a TD with a fumble with 9:05 to go and then when Troy drove 95 yards on 14 plays, capped by Van Raaphorst's 30-yard scoring pass to WR Steve Stevenson with 4:28 left. USC forced a WSU punt on the next series, but turned the ball over on downs deep in its territory, leading to TB Dave Minnich's 2-yard TD run at 1:42. USC closed the scoring on Van Raaphorst's 21-yard TD pass to WR Keary Colbert at the gun. USC had the statistical edge, getting more total yards (470-372), first downs (29-18), total plays (95-70; USC's most plays in a game since getting 96 against Arizona State in 1988) and possession time (32:15-27:45). But the Trojans had 3 turnovers (2 led to WSU touchdowns and the other was a fumble out of the end zone as Kelly was tackled just short of the goal line in the first quarter), were penalized 13 times for 123 yards (same as WSU) and gave up 6 sacks. Van Raaphorst was 17-of-28 for 234 yards with the 3 TDs (tying a career best) and Kelly caught a game-high 7 passes for a team-best 114 yards. For WSU, Kegel was 12-of-32 for 242 yards, Minnich ran for a game-best 88 yards on 20 carries and Williams had 4 grabs for a game-leading 126 yards.
In 1999 in its last visit to Pullman, USC snapped a 5-game season losing streak by beating WSU, 31-28. USC led 17-7 early in the second quarter behind a pair of short TD runs by TB Chad Morton and a 34-yard field goal by PK David Newbury. But the Cougars closed to 17-14 by halftime on a tricky 24-yard scoring pass from WR Collin Henderson (who took a lateral from QB Steve Birnbaum) to WR Marcus Williams (WSU's first TD was a 22-yard TD run by TB Deon Burnett early in the game). But Troy opened up a 17-point lead early in the second half on another short Morton TD run and a 6-yard interception return by CB Kris Richard. WSU made a game of it on a pair of 5-yard Birnbaum scoring passes to WR Nian Taylor (a USC goal line stand stopped another potential Cougar score). Morton had a game-high 117 rushing yards.
PAC-10 WIN STREAK
USC has won its last 6 Pac-10 games, the longest current streak in the league.
VERSUS RANKED WSU
This is just the fifth time that USC has played a Washington State team ranked by AP. On the 4 previous occasions (1981, 1989, 1992 and 1992), the Trojans were victorious.
USC has a 265-103-19 (.709) all-time record while playing in the month of October.
USC is 13-8-1 in its last 22 games on artificial turf.
Two Trojans FB David Kirtman (Mercer Island HS) and walk-on P Tommy Huff (Bellevue HS)prepped in Washington, while Washington State has 41 California products...USC LB Melvin Simmons played linebacker at Washington State in 1999 and 2000 (he started in 2000)...USC OT Kyle Williams' uncle, Eric Williams, was a 3-year letterman defensive lineman (1981-83) at Washington State, earning All-Pac-10 first team honors in 1983...USC secondary coach Greg Burns was a 4-year letterman (1991-93, 1995) at Washington State, where he started at defensive back for 2 seasons.
NEW USC JERSEYS
In its first major uniform change in 30 years, USC are wearing 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.)
S Troy Polamalu (for the second consecutive year) and QB Carson Palmer have been selected by their teammates as season captains. Each game, they will join captains representing the special teams and the service (scout) team.
USC, as usual, is playing one of the nation's most difficult 12-game schedules. This week's NCAA ranking and the current USA Today/Sagarin ranking both have USC playing the nation's toughest schedule. Coming into the season, Sports Illustrated listed Troy's slate as the nation's toughest. The cumulative record of USC's 12 opponents currently is 40-11 (78.4%); at the time they played USC, the first 4 foes were 12-2. Five of Troy's 2002 opponents currently are ranked in the AP poll (4 of USC's first 5 foes were ranked going into the game). Seven opponents played in bowls last season and 5 were ranked in the final 2001 AP Top 20 (3 were in the Top 10). The Trojans opened up 2002 on Labor Day evening against Auburn; the other non-conference games included early road contests at Colorado and Kansas State, then the regular season finale at home with Notre Dame. In Pac-10 games, USC hosts Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State and California, and goes to Oregon, Washington State, Stanford and UCLA.
No. 18 USC used a dominating defense, plus a pair of touchdown passes from QB Carson Palmer to WR Mike Williams and 3 field goals from PK Ryan Killeen, to shut out high-powered No. 23 Oregon State, 22-0, in the Pac-10 opener for both teams before 56,417 fans in the Coliseum and a live FOX Sports Net national cable audience. It was USC's second shutout in its last 3 home games, its first whitewash of Pac-10 foes in back-to-back league games since 1982 and its first shutout in a conference opener since 1976. It also was the first time Oregon State was blanked since USC did so in 1997 and only the second shutout in OSU coach Dennis Erickson's career (pro or college). It was the Beavers' 19th consecutive loss to USC in the Coliseum. The Trojan defense thoroughly throttled OSU, which entered the game second nationally in total offense (499.8) and scoring offense (47.5). The Beavers managed just 131 total yards (only 51 rushing) on 60 plays (2.2 average), 8 first downs, 1-of-15 third down conversions (and 0-of-2 on fourth downs) and 22:05 of possession time. OSU also was sacked 4 times, had 3 turnovers, was penalized 12 times, punted 10 times and never got closer than the USC 24-yard line. In the second half, OSU gained just 33 total yards. USC took a 13-0 lead into halftime after a pair of career-first field goals by Killeen (43 and 42 yards) and an 11-yard Palmer TD pass to Williams (the first scoring reception in Williams' career). The second field goal and the touchdown came after DTs Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody recovered fumbles, respectively. Williams caught a 16-yard scoring toss from Palmer in the third quarter and Killeen hit a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. USC gained 330 total yards against a Beaver defense that ranked 13th nationally in total defense (257.8). Palmerwho became USC's career total offense leaderwas 23-of-41 for 231 yards, WR Keary Colbert had a game-best 6 catches for 67 yards and a trio of Trojans each caught 4 passes: Williams (62 yards), TE Alex Holmes (45 yards) and TB Sultan McCullough (38 yards). McCullough also ran for 50 yards on 19 tries. OSU QB Derek Anderson, who came into the contest second nationally in passing efficiency while averaging 300.2 passing yards, was just 8-of-30 for 80 yards and coughed up both fumbles. TB Steven Jackson, the nation's No. 7 rusher (134.0), was held to 67 yards on 15 carries. Defensively for USC, S DeShaun Hill and DE Omar Nazel each had 6 tackles (3 of Nazel's were for losses, with a sack), 3 of LB Matt Grootegoed's 5 stops were for losses and Patterson posted 2 sacks.
The only other time USC played 4 AP-ranked teams in a row in the same season was 1952 (Troy beat No. 17 Washington and No. 3 UCLA, lost to No. 7 Notre Dame, then beat No. 11 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl). (On 2 other occasions, the Trojans faced 4 consecutive ranked opponents, but those were over a 2-season span: 1973-74, as USC went 2-2, and 1988-89, when Troy was 1-3).
