No. 1 Trojans Play For National Crown Vs. Michigan In 2004 Rose Bowl
Dec. 19, 2003
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USC (11-1 overall, 7-1 Pac-10 first place) vs. Michigan (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten first place), 90th Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, Jan. 1, 2 p.m. PST, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Top-ranked USC, which has won 8 national championships and appeared in an unprecedented 28 Rose Bowls, will go after its ninth national crown when it meets Big Ten champion Michigan in the 90th version of the 'Granddaddy of All Bowl Games.' It will be a battle of the winningest Rose Bowl team (USC) against the winningest college football team (Michigan). It has been 14 years since the teams have played and they most often face off in Pasadena. It's the 25th anniversary of USC's last national championship. USC has never lost a bowl game when it was ranked No. 1. Troy is looking for its first 12-win season since 1978. USC is riding an 8-game winning streak and has won 19 of its past 20 contests. Its last 16 wins have been by at least 17 points. National Coach of the Year Pete Carroll's well-rounded Trojan team is nationally ranked in just about every key team statistical category. With coordinator Norm Chow making the calls, Troy's offense has scored a Pac-10 record 506 points, including 40-plus points in the last 7 games (also a league mark). QB Matt Leinart and WR Mike Williamsa pair of record-setting All-American sophomores (they both finished in the Top 8 of the Heisman voting)key the offense. They get help from a veteran line that has allowed just 14 sacks (led by All-American OT Jacob Rogers), a stable of exciting young runners (TBs Hershel Dennis, LenDale White and Reggie Bush) that has made USC's rushing attack its most productive in a decade and the underrated play of steady WR Keary Colbert (he's on the verge of becoming USC's career pass catcher). The Trojan defense is stingy (second nationally against the rush) and thrives on takeaways (first in the country in turnover margin while forcing 41 turnovers and scoring 8 times). The defense features All-American DE Kenechi Udeze and his 'Wild Bunch II' line mates, along with lock-down CB Will Poole and Freshman All-American S Darnell Bing. P Tom Malone is USC's first-ever All-American punter (he averages almost 50 yards per boot), while PK Ryan Killeen set Trojan field goal and PAT season standards. Coach Lloyd Carr's Michigan squad, winner of its last 6 games, will be a more-than-challenging opponent. Carr's Wolverines usually fare well against Top 10 teams. Michigan is somewhat of a mirror image of USC, as it too is nationally ranked statistically on both sides of the ball. All-American RB Chris Perry, a Heisman finalist and the Doak Walker Award winner, joins UM record-holding QB John Navarre and dangerous WR Braylon Edwards to form a potent offensive trio. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines are in the nation's Top 10 in pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and total defense. The 91,159-seat Rose Bowl is sold out, but the game can be seen live nationally on ABC-TV.
USC is ranked first by AP and USA Today/ESPN. Michigan is ranked fourth in both polls.
The USC-Michigan series is knotted at 4-4. Six of those meetings were in the Rose Bowl, where USC holds a 4-2 edge (winning in the 1970, 1977, 1979 and 1990 Rose Bowls and losing in the 1948 and 1989 Rose Bowls). The other meetings occurred during the regular seasons of 1957 and 1958, with Michigan winning both. Most recently, the No.12 Trojans beat the No. 3 Wolverines in the 1990 Rose Bowl, 17-10, as USC TB Ricky Ervins scored the game-winning TD on a 12-yard run with 1:10 to play in Bo Schembechler's final game as Michigan coach.
USC VERSUS BIG TEN
USC is 62-27-2 against Big Ten competition, including 14-9 in bowl meetings. Troy has won 25 of its last 33 games (and 32 of its last 41) against Big Ten opponents. USC last faced a Big Ten foe in the 2003 Orange Bowl, when the No. 5 Trojans defeated No. 3 Iowa, 38-17. Michigan, on the other hand, is 44-19-1 against the Pac-10 (most recently losing at Oregon, 31-27, this season).
USC IN BOWLS
USC has a remarkable record in bowl games. The Trojans have the nation's sixth highest bowl winning percentage (.634) among the 62 schools that have made at least 10 bowl appearances (behind only Oklahoma State's .714, Oklahoma's .653, Penn State's .649, Georgia Tech's .645 and Purdue's .636). USC is just 3 wins behind Alabama for most bowl victories, 29 to 26. Troy's 41 bowl appearances rank fourth behind only Alabama (51), Tennessee (43) and Texas (42), and are tied with Nebraska. USC once won 9 consecutive bowl games (the 1923-30-32-33-39-40-44-45 Rose Bowls and 1924 Christmas Festival); only Florida State has won more in a row (11). The Trojans were a bowl participant each year they were eligible from 1972 to 1990. USC's overall post-season record is 26-15. Troy has appeared in an unprecedented 28 Rose Bowls, where it has a 20-8 mark. That's not only the most Rose Bowl wins of any team, but also the most wins by a school in a single bowl. USC has won 7 of its last 9 Rose Bowls. USC has also appeared in 11 other bowls--the Christmas Festival, Liberty Bowl, Bluebonnet Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Aloha Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, Sun (John Hancock) Bowl (twice), Freedom Bowl (twice), Cotton Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Orange Bowl.
MICHIGAN BOWL HISTORY
Michigan has appeared in 34 post-season bowls, sporting an 18-16 record (.529). The Wolverines are 8-9 in the Rose Bowl, last appearing in the 1998 game (a 21-16 win over Washington State). Michigan's Rose Bowl wins came in the 1902-48-51-65-81-89-93-98 games and the losses were in 1970-72-77-78-79-83-87-90-92.
NO. 1 RANKING
The last time USC was ranked No. 1 by AP was the middle of the 1981 season. The last time USC ended the regular season with a No. 1 AP ranking was in 1978, which happens to be the last time the Trojans won the national championship. This is the 48th time that USC has been ranked first in a weekly AP poll (seventh most of any school).
USC WHEN NO. 1
USC has a 35-4-2 (.878) record in games when ranked No. 1 by AP. The Trojans are 3-0 in bowls when ranked No. 1 (victories in the 1963, 1968 and 1973 Rose Bowls over Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State, respectively.) The only time a No. 1-ranked USC squad played a No. 4 team was in the 1968 Rose Bowl, when Troy beat Indiana, 14-3. On the other hand, Michigan is 3-14-1 against No. 1 teams (the wins and tie were all in Ann Arbor) and has lost its last 6 such games (most recently to Florida State in 1991). The Wolverines have faced only 1 top-ranked team in a bowl, falling to BYU in the 1984 Holiday Bowl.
USC has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for its past 18 games, its longest string since 34 in a row in 1978-80. The Trojans have been in the AP Top 5 in 12 of the last 16 polls.
USC'S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
USC is recognized for having won 8 national championships in football: 1928-31-32-62-67-72-74-78. In 6 other years (1929-33-39-76-79-2002), the Trojans were picked by some as No. 1, but not by enough selectors to claim a legitimate national crown. USC's last 7 recognized national titles came following a victory in the Rose Bowl. Michigan, by the way, claims 11 football national championships (1901-02-03-04-18-23-32-33-47-48-97).
The Trojans have captured their last 15 home games (with 2 shutouts). That's USC's longest Coliseum win streak since getting 19 in a row during the 1931 through 1933 campaigns. Besides that Pac-10 leading 15-game home winning streak, USC also has the longest current Pac-10 win streaks for overall games (8), Pac-10 games (7) and road games (4).
USC has back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time since 1978 and 1979. This is USC's first 11-win regular season since 1978. At 11-1, USC has its best record since 1979 (when it was 11-0-1). A win over Michigan would give USC its first 12-win season since its 1978 national championship team went 12-1.