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 51-year-old Carroll has 27 years of NFL and college experience, including 11 on the college level. He is 9-7 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 (29 tac, 3 for loss, 1 sack, 2 dfl, 1 FF in 2002), in his third starting at 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 Walter Camp Award, Thorpe Award and Bronko Nagurski Award. Sports Illustrated named him as 1 of 5 'Terminators' in college football in 2002, a player 'boasting an otherworldly combination of speed, strength and athleticism...who can single-handedly kill off drives and wreak havoc on game plans.' 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. Last year, he had 118 tackles (13 for losses, with a sack), 6 deflections, 3 interceptions (2 for TDs), 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 3 blocked punts. 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. In his career, he has run back 3 of his 5 picks for scores and blocked 4 punts. --He had 7 tackles (1 for a loss) against Auburn. --He had a team-high 11 tackles at Colorado, earning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. --At Kansas State, he had 7 tackles (2 for losses, with a sack), a deflection and forced a fumble (which DT Mike Patterson picked up and ran 3 yards for a TD). --He had 4 tackles and a deflection against Oregon State.
'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.'
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT TROY POLAMALU
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville: 'He plays everywhere. You can tell he loves contact. He's all over the field. He reminds me of Benny Blades when I coached at Miami. He's a tremendous athlete and he can probably play several other positions on the football team either on offense or defense.'
Colorado wide receiver Derek McCoy: 'He is one of the best defensive backs I have seen. He's all over the place, always ready to make a big play.'
Colorado head coach Gary Barnett: 'Troy Polamalu, what do you do, what do you say? He's a great football player. He's a punishing tackler and a tremendous leader.'
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder: 'He is a very talented player who runs extremely well and plays the game extremely hard. He's a sideline to sideline player. He's good at what he does. He's a good tackler.'
Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson: 'Troy Polamalu is as good as there is.'
Former Utah offensive guard Ed Ta'amu: 'When we watched film, everywhere we looked he was in the picture.'
UCLA head coach Bob Toledo: 'He's a great football player. He's all over the field. He makes plays. You'd better account for him because he's going to be around the football all the time.'
Ken Peters, Associated Press: 'Sometimes it seems there's a whole group of Trojans wearing No. 43, blocking punts, returning interceptions for touchdowns, forcing fumbles, smacking punt returners to the ground. Actually, there's only oneTroy Polamalu, playing 'Fa'a Samoan' style. That roughly translates, he says, to being a gentleman everywhere but on the football field.'
Senior quarterback Carson Palmer (86-of-149, 57.7%, 963 yds, 5 TD, 3 int in 2002, plus 16 tcb, -39 yds, -2.4 avg, 2 TD) is one of the nation's marquee signalcallers. He is on the 2002 Davey O'Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award 'Watch Lists.' He is listed as a 2002 Heisman Trophy candidate by The Sporting News.com, CBS Sportsline.com and FOX Sports.com. Now in his fourth year as a starter, he owns 6 USC career records: total offense (8,725, sixth on the Pac-10 chart), plays (1,450), passing yardage (8,839, sixth on the Pac-10 list), completions (704), attempts (1,230) and interceptions (42). His 44 career TD tosses are third most at USC (tied for 25th in the Pac-10). In 2002, he has completed passes to 12 different receivers. With 36 career starts, he has completed at least 60.0% of his passes 17 times (including 8 contests at 70.0%-plus) and has thrown for 300-plus yards in 5 games. Last fall, he was 221-of-377 (58.6%) for 2,717 yards with 13 TDs and 12 interceptions. His 58.6% completion rate in 2001 topped the Pac-10 and his 419 yards of total offense at Oregon was a USC game record (his 411 passing yards in that game were 4 shy of tying another school mark). He will play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game.
--He completed 23-of-32 passes (71.9%) for 302 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions against Auburn (he had 3 drops) and also scored the game-winning TD on a 1-yard sneak with 1:26 to play to earn Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was 11-of-13 in the second half and completed passes to 8 different receivers in the game.
--He hit 22-of-30 passes (73.3%) for 244 yards with 1 TD at Colorado and also scored a TD on a 1-yard sneak. He hit his first 6 passes in the game and then was 8-of-8 in the second half. His completions went to 7 different receivers.
--At Kansas State, he hit 18-of-46 passes (8 throws were dropped) for 186 yards and a TD while setting USC career records for plays, completions and passing yards.
--He completed 23-of-41 passes for 231 yards with 2 TDs against Oregon State while setting the USC career total offense mark.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT CARSON PALMER
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder: 'A guy who throws in excess of 8,000 yards in a career tells you a lot of things. It tells you he's very accurate, very confident, very efficient and he has an awful lot of experience. He's got good size and people would say he's the prototype NFL quarterback. He's extremely talented and he has some mobility about him.'
Kansas State defensive end Andrew Shull: 'He's a great quarterback. He's tall, has a great arm and good scrambling capabilities. He puts the ball where it needs to be.'
Oregon state head coach Dennis Erickson: 'Carson Palmer is playing like everyone thought he would. He's such a talent. He's not making mistakes and has a great arm and is throwing it well.'
Three relatively untested youngsters are behind Carson Palmer at quarterback: sophomore Matt Cassel (0-of-1, 00.0%, 0 yards in 2002), who completed 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards and also played some as a tight end-in-motion (he had a 12-yard catch 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, who was slowed in 2002 fall camp after suffering a bone chip in his knee, has emerged as the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Leinart (his only career action was 2 snaps at the end of the 2002 Colorado game). 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), enrolled this fall, but he must sit out the 2002 season per the NCAA transfer rule.
--At Colorado, Cassel was 0-of-1 while directing 2 late drives (including 1 for a score), while Leinart took the game's final 2 snaps, but didn't throw a pass.
--Cassel played the final series versus Oregon State, but didn't throw a pass (he also held on placekicks).
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 (65 tcb, team-best 291 yds, 4.5 avg, 3 TD in 2002, plus 6 rec, 8.2 avg and 1 KOR, 20.0 avg) returns after starting Troy's first 6 games of 2001. But he was sidelined the rest of that year with a strained abdominal muscle that required surgery and finished with 410 yards on 115 carries (3.6 avg) with 5 TDs. He ran for 1,163 yards in 2000 and is 11th on USC's prestigious career rushing ladder (2,277 yards). He has rushed for 100 yards 10 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 (28 tcb, 87 yds, 3.1 avg, 1 TD in 2002, plus 11 rec, 14.6 avg, 1 TD and 1 tac), who has 852 rushing yards and 48 receptions in his Trojan career (he has started 7 times), gained a sixth year of eligibility in 2002 from the NCAA. 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 (24 tcb, 69 yds, 2.9 avg in 2002), 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), is looking to make a sudden impact this season (a hamstring strain suffered in 2002 fall camp slowed him for USC's first 2 games). He sat out the 2001 campaign after transferring from Michigan, where he had 362 rushing yards in an injury-plagued career. Sophomore Darryl Poston (4 tcb, -2 yds, -0.5 avg, 1 TD in 2002) showed brief 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 (12 tcb, 44 yds, 3.7 avg in 2002, plus 1 rec, 4.0 avg and 2 KOR, 15.5 avg) joined the tailback fray this fall as a freshman.
--MacKenzie, in his first game since 2000, started against Auburn and had a game-best 6 catches for 117 yards (the first 100-yard receiving game by a USC running back since Mike Garrett had 122 yards against California in 1964) as well as running for 33 yards on 10 tries, while McCullough led USC with 58 rushing yards on 20 carries (he also caught a 10-yard pass and returned a kickoff 20 yards) and Poston had 1 carry for 2 yards (Fargas was sidelined with a hamstring strain and Dennis was used on kickoff returns, but did not touch the ball).