After sharing the Pac-10 championship in 2002, USC won the 2003 Pac-10 title outright (its first outright crown since 1989). This is the first time that USC won back-to-back Pac-10 titles since 1988 and 1989 (the Trojans also won it in 1987). USC has now won the league title 33 times.
USC GAMES IN ROSE BOWL STADIUM
USC is 26-16 in regular and post-season games it has played in the Rose Bowl, including 20-8 in the Rose Bowl game, 4-7 versus UCLA and 2-1 in the 1922 regular season.
USC ON NEW YEAR'S DAY
USC sports a 20-9 record in games it has played on New Year's Day, including an 18-6 mark in Jan. 1 Rose Bowls.
USC is 59-40-11 (.586) in all season finales.
COMMON 2003 OPPONENT
USC and Michigan both faced Notre Dame in 2003, with USC winning 45-14 in South Bend and Michigan posting a 38-0 victory in Ann Arbor.
Both USC and Michigan rank among the winningest teams in Division I history. Michigan's .746 winning percentage and 833 victories are No. 1, while USC's .693 winning mark is ninth best and its 706 wins are 10th.
TROJANS IN ROSE BOWL
QB Brandon Hance is the only current Trojan player who been on a Rose Bowl team, but he did so as a member of Purdue's 2000 squad (he didn't play in the game). USC head coach Pete Carroll was Ohio State's secondary coach when the Buckeyes lost to USC in the 1980 Rose Bowl. USC offensive line coach Tim Davis was an assistant at Wisconsin when the Badgers played in the 1999 and 2000 Rose Bowls. USC running backs coach Kennedy Pola played in USC's 1985 Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State and was a graduate assistant coach at UCLA when the Bruins were in the 1994 Rose Bowl. Numerous Trojan players have relatives who played in the Rose Bowl for USC: S Kyle Matthews (father Clay Matthews), QB Michael McDonald (father Paul McDonald), LB Lofa Tatupu (father Mosi Tatupu), CB Justin Tolliver (father Kevin Williams), FB Morgan Craig (grandfather Grenny Lansdell), and C Norm Katnik and TE-C Kurt Katnik (uncle John Katnik). And TB Sean Kelly's great grandfather, Arnold Horween, kicked the winning PAT in Harvard's 7-6 victory over Oregon in the 1920 Rose Bowl to help the Crimson to the last of its 7 national championships (also a fullback, Arnold played alongside his brother, RB Ralph Horween).
USC does not have any players from Michigan, but the Wolverines have 9 California natives...USC walk-on P Tommy Huff was on Michigan's team in 1999 before transferring to Troy...USC TE Alex Holmes' father, Mike, lettered at defensive end at Michigan in 1974 and 1975...USC QB Brandon Hance hit 16-of-33 passes for 198 yards and a TD versus Michigan in 2001 while playing at Purdue...USC WR Keary Colbert's girlfriend is Sierra Hauser-Price, who is on Michigan's women's basketball and track teams...USC DE Van Brown attended Lansing (Mich.) Community College in 1991, but he did not play football there...Longtime Trojan Marching Band director Dr. Art Bartner is a graduate of Michigan, earning bachelor's (1962), master's (1963) and doctoral (1971) degrees; he also played the trumpet for the Michigan marching, symphonic, varsity and jazz bands...Michigan associate athletic director Megan McCallister lettered in women's volleyball at USC from 1987 to 1990...Michigan assistant women's water polo coach Jennifer Durley is a former USC player (1998-2001) and assistant (2002-03)...Michigan assistant men's track coach Fred LaPlante was the head coach of the USC women's team from 1984 to 1988.
25th ANNIVERSARY OF LAST NATIONAL TITLE
The 2003 season marks the 25th anniversary of USC's last national football championship. The 1978 Trojans, coached by John Robinson and led by such players as TB Charles White, QB Paul McDonald, OT Pat Howell, OG Brad Budde, OT Anthony Munoz, S Ronnie Lott, S Dennis Smith and LB Riki Gray, went 12-1 and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Troy took the top spot in the UPI (coaches) poll, but finished second in the AP (writers) poll to Alabama despite beating the Crimson Tide earlier in the season. It was USC's eighth national championship.