--At Colorado, McCullough had a game-high 110 yards on 15 carries (his 10th career 100-yard outing), including a career-long 62-yard run for a TD, while MacKenzie broke several tackles while scoring on a 32-yard pass and a 14-yard run (he rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries and caught 2 passes for 38 yards overall), Poston scored on a 4-yard run, Dennis ran for 32 yards on 5 tries and caught a 4-yard pass, and Fargas saw his first action as a Trojan (he had a 4-yard run).
--McCullough had a team-high 73 yards on 11 carries, including a 25-yard TD, at Kansas State, while Fargas added 24 yards on 6 tries, MacKenzie had 12 yards on 6 rushes and Dennis ran for 9 yards on 3 carries and returned a kickoff 10 yards.
--McCullough ran for a team-best 50 yards on 19 carries (he also caught 4 passes for 38 yards) against Oregon State, Fargis added 41 yards on 17 rushes, MacKenzie gained 7 yards on 2 carries and 6 yards on 3 receptions and Dennis ran for 3 yards on 4 tries and returned a kickoff 21 yards.
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: 813 carries, 3,550 yards, 4.4 average per carry, 24 TDs, 25 starts, 12 100-yard games...oh, and seven surgeries!
Senior Sunny Byrd (2 rec, 7.5 avg in 2002) enjoyed folk hero status in 2001 when he took over for Sultan 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). Overall last fall, he ran for 336 yards on 123 carries (2.7 avg) with 4 TDs, plus had 11 catches (7.4 avg) and made 5 tackles. He is back at fullback in 2002, where he backs up another senior, Chad Pierson (2 rec, 4.5 avg in 2002). 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 (he ran for just 11 yards, but did catch a TD). 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 freshman Brandon Hancock (3 tcb, 8 yd, 2.7 avg in 2002, plus 1 rec, 3.0 avg and 1 tac), who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors, sophomore Lee Webb, a converted linebacker, and redshirt freshman David Kirtman (1 tac in 2002).
--Byrd started against Auburn and caught 2 passes for 15 yards, while Hancock had a 1-yard run, a 3-yard catch and a tackle (Pierson was sidelined by a hamstring strain).
--Pierson caught a 2-yard pass at Colorado and Hancock had an 8-yard run.
--No fullbacks touched the ball at Kansas State.
--Against Oregon State, Pierson caught a 7-yard pass, Hancock lost 1 yard on a rush and Kirtman made a tackle.
Swift senior Kareem Kelly (14 rec, 10.7 avg, 1 TD in 2002, plus 1 tcb, 1 yd, 1.0 avg and 7 PR, 7.1 avg), a 4-year starter, is second on Troy's career pass catching list (172 receptions; he is 10th on the Pac-10 chart). He is within range of Johnnie Morton's school records for receptions (201) and receiving yards (3,201; he has 2,649, which is 12th on the Pac-10 chart). He has a catch in all 39 games he has played as a Trojan, a USC record (the Pac-10 mark is 42). He is on the 'Watch List' for the 2002 Biletnikoff Award. He has had 100-yard receiving games 9 times in his career. In 2001, he had 49 catches (16.3 avg) with 3 TDs, plus ran 6 reverses for a 6.3 average. He also sprints and runs relays for the USC track team.
--He caught a game-best 6 passes for 66 yards with a TD against Auburn and also returned 2 punts for 0 yards.
--He had 4 catches for 36 yards at Colorado and returned 4 punts for 31 yards.
--At Kansas State, he caught 3 passes for 42 yards and returned a punt 19 yards.
--He had a 6-yard catch against Oregon State.
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 (team-high 23 rec, 11.6 avg, 1 TD in 2002) returns at the other wideout spot. The consistent 2-year starter has 88 career grabs to put him tied for 15th on USC's career reception chart, including 34 (13.0 avg) in 2001 with 2 TDs. Also making an impact is true freshman Mike Williams (16 rec, 13.7 avg, 2 TD in 2002), a prep All-American. Two other Trojans started a game in 2001: senior Grant Mattos (1 rec. 12.0 avg in 2002), who missed part of last season with a knee sprain but had 10 catches for a 10.4 average, and junior D. Hale, a one-time walk-on who earned a scholarship this past spring after getting 7 catches (15.1 avg) in 2001. Also in the rotation are junior Jason Mitchell (3 KOR, 11.7 avg in 2002), a 2001 junior college All-American who enrolled at USC this past spring, junior Sandy Fletcher (1 tac in 2002), a converted safety, and another freshman who came aboard this fall, prep All-American Chris McFoy. Redshirt freshman walk-on Greig Carlson (5 PR, 5.4 avg in 2002) also sees some action.
--Against Auburn, Williams made his Trojan debut by catching 4 passes for 56 yards off the bench, Colbert started and had 2 grabs for 23 yards and Mattos had a 12-yard reception.
--Williams had a game-high 7 grabs for 90 yards at Colorado, while Colbert added 4 catches for 52 yards.
--At Kansas State, Colbert caught 11 passes for 125 yards (both career highs and game bests) with a 5-yard TD, Williams had an 11-yard catch, Mitchell returned 3 kickoffs for 35 yards and Carlson had 2 punt returns for 23 yards.
--Colbert had 6 catches for 67 yards (both game highs) versus Oregon State, Williams caught 4 passes for 62 yards, including a pair of TDs (11 and 16 yards) and Carlson returned 3 punts for 4 yards.
For the second consecutive year, USC is starting 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 (5 rec, 9.4 avg in 2002) is the most experienced tight end on the roster, as he saw significant action the past 2 seasons as the backup. He has 34 career catches with 2 touchdowns, including 22 grabs (7.5 avg) with 2 TDs in 2001. He rotates with sophomore Gregg Guenther Jr. (4 rec, 6.8 avg in 2002), who at 6-8 also was a reserve center on the 2002 Trojan men's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA tourney. Also available is senior Scott Huber, who played some at fullback in 2001. Dominique Byrd, a prep All-American who also has worked at defensive end, enrolled in the fall as a freshman.
--No tight end caught a pass against Auburn.
--Guenther caught 3 passes for 22 yards at Colorado.
--Guenther had a 5-yard reception at Kansas State and Holmes caught a 2-yard toss.
--Holmes caught 4 passes for 45 yards (both career bests) against Oregon State.
USC's offensive line from a year agosave for 2-year starting guard-tackle Faaesea Mailocame back. But this groupwhich has seen some early-season experimentation on the right sideneeds 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, but a foot injury slowed him the first 2 games. Starting junior tackles Jacob Rogers (left side) and Eric Torres (right side) started for the first time in 2001 and did commendable jobs (Torres also is being used at right guard and left tackle). Steady junior Lenny Vandermade started at center the past 2 years, but was moved to left guard in 2002 spring practice and starts 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), handles the starting center job in 2002. Veterans angling for backup duty are senior Phillip Eaves at tackle, sophomore Travis Watkins at guard and senior Derek Graf at center and guard. Freshmen help arrived this fall with a quartet of prep All-Americans--tackles Winston Justice and Kyle Williams, guard Fred Matua, and center-guard Chris Doyleplus guard Kurt Katnik, Norm's younger brother.