There are some amazing similarities between USC's national championship 1978 team (which went 12-1 and defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl) and the 2003 Trojans. The 1978 squad also had a left-handed quarterback who led the Pac-10 in passing (Paul McDonald), a receiver named Williams who set a USC record for touchdowns in a season (Kevin Williams), a tailback named White who led the team in rushing (Charles White), a No. 77 at left tackle who made All-Pac-10 first team (Anthony Munoz) and a third-year head coach (John Robinson). In 1978, USC swept UCLA and Notre Dame, played Hawaii, stumbled early to a Pac-10 foe (Arizona State) only to close out the season with 8 straight wins and went to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan (where it won, to earn a share of the national title) while the other national crown went to an SEC team (Alabama) that won its share after winning the Sugar Bowl...and an Oklahoma player (Billy Sims) won the Heisman.
1969 D?J? VU?
There are also some interesting similarities between the 1969 USC team (which went 10-0-1 and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl) and the 2003 Trojans. Entering 1969, Troy lost a Heisman Trophy winner who was the first pick in the NFL draft (O.J. Simpson), had a new quarterback with no experience (Jimmy Jones), debuted a new tailback (Clarence Davis), featured a top incoming recruiting class (the 1972 seniors, who ended up helping USC to the national title), had a great defensive line (Wild Bunch I), had an offensive line featuring a returning all-conference tackle who was an All-American candidate and wore No. 77 (Sid Smith), faced a tough non-conference foe in its opener (Nebraska)...and the year prior saw Ohio State win the national title. The 2003 Trojans entered this season having lost a Heisman winner who was the NFL's first draft pick (Carson Palmer), had a new quarterback with no experience (Matt Leinart), debuted a new tailback (Hershel Dennis), had a top incoming recruiting class (ranked No. 1 by some), have a great defensive line (Wild Bunch II), have an offensive line featuring a returning All-Pac-10 tackle who is an All-American candidate and wears No. 77 (Jacob Rogers), met a challenging non-conference opponent in its opener (Auburn)...and saw Ohio State win last year's national title.
Five Trojans were named All-American first teamers in 2003: DE Kenechi Udeze (AP, Football Writers, The Sporting News, ESPN.com, SI.com, Collegefootballnews.com, Rivals.com), WR Mike Williams (AP, Football Writers, Walter Camp, ESPN.com, SI.com, Collegefootballnews.com, Rivals.com), OT Jacob Rogers (AP, Football Writers, Football Coaches, Walter Camp, SI.com, Collegefootballnews.com), P Tom Malone (ESPN.com, SI.com, Collegefootballnews.com) and QB Matt Leinart (Collegefootballnews.com). That is USC's most All-American first teamers since 1988 (when it also had 5) and brings Troy's total to 129. Udeze, Williams and Rogers were consensus picks (USC now has 44 consensus All-Americans in its history). Additionally, S Darnell Bing was a Freshman All-American first team selection (The Sporting News, Collegefootballnews.com, Rivals.com).
Nine Trojan football players, the most from any school since 1989, were selected to the 2003 All-Pac-10 first team. QB Matt Leinart was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year (only the second sophomore to win that honor, along with Stanford's John Elway in 1980) and Pete Carroll was named Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year along with Washington State's Bill Doba (USC's first coaching honoree since Larry Smith in 1988). Besides Leinart, USC's first teamers were WR Mike Williams, OT Jacob Rogers, C Norm Katnik, DE Kenechi Udeze, DTs Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, CB Will Poole and P Tom Malone. In 1989, USC had 12 first team picks. Rogers, one of only four players to be a unanimous selection this year, made the first team for the second consecutive year. Rogers also won the league's Morris Trophy as the top offensive lineman (as selected by the Pac-10's starting defensive linemen). USC's three defensive line picks were the most from any school since Washington State also had three in 1994. WR Keary Colbert and LB Matt Grootegoed made the All-Pac-10 second team. USC had eight honorable mention selectees: Ss Darnell Bing and Jason Leach, TBs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, OT Winston Justice, PK Ryan Killeen, and LBs Melvin Simmons and Lofa Tatupu.