--In the Auburn opener, Rogers and Torres started at the tackle spots, Vandermade was at left guard, Norm Katnik was at center and Graf saw his first appreciable career action when he started for Wilson (ankle sprain) at right guard (Matua also saw time there).
--At Colorado, Rogers (left tackle), Vandermade (left guard) and Norm Katnik (center) started at their usual spots, while Torres moved inside to right guard for the injured Wilson and Winston Justice celebrated his 18th birthday by starting at right tackle (becoming the first true freshman to start on the offensive line since OG Travis Claridge and OT Faaesea Mailo did so in 1996 against Notre Dame).
--At Kansas State, Wilson got his first start of 2002 (at right guard), joining Rogers (left tackle), Vandermade (left guard), Norm Katnik (center) and Justice (right tackle).
--For the second week in a row, the line of Rogers, Vandermade, Norm Katnik, Wilson and Justice started versus Oregon State.
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. In fact, some media have come to call Troy's 2002 defensive front, 'The Wild Bunch II,' in honor of USC's famed 1969 defensive line. Two of the nation's top young defensive linemen return as sophomore starters: tackle-end Shaun Cody (11 tac, 1 FR, 1 blk FG in 2002), who was a Freshman All-American first team pick last season, and end Kenechi Udeze (16 tac, 7 for loss, 2.5 sack, 2 FF, 1 dfl in 2002), a Freshman All-American second teamer last year. Both are destined for big things at USC; in fact, both are on the 2002 Lombardi Award 'Watch List.' Cody had 39 tackles (7 for losses, with 5 sacks) and a fumble recovery in 2001, while Udeze added 35 stops (9 for losses, with 4 sacks, plus a fumble recovery, 3 forced fumbles and a deflection). Senior tackle Bernard Riley (5 tac in 2002), who started Troy's first 5 games of 2001 before injuring his knee (he also started in 2000), also is back. He had 26 tackles (5 for losses, with a sack, plus a fumble recovery and interception last year. However, sophomore Mike Patterson (21 tac, 6.5 for loss, 5.5 sack, 2 FR including 1 for a TD in 2002) starts at Riley's tackle spot. Senior Anthony Daye (2 tac in 2002), who can also play end, and junior Nate Steinbacher, a converted offensive tackle, also are available at tackle. The other end spot is being manned by junior Omar Nazel (19 tac, 4 for loss, 1 sack, 1 int, 2 dfl in 2002), backed up by junior Chris Prosser, who has 5 career starts (including 3 last year, when he made 20 tackles) at strongside linebacker, and senior Doyal Butler, a converted tight end...or by a newcomer. Joining USC this fall were a pair of junior college All-Americansends Daniel Urquhart, who is a junior, and sophomore Van Brown (1 tac in 2002)plus freshmen ends LaJuan Ramsey (1 FR in 2002) and Travis Tofi. Sophomore walk-on Jay Bottom has also seen brief action at end.
--Patterson, in his first career start, had a team-high 8 tackles (1.5 for loss) versus Auburn, while Nazelalso making his first starthad 6 stops and intercepted a pass (to set up a USC touchdown), 3 of Udeze 5 tackles were for losses, and Cody had 2 stops and Daye added 1 tackle.
--At Colorado, Patterson had 5 tackles (including 2 sacks), Cody and Nazel each added 4 stops, Riley had 3, Udeze had a tackle for a loss, Brown and Daye each had a tackle and Ramsey returned a fumble 19 yards to set up a USC TD.
--Cody and Udeze both had 5 tackles at Kansas State (Cody also blocked a field goal and Udeze forced a fumble, which USC recovered and led to a TD), Patterson had 4 stops (with a sack) and returned a fumble 3 yards for a TD, and Nazel had 3 stops (1 for a loss) and a deflection.
--The defensive linemen was dominant against Oregon State (7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 deflections, a forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries which led to scores) as Nazel had a team-best 6 tackles (3 for loss with a sack) plus a deflection, Udeze and Patterson each had 4 stops, with 2 for losses (Udeze had a sack, deflection and forced fumble, while Patterson had 2 sacks and recovered a fumble), Riley had 2 tackles and Cody recovered a fumble.
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 (12 tac, 2 for loss, 2 FR, 1 FF, 1 dfl in 2002) in the middle and versatile sophomore Matt Grootegoed (20 tac, 4.5 for loss, 1 dfl in 2002) on the strong side. Pollard was second on the Trojans in tackles (81, including 8 for losses) and first in deflections (7) last fall, and added a fumble recovery and 2 forced fumbles. Grootegoed broke his leg near the end of last season, but posted 32 tackles (8 for losses, with a sack), plus a fumble recovery and 2 deflections. Junior Melvin Simmons (26 tac, 3 for loss, 1 sack in 2002) sat out last season after transferring from Washington State, where he was a starter in 2000, but he has emerged as the weakside replacement for Frank 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 has started 5 times in the middle in his career (he had 11 tackles in 2001), but is as a backup on the weak side in 2002. Sophomore Bobby Otani (5 tac in 2002) on the weak side saw measurable action last fall, although he suffered a midseason knee injury. Two prep All-AmericansOscar Lua (4 tac, 1 sack, 1 FR, 1 FF in 2002) and Dallas Sartz (1 tac, 1 int in 2002)joined this group this fall as freshmen. Sophomore Lofa Tatupu (from Maine) and redshirt freshman Frostee Rucker (Colorado State) both must sit out the 2002 season after transferring in this fall.
--Simmons had 5 stops (1.5 for loss, with a sack) against Auburn in his Trojan debut, while Pollard and Grootegoed each added 3 tackles (Pollard also forced a fumble, which he recovered to set up a USC TD) and Lua had 1 stop.
--At Colorado, Simmons had 9 tackles, Pollard had 4 stops (including 2 for losses, with a sack), Otani also had 4 tackles, Grootegoed had 3, and Lua and Sartz each had a stop (Lua's was a sack, forcing a fumble which USC recovered).
--At Kansas State, Simmons had a game-high 11 tackles (1.5 for loss), Grootegoed added 9 stops (1.5 for loss), Pollard had 4 tackles and recovered a fumble (to set up a USC TD), Otani had a stop and Lua recovered a fumble.
--Grootegoed had 5 tackles (3 for loss) and a deflection against Oregon State, Lua had 2 stops, Pollard had a tackle for loss and a deflection, Simmons had a tackle and Sartz returned an interception 22 yards.
At first glance, the secondary appeared to be an area of worry for USC in 2002, considering that 3 top-quality starters 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 solidify, 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 cornerback spot did take a huge hit when senior Kevin Arbet (25 tackles, 3 for losses, 2 sacks, 6 deflections, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery in 2001), a 4-time career starter 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, was lost for the 2002 season after breaking a bone in his foot during fall camp. So, the new cornerbacks are senior Darrell Rideaux (13 tac in 2002), who has 10 career starts, and then a new face. Junior college All-American Ronald Nunn (3 tac in 2002), who is a junior, started the first 3 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. So, redshirt freshman William Buchanon (7 tac, 1 for loss, 2 dfl in 2002), a converted wide receiver, has taken over, with help from prep All-American Justin Wyatt (4 tac, 1 FR in 2002), who is a freshman, and junior Marcell Allmond, another 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). Rideaux (sprints, relays) and Allmond (hurdles) also compete for the USC track team. Senior DeShaun Hill (14 tac, 1 FR, 1 FF, 4 dfl in 2002) won the starting free safety job, as he started 8 games earlier in his career (he had 42 tackles, 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 2001). Other safeties include sophomore Jason Leach (6 tac, 1 for loss, 1 int, 2 dfl in 2002), redshirt freshman John Walker (he also can play cornerback), and first-year freshman Mike Ross (1 tac, 1 TD on a blocked punt recovery in 2002).