Ten starters (or projected starters) have missed at least a game in 2003 because of injury: TE Alex Holmes (all 12), LB Oscar Lua (12), CB Kevin Arbet (10), TE Dominique Byrd (6), FB Brandon Hancock (5), LB Matt Grootegoed (3), DE Omar Nazel (3), LB Lofa Tatupu (1), LB Melvin Simmons (1) and OG John Drake (1). And 2002 starting OT-OG Eric Torres was slowed returning from an Orange Bowl injury and has only played as a reserve this season. Holmes, Lua, Arbet, Byrd, Nazel and Drake are out for the year.
Former USC head football coach John Robinson (1976-82, 1993-97), who led USC to a 4-0 Rose Bowl record and coached Troy to its last national championship (1978), will be inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in a noon luncheon at the stadium on Dec. 31.
LOOKING TO 2004
On USC's current 48-man 2-deep (including the punter and kicker), 36 players (16 offense, 17 defense, 3 specialists) are non-seniors, including 17 starters (7 offense, 8 defense, 2 kickers). And that does not include 5 usual underclass starters who are injured.
QB Matt Leinart threw a school record-tying 5 touchdowns--including 2 each to WR Mike Williams and TB Reggie Bush--and CB Will Poole returned 1 of his 2 interceptions for a TD as No. 2 USC staked its claim for a possible berth into the BCS' national championship game in the Sugar Bowl with an overwhelming 52-28 win over Oregon State before 73,864 fans in the Coliseum and an ABC-TV national audience. The victory gave USC the outright Pac-10 title. After Oregon State scored on the game's opening series (a 1-yard run by TB Steven Jackson which followed a 90-yard pass from QB Derek Anderson to FL Mike Hass), USC scored 28 unanswered points. First, Troy responded to the Beavers' score as Leinart hit Williams on a 14-yard TD pass. Then, 1 play after LB Melvin Simmons recovered a fumble on OSU's next play from scrimmage, Leinart hit TB Reggie Bush for a 30-yard TD. Late in the second quarter, Poole intercepted his second pass, this time racing 67 yards for a score. After LB Dallas Sartz blocked a Beaver punt, Leinart and Williams hooked up again, this time with Williams making a spectacular one-handed grab for a 9-yard TD late in the half. But OSU responded quickly as Anderson hit TE Tim Euhus with a 22-yard scoring pass with 6 seconds left in the half to cut USC's lead to 28-14. The Trojans scored on their first possession of the second half, as Bush took Leinart's swing pass 3 yards into the end zone. On USC's next possession, Beaver CB Brandon Browner intercepted a Leinart toss and returned it 31 yards for a TD. But 3 plays later, WR Steve Smith took a Leinart slant pass 73 yards for a score (USC's longest offensive play of 2003). LB Lofa Tatupu then intercepted Anderson twice to set up Trojan scores, first on OSU's next series to lead to to a 1-yard TD run by LenDale White late in the third quarter and then midway through the final quarter to position PK Ryan Killeen for a 29-yard field goal to put USC up, 52-21. Anderson found SE James Newson for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:31 to play. Leinart, who was 22-of-38 for 278 yards, set Pac-10 season records for touchdown passes (35) and consecutive passes without an interception (212 before being picked off late in the first quarter). Williams, who caught 7 passes for 59 yards, established the USC season TD reception mark (16). He also blocked a field goal and had a crushing blindsided block to help spring Bush on a 32-yard run. Smith had 5 catches for 136 yards. Bush had 173 all-purpose yards: he ran for 71 yards on 6 carries, caught 3 passes for 48 yards and returned 2 kickoff for 54 yards. Killeen set a Pac-10 season record for PATs (61) and tied USC's season field goal mark (19). P Tom Malone averaged 54.0 yards on 3 punts. Tatupu had a game-high 14 tackles with his 2 interceptions, Poole had 