--Against Auburn, Rideaux had 5 tackles as a starter, Leach and Hill had 4 each (Hill also forced a fumble and deflected a pass), and Wyatt and Nunn (making his first start at Troy) both had 1.
--Hill and Wyatt had 2 tackles at Colorado, Buchanon had 11, Leach had an interception and Ross recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a TD.
--At Kansas State, Rideaux had 7 tackles, Buchanon made 4 stops and had a deflection, Nunn had 2 tackles before injuring his knee, Hill had 2 stops and recovered a fumble and Wyatt recovered a fumble.
--Hill had a team-high 6 tackles with 2 deflections against Oregon State, Leach and Buchanon both added 2 stops, including 1 for a loss (Leach had 2 deflections and Buchanon had 1), and Rideaux and Wyatt each had a tackle.
Senior David Davis (1-of-3 FG, 7-of-10 PATs in 2002), 16-of-21 on field goals and 38-of-44 on PATs in his USC career, 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. Overall in 2001, he nailed 15-of-18 field goals and 31-of-34 PATs. He even ran for a short TD on a fake field goal. He is on the 2002 Lou Groza Award 'Watch List.' However, when Davis struggled early in 2002, he was replaced by sophomore Ryan Killeen (3-of-4 FG, 3-of-3 PAT in 2002), a junior college fall transfer. Killeen also handles the kickoffs, replacing David Newbury, who last year 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. So far this year, 12 of Killeen's 21 kickoffs have pinned opponents within the 20-yard line, with 9 touchbacks. 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: freshman Tom Malone (40.7 avg in 2002), who enrolled at USC this past spring after earning prep All-American honors. He showed a strong leg in 2002 spring practice. This season, 10 of his 24 punts have kept foes within the 20-yard line and 5 have traveled at least 50 yards. 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. There's a new holderMalone (for Davis) or QB Matt Cassel (for Killeen)now that MacGillivray, who handled the job last year, is gone. USC's top punt returnersenior cornerback Kevin Arbet (25 punt returns, 9.0 average in 2001, plus 3 kickoff returns, 17.7 average)is sidelined in 2002 with a foot injury, but last year's top kickoff returnersenior cornerback Darrell Rideaux (19 kickoff returns, 19.1 average in 2001)is back. However, it punts are being handled by redshirt freshman walk-on wide receiver Greig Carlson (5 PR, 5.4 avg in 2002) or senior wide receiver Kareem Kelly (7 PR, 7.1 avg in 2002), while the kickoff return duties are manned by senior tailback Sultan McCullough (1 KOR, 20.0 avg in 2002), a senior, freshman tailback Hershel Dennis (2 KOR, 15.5 avg in 2002) or junior wide receiver Jason Mitchell (3 KOR, 11.7 avg in 2002).
--Against Auburn, Davis hit his only field goal try (a 37-yarder) and all 3 PATs, Malone averaged 42.0 yards on 3 punts in his Trojan debut (including a 50-yarder) and Killeen had 2 of his 5 kickoffs pin the Tigers within the 20-yard line.
--Malone averaged 51.2 yards on his 4 punts at Colorado (including a 60-yarder), but had a punt blocked, while Davis had a field goal and PAT blocked (another PAT missed) while hitting 4-of-6 PATs and Killen had 5 of his 7 kickoffs hold the Buffaloes within the 20 (with 4 touchbacks).
--At Kansas State, Davis missed a 30-yard field goal and had a PAT blocked (and returned for a defensive PAT) before giving way to Killeen, who hit both of his PATs and also put all 3 of his kickoffs out of the end zone, while Malone averaged 36.9 yards on 11 punts (4 pinned the Wildcats within the 20 and 2 traveled 50-plus yards).
--Killeen replaced Davis as the placekicker against Oregon State and hit 3-of-4 field goals (43, 42 and 32 yards), including the first 2 tries of his career, plus added an extra point and saw 2 of his kickoffs pin the Beavers within the 20, while Malone averaged 39.8 yards on his 6 punts (with 3 keeping OSU within the 20).
STATISTICS OF NOTE
***USC is first nationally in total defense (205.0) and pass defense (101.0), third in pass efficiency defense (74.1, top in Pac-10), sixth in scoring defense (11.8), tops in Pac-10) and tied for 23rd in turnover margin 9+1.3, sixth in Pac-10).***USC is allowing opponents to convert just 13.5% of third downs (best in the Pac-10) in 2002 and none of their fourth downs.***USC is averaging 34:07 time of possession (tops in the Pac-10) in 2002 and has won the possession battle in 3 games (all but Kansas State).***In the red zone, USC has scored 12-of-16 times (75.0%) in 2002, while allowing opponents to score just 58.3% (tied for first in the Pac-10).***USC has allowed just 1 TD each in the first, third and fourth quarters in 2002 (and only 2 TDs in the second quarter).***In first halves in 2002, USC allowed 54 total yards to Colorado, 118 to Kansas State and 98 to Oregon State.***In second halves in 2002, USC allowed 35 total yards to Auburn, 7 to Colorado and 33 to Oregon State.***USC has won its last 5 home games (and by an average score of 27-9).
NEWCOMERS SEE ACTION
Eighteen new Trojans have seen action for the Trojans in 2002: 12 first-year freshmen (WR Mike Williams, P Tom Malone, CB Justin Wyatt, TB Hershel Dennis, FB Brandon Hancock, S Mike Ross, LB Dallas Sartz, LB Oscar Lua, OG Fred Matua, TE Dominique Byrd, OT Winston Justice and DE LaJuan Ramsey), 4 junior college transfers (PK Ryan Killeen, WR Jason Mitchell, CB Ronald Nunn and DE Van Brown) and 2 college transfers (LB Melvin Simmons and TB Justin Fargas). Also, 9 walk-ons have played: WR Greig Carlson, DE Jay Bottom, SNP Joe Boskovich, DT Spencer Torgan, CB Forrest Mozart, S Greg Farr, LB Collin Ashton, WR Steve Levario Jr. and WR Matt Haugen. Fourteen newcomers and 3 walk-ons saw action in the Auburn opener.
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), joined 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, added the duty of running backs coach. Lane Kiffin switched 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, just handles the coordinator duties in 2002.
***S Troy Polamalu's 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.
***USC head coach Pete Carroll vacationed in Italy this past July, which meant in the span of several months he walked the floor of Rome's Colosseum and Los Angeles' Coliseum, perhaps the world's two most historic stadiums.
***USC has 3 players who graduated a semester early from high school and enrolled at USC in the spring. Starting OT Jacob Rogers did so in the spring of 1999, while starting P Tom Malone and key backup FB Brandon Hancock came to USC this past spring.
***Former USC All-American back Jon Arnett was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., this past Aug. 9-10, while ex-USC All-American safety Ronnie Lott will be inducted into the Hall at a Dec. 10 dinner in New York (he'll be enshrined in August of 2003). Arnett was a 1955 All-American who rushed for 1,898 career yards at Troy and then played 10 years in the NFL with the Rams and Bears. Lott, a 1980 All-American, had 250 tackles and 14 interceptions at USC before a 15-year NFL career that saw him land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
***A bronze sculpture of 'The Wild Bunch,' USC's famous 1969 defensive line (Al Cowlings, Jimmy Gunn, Willard Scott, Tody Smith and Charlie Weaver), was unveiled in front of Heritage Hall in September of 2002. Commissioned by a donor who wished to remain anonymous, it was sculpted by Don Winton and Ernie Shelton (USC's 1954 and 1955 high jump champion).
***Strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle has beaten cancer. He learned he had Hodgkin's Disease in December of 2000, began radiation treatments in Tennessee (where he was still the Volunteers' associate strength and conditioning coach), was hired by USC in February of 2001, kept his illness a secret except to Trojan head coach Pete Carroll, continued treatments in Tennessee and at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, then doctors told him in the summer of 2001 that the cancer was in remission. He informed the USC players of his ordeal at the start of fall 2001 camp.
***A new tradition at Troy's home games (started in 2001) sees the USC team buses unload the Trojan players amid the tailgaters in front of the Coliseum peristyle about 2 hours-and-20-minutes before kickoff. The players walk through the crowd into the Coliseum before going to dress in the locker room.
***USC's oldest living football letterman is 102-year-old James Pursell. He lettered in 1921-22-23 as a 156-pound guard and was a member of USC's first Rose Bowl team.
***USC's football team can field a pretty imposing track and field squad...and, in fact, Trojan track coach Ron Allice benefits from a number of footballers (many helped Troy win the 2000 Pac-10 meet). TB Sultan McCullough is the fastest Trojan football player ever, having run a 10.17 in the 100 (fifth fastest of any USC trackster in history!). He was the Pac-10 100 champ in 1999. WR Kareem Kelly, who owns the world junior record in the indoor 50, has clocked 10.28 in the 100 and anchored USC's sprint relay squad which finished fifth at this year's NCAA meet. CB Darrell Rideaux has gone 10.27 and ran leadoff on the 2002 sprint relay team. CB Marcell Allmond is a 13.54 high hurdler (he was a 2-time California state prep champ) and national Junior Olympic record-setting decathlete. TB Justin Fargas has run the 100 in 10.47. Fargas (1997), Rideaux (1998) and Kelly (1999) all won the California state high school 100.
***USC players are sporting a gold football-shaped decal reading 'Goux' on the back of their helmets this year. The decal is in memory of Marv Goux, the legendary USC assistant football coach (1957-82) and star Trojan player (1952, 54-55) who died this past July 27 at age 69.
***Two TrojansTE Gregg Guenther Jr. and S Sandy Fletcherhave played on the USC basketball team. Guenther saw action in 9 games (starting 3) as a center in 2002 and Fletcher played in 4 games as a point guard in 2000. And, as a youngster, LB Collin Ashton was a ballboy for several years for the USC men's basketball team.
***LB-DE Chris Prosser is allergic to grass, which causes his skin to get rashes when he plays football.
***OT Phillip Eaves spent part of 1997 in the Army at Fort Jackson, S.C.
***PK David Davis wants to be a firefighter and paramedic. In fact, while in junior college, he became certified as an emergency medical technician when he worked 2 years as a fire explorer at an Inglewood fire station and with a Los Angeles ambulance company.
***Four Trojans have Hollywood connections. As a youngster, USC S-CB John Walker was a television actor who appeared in such shows as 'E.R.' and '7th Heaven' (in fact, he didn't play football until his sophomore year of high school because a clause in his acting contract prevented him from doing anything that could affect his appearance). TB Justin Fargas is the son of actor Antonio Fargas, who has appeared in television (including as Huggy Bear on 'Starsky and Hutch') and film ('Shaft,' 'Pretty Baby,' 'The Gambler' and 'Car Wash,' among others). C Derek Graf's father, Allan, is a stuntman, stunt coordinator and second unit director who has been involved in many noted Hollywood films, 'On Any Given Sunday' and 'The Replacements.' USC linebackers coach Nick Holt is the grandson of Clarence 'Buster' Crabbe, USC's first All-American swimmer (1931) who was a 1931 NCAA freestyle titlist and 1932 Olympic gold medalist before starring in Hollywood as Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.
***Three Trojans have fathers who played on national championship USC football squads: C Derek Graf (father, Allan, was on the 1972 team), S Kyle Matthews (father, 1977 All-American Clay, was on the 1974 team) and LB Lofa Tatupu (father, Mosi, was on the 1974 team).
*** Several other Trojans have relatives with USC football connections. CB Kevin Arbet is the stepson of ex-Trojan (1980-82) Jeff Simmons. Two Trojans have cousins who played at USCWR Kareem Kelly (Rashard Cook, 1995-98) and TE-SNP Joe Boskovich (Martin Boskovich, 1993)and five have uncles who were Trojan footballers: S Troy Polamalu (Kennedy Pola, 1982-85, now USC's running backs coach and special teams coordinator), C Norm Katnik/OG Kurt Katnik (John Katnik, 1986-87) and OG-DT Fred Matua (Titus Tuiasosopo, 1990-92) and S Kyle Matthews (Bruce Matthews, 1980-82, 1982 All-American).
***Speaking of genes: CB Kevin Arbet's cousin, Lamarr Arbet, is a sophomore defensive lineman at San Jose State and his uncle, Darren Arbet, is the head coach of the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. DE Van Brown's brother, Chad, is an All-Pro linebacker who has played with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1993-96) and Seattle Seahawks (1997-2001) after starting 4 seasons at Colorado (1989-92). CB-WR William Buchanon is the son of ex-NFL star Willie Buchanon, a 1971 All-American cornerback at San Diego State who was a 3-time Pro Bowler during his 11-year (1972-82) NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers. QB Matt Cassel's older brother, Jack, is a pitcher in the San Diego Padres organization. WR Keary Colbert's cousin is ex-Arizona State DT Tommie Townsend (1999-2001). TB Hershel Dennis' father, Hershel Sr., played tailback at North Carolina A&T. LB Matt Grootegoed's brother, John, was an offensive guard at San Jose State in 1994 and 1995. WR D. Hale's brother, Damon Boddie, played tailback at Montana in the mid-1990s. TE Alex Holmes' father, Mike, lettered at defensive end at Michigan in 1974 and 1975. C Norm Katnik's and OG Kurt Katnik's father, Norman, was a 2-year starting center at Arizona (1978-79). FB David Kirtman's father, Louis, ran track at California and his uncle, Nate Kirtman, played football at Stanford in 1967. WR Grant Mattos' sister, Adrienne, was an All-American swimmer at California. OG-DT Fred Matua's uncle, Navy Tuiasosopo, played offensive line at Utah State and later with the Los Angeles Rams and a distant cousin, Manu Tuiasasosopo, was a 3-time All-Conference defensive lineman at UCLA (1976-78) who then played with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. TB Sultan McCullough's brother, Saladin, was a tailback at Oregon in 1996 and 1997 who has played in the XFL and NFL, while his late father, Bruce, ran track at San Jose State in the 1960s and his mother, Mabel, played basketball on the 1959 Arkansas high school championship team. WR Jason Mitchell's cousin, Christian Radley, is a junior coxswain on the USC women's rowing team. QB Carson Palmer's brother, Jordan, is a freshman quarterback at UTEP. S Troy Polamalu's brother, Kaio Aumua, played football at UTEP; an uncle, Al Pola, played football at Penn State; a cousin, Nicky Sualua, was a running back with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys who attended Ohio State, another cousin, Leie Sualua, was a defensive lineman at Oregon, and another cousin, Joe Polamalu, played for Oregon State in 1987 and 1988. DT Bernard Riley's father, Bernard Sr., was a starting offensive guard at Oregon in 1975. DE-DT A.J. Single's father, Doug, played at Stanford, then was the Cardinal's offensive line coach before serving as athletic director at Northwestern and SMU. DE Travis Tofi's cousin, Suaese 'Pooch' Taase, played football at Louisiana Tech. OG Travis Watkins' brother, Todd, is a redshirt freshman wide receiver on the Norfolk State football team, while his father, Don, was a lineman at Pasadena City College and his uncle, Tom Watkins, played 8 seasons in the NFL in the 1960s with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams. OT Kyle Williams' father, Scott, played college basketball, while an uncle, Eric Williams, was a defensive lineman with the Detroit Lions (1984-89) and Washington Redskins (1990-93, including on the 1991 Super Bowl champs) after earning 1983 All-Pac-10 first team honors in his 3 years (1981-83) at Washington State; his grandfather, Roy Williams, played for the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, another uncle played professional basketball in Europe, while his other grandfather played 3 sports at Lehigh in the 1960s. DB coach Greg Burns' brother, Dexter, was a defensive back at San Jose State in the mid-1990s. LB coach Nick Holt's wife, Julie, was the head women's basketball at Nevada Reno, Pacific, Gonzaga and Idaho (she currently is the head coach at Los Angeles Harbor Junior College). WR coach Lane Kiffin's father, Monte, is the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he is a longtime NFL and collegiate assistant coach who also served as North Carolina State's head coach in the early 1980s). OT/TE coach Keith Uperesa's brother, Kevin, played football at California in 1977 and 1978, while his nephew Dane, is a freshman offensive lineman at Hawaii. OFF/SPT coach Brennan Carroll is the son of USC head coach Pete Carroll.
***How about these names: FB Sunny Byrd. LB Frostee Rucker. Walk-on CB Forrest Mozart. DE Kenechi Udeze (he goes by BKU, as in Big Kenechi Udeze; he's 6-4 and 280). LB Lofa Tatupu. DE Travis Tofi. WR D. Hale (it's for Donald, but he goes by D.; he says only his mother calls him Donald).
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. Ten current USC players have relatives with NFL playing backgrounds: DE Van Brown (brother, Chad Brown), CB-WR William Buchanon (father, Willie Buchanon), 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), LB Lofa Tatupu (father, Mosi Tatupu), 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. Four 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 299 times, including 165 of the past 167 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).
PAC-10'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
The 2002 season marks the 25th year of the Pacific-10 Conference as Arizona and Arizona State joined the league prior to the 1978 football season. USC became a member in 1922 when the league was called the Pacific Coast Conference (it later was called the Athletic Association of Western Universities, the Pacific-8 Conference and now the Pac-10).
There are a number of updates from the roster in the 2002 USC football media guide:
***There are 3 new scholarship players (their complete bios are below): #58 Lofa Tatupu (LB, 5-11, 215, So./So., Plainville, MA, King Philip Regional HS/Maine), #90 Frostee Rucker (LB, 6-4, 240, Fr.*/So., Tustin, Tustin HS/Colorado State) and #98 Travis Tofi (DE, 6-4, 235, Fr./Fr., Aoa, American Samoa, Fagaitua HS).
***Eleven other players have joined the team as walk-ons: #5 Morgan Craig (QB, 6-2, 190, Fr./Fr., Newport Beach, Newport Harbor HS), #9 Chase McBride (S, 6-2, 195, Fr./Fr., Solana Beach, Santa Fe Christian HS), #13 Mike Brittingham (S, 6-1, 195, Fr./Fr., Santa Ana, Foothill HS), #17 Nick Vanderboom (QB, 6-4, 215, Fr./Fr., Medina, MN, Breck HS), #19 Matt Newhouse (LB, 6-4, 205, Fr./Fr., Diamond Bar, Diamond Bar HS), #27 John Zilka (WR, 6-4, 185, Fr./Fr., Lake Forest, IL, Lake Forest HS), #29 Matt Haugen (WR, 6-0, 290, Fr./Fr., Irvine, Mater Dei HS), #38 Kirk Shepherd (CB, 5-10, 160, Fr./Fr., Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula HS), #40 Greg Farr (S, 6-0, 195, Jr./Jr., Carlsbad, Carlsbad HS/Palomar JC), #60 Jonathan Lanza (OT, 6-3, 265, Fr./Fr., San Diego, Horizon HS) and #80 Steve Levario Jr. (WR 5-9, 170, So.*/Jr., West Covina, Wilson HS/Mt. San Antonio JC).
***Seven players have switched positions: William Buchanon is now at CB, Nate Steinbacher is at DT, Chris Prosser is at LB-DE, Doyal Butler is at DE-TE, John Walker is at S-CB, Dominique Byrd is at TE-DE and Lee Webb is at FB.
***Also, delete DE Austin Jackson, WR Frank Candela, CB Miguel Fletcher, CB Justin Tolliver and CB Marcus Johnson, who all quit the team, plus S Darnell Bing and DT Manuel Wright, who both did not qualify for admission.
BIOS OF NEW SCHOLARSHIP TROJANS
LOFA TATUPUH will have to sit out the 2002 season because of NCAA transfer rules...He started at linebacker as a first-year freshman in 2001 at Maine...He was second on the Black Bears in tackles with 67, including 13 for losses (with 3.5 sacks), tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3 (returned for a 16.7 average), and had 2 deflections, 1 forced fumble and 4 kickoff returns (for a 14.8 average)...He was named the team's Defensive Rookie of the Year...Maine went 9-3 in 2001, winning a share of the Atlantic 10 title and its first post-season game en route to advancing to the NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals...As a 2000 senior at King Philip Regional High in Wrentham, Mass., he recorded 110 tackles at linebacker and threw for 800 yards and 10 TDs as a quarterback while also rushing for 450 yards and 5 TDs...He was a 2000 All-State pick, as well as a 2-time (1999-2000) Sun Chronicle All-Star and All-League linebacker (earning All-League Defensive MVP honors as a senior)...King Philip Regional's head coach was his father, former USC fullback Mosi Tatupu (1974-77), who was a member of Troy's 1974 national championship team (he ran for 1,277 yards on 223 carries in his Trojan career and was USC's Offensive Player of the Year and Most Inspirational Player in 1977) and then played 14 years in the NFL with the New England Patriots (1978-90) and Los Angeles Rams (1991)....His name is pronounced 'LOW-fah ta-TOO-poo.'
FROSTEE RUCKERH will have to sit out the 2002 season because of NCAA transfer rules...He redshirted as a first-year freshman outside linebacker at Colorado State in 2001...He was named to the 2000 All-CIF Division VI first team (as a running back), Orange County Register All-Orange County second team (as a linebacker) and All-Golden West League MVP as a senior at Tustin (Calif.) High.
TRAVIS TOFIH was a 2-time (2000-01) All-Star (winning Defensive Line MVP in 2001) as a senior defensive end at Fagaitua (American Samoa) High...He had 49 tackles and 9 sacks in 2001...He also won a Samoa International Sports Award in 2001, which recognizes the achievements of Samoan athletes...His real first name is Tupula...His cousin, Suaese 'Pooch' Taase, played football at Louisiana Tech...Tofi's last name is pronounced 'TOE-fee.'
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.
SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE
Head coach Mike Price is in his 14th season at Washington State, whose only loss in 2002 was at Ohio State (25-7). Last week, the Cougars scored 29 third-quarter points in a 48-38 comeback victory at California. Senior QB Jason Gesser (92-of-148, 62.2%, 1,282 yds, 11 TD, 3 int in 2002), who is fourth on WSU's career passing (6,704 yards) and total offense (6,962 yards) charts, is 10th nationally in passing efficiency (155.4, fourth in Pac-10). He has helped the Cougars rank seventh nationally in passing yards (308.4, second in Pac-10) and 21st in total offense (429.8, third in Pac-10) while averaging 36.0 points a game. Top receivers include sophomore FL Devard Darling (28 rec, 13.7 avg, 6 TD in 2002, plus 5 KOR, 14.8 avg), the Florida State transfer, junior SB Scott Lunde (21 rec, 11.4 avg, 1 TD in 2002) and senior SE Mike Bush (19 rec, 17.4 avg, 2 TD in 2002), who also played basketball at WSU. Senior CB Marcus Truffant (25 tac, 1 int in 2002), who has 9 career interceptions, also excels as a punt returner. He is 18th nationally in punt returns (15.6, second in Pac-10). Junior FS Erik Coleman (39 tac, 1.5 for loss, 1 int, 1 FR, 3 dfl in 2002) tops the team in tackles.
OUT: CB Ronald Nunn (knee), CB Kevin Arbet (foot), WR D. Hale (ankle), OG-OT Joe McGuire (shoulder), DE-DT A.J. Single (shoulder), QB Nick Vanderboom (knee)DOUBTFUL: LB Aaron Graham (hip), TE Scott Huber (hip), LB-DE Chris Prosser (concussion), DE Daniel Urquhart (arm)QUESTIONABLE: WR Sandy Fletcher (ankle), TB Darryl Poston (back), WR Jason Mitchell (back)PROBABLE: OT Jacob Rogers (knee), S DeShaun Hill (stinger), WR Grant Mattos (abdomen)
6-5, 245, Junior
The verdict is in. Omar Nazel isn't all talk.
The junior defensive end from Oakland's Skyline High--a self-described big mouth--is known for having the gift of gab. He could be chatting on the phone, whooping it up with his teammates or singing along to his favorite music, but whatever the case, he always makes his presence known verbally.
'I've just been insane from day one,' said Nazel. 'I was always the class clown. I always wanted to speak out and say my piece. I always have something to say, regardless. It's just in my nature.'
This year, he's been making his presence known in a few more ways.
After three years as a reserve player, he is now the starting weakside end on one of the best defensive lines in the country. Coming into this season, he had just 15 career tackles. After four games in 2002, he already has 19 tackles, including four for losses, one sack, one interception and two deflections. His emergence has been a most pleasant suprise for the Trojans. Now, his football skills speak almost as loudly as he does. And speaking up is something he cherishes almost as much as making a sack.
'Someone has to speak up,' said Nazel. 'Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu are great players, but they are relatively quiet and lead by example. I'm like a PA announcer. My voice echoes up and down the hallway. If something needs to be said and you need everyone to hear it, then I'll say it. I don't have any problems with bearing the burden of saying something wrong. I can deal with it.'
Nazel is starting to back up his words. But that wasn't always the case at USC. It took him three years to go from a 215-pound end who could only pass rush to a 245-pound end who could shine in all facets of the game. Part of the reason for that delay was his own lack of discipline.
'During my freshman year, I didn't really know the effort that it took to be the quality of athlete that I wanted to be,' said Nazel. 'So I asked myself what I was doing wrong. I realized that I wasn't necessarily eating right or getting the proper sleep. I didn't have football prioritized in my head daily. And I wasn't hitting the weights as hard as I should have. I wasn't putting my all into football. But I changed all that and now I'm up to 245 and I feel really comfortable at this weight and I'm playing well. I think I can get up to 260 next year and still feel comfortable.'
Nazel wears No. 56, which is the number of legendary sack artist Lawrence Taylor, but he had another number in mind before he arrived at USC.
'USC gave me 56 and I was suprised at getting such a good number,' said Nazel. 'My nickname back in Oakland was '16' so I used to tell everyone that I was going to wear that number when I got to college.
'I got that nickname because back in ninth grade, when I was just a skinny kid out there playing football, I didn't have any cleats. One day, my coach asked me why that was. I said 'Coach, I can't find any cleats my size.' And he said 'I have cleats. What size do you wear?' And I said 'Size 16, coach.' He was like '16!' From then on, he would say '16! Get over here!' And the name just stuck with me.'
Nazel grew up in Oakland playing basketball. He didn't entertain the thought of playing football until, one day, his cousin dared him.
'We were entering the ninth grade and I just wanted to play basketball,' said Nazel. 'He said 'If you are such a great athlete, why don't you play football? You're scared, that's why.' So I said, 'Fine, I'll show you I can play football.'
'So I played in the ninth grade and was just horrible. But I got better as time went on and soon scholarship offers started to come in.'
One of the reasons Nazel chose USC out of all those offers was that he wanted to dispel some myths.
'There's a stereotype about Northern California athletes, about how they can't hang with Southern California athletes,' said Nazel. 'So that's one of the reasons I came to USC. I wanted to demolish that. I also wanted to be known in the whole state of Calfornia. Why would I want to go anywhere else?'
Nazel started out as a linebacker, but was quickly tabbed for the defensive line. It was a struggle early on for the gangly freshman.
Since then, Nazel has improved by leaps and bounds.
'I think I have good vision for where the ball is going,' said Nazel. 'Pass rushing is one of my strengths, though it hasn't shown much this year. I also am good at dropping in coverage. That is fun to me. It's the only part of linebacker that I miss. As far as my weaknesses, I need to get a lot quicker off the ball and I need to get a lot more physical.'
He's doing a fine job so far as part of a unit that is just starting to realize what it can accompish. Nazel is the only junior among the starters (the rest are sophomores), but he's quick to credit a couple of seniors and his position coach for how well things are going.
'We honestly have six defensive linemen that play on each down,' said Nazel. 'I'm not saying that there are six guys out there all the time, though. There's me, Mike Patterson, Shaun Cody and Kenechi Udeze, and we get most of the plays. But then there is Bernard Riley on the sideline and he is always telling Mike and Shaun what he's seeing and what they should be doing. And then there is Anthony Daye on the sidelines telling me and Kenechi what he sees and what we should be doing. A lot of times, Coach Orgeron doesn't even have to coach that hard because it's like we almost are coaching ourselves at times. Everything we need to know about the game we have learned from Coach Orgeron.'
Nazel's actions are now speaking as loudly as his voice, so keep your ears open.
You'll be hearing from him soon.
by Chris Huston
Assistant Sports Information Director