11 tackles (2.5 for losses)--including 9 stops in the first half--to go with his 2 thefts and Sartz had 10 tackles (with a sack). USC blocked 3 kicks (DT Shaun Cody blocked a field goal in addition to Sartz's blocked punt and Williams' blocked field goal). Oregon State had the statistical edge, getting more first downs (26-17), total yards (543-388), plays (93-64) and possession time (35:25-24:35). OSU's 485 passing yards was the second most ever against USC (behind only Notre Dame's 526 in 1970). It also was the most total yards allowed by USC since Arizona had 550 in 1999 and the most plays against USC since Stanford had 96 in 2000. Anderson hit on 34-of-60 passes for 485 yards (the second most passing yards against USC behind the 526 of Notre Dame's Joe Theismann in 1970), but he threw 4 picks. Newson caught a game-best 10 passes for 104 yards, Hass had 8 grabs for 208 yards and Euhus had 7 for 97. USC limited Jackson, who was 10th nationally in rushing (a Pac-10 leading 121.3), to just 62 yards on 22 carries. USC set a Pac-10 season average home attendance record of 77,804. It was USC's latest regular season game (Dec. 6) since 1980.
It has taken energetic and charismatic USC head football coach Pete Carroll only 3 years to restore the glory of the Trojan football program and return Troy to national prominence. He is 28-9 (75.7%) as a college head coach (all at USC). His losses were by a total of 42 points (4.7 average) and only 1 was by more than a touchdown (it was by 11 points). After starting off his Trojan career 2-5, he has gone 26-4 (86.7%). He is 10-0 in November. His teams already have posted 4 shutouts. He also serves as USC's defensive coordinator. The 2003 season--his third at Troy--has been one of the best in USC history. The Trojans enter the Rose Bowl ranked No. 1 in both polls (USC's first No. 1 ranking since the middle of 1981 and its first going into a bowl since 1972). USC is 11-1 overall (the only loss was by 3 points at California in triple overtime) and, at 7-1 in the Pac-10, Troy won its second consecutive league title for the first time since 1988-89 (and its first outright crown since 1989). His Trojans have won their last 8 games (and 19 of the last 20) and posted back-to-back seasons of double digit wins for the first time since 1978 and 1979. For just the second time in history (the other time also was 1978 and 1979), USC swept traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame in consecutive years. His 2003 squad features a potent offense, a stingy defense and productive special teams. USC, which has scored at least 20 points in its last 25 games and 30 in its last 11 contests (both school records), have tallied at least 40 points in the past 7 games (the first time any Pac-10 school has done that). USC's 506 points is a Pac-10 record. The defense leads the nation in turnover margin, has forced 41 turnovers and has scored 8 touchdowns. USC is allowing just 61.1 yards rushing per game, second best in the country. And the Trojans top the nation in net punting. Five Trojans--wide receiver Mike Williams, offensive tackle Jacob Rogers, defensive end Kenechi Udeze, punter Tom Malone and quarterback Matt Leinart--were first team All-Americans (Williams and Leinart finished sixth and eighth, respectively, in the Heisman Trophy voting). For all this, Carroll was named the 2003 Home Depot National Coach of the Year, Maxwell Club College Coach of the Year, ESPN.com National Coach of the Year and Pigskin Club of Washington D.C. Coach of the Year. He also was the Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year (USC's first honoree since Larry Smith in 1988), a finalist for Paul 'Bear' Bryant Coach of the Year, 1 of 6 semifinalists for Eddie Robinson/Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year and American Football Coaches Association Division I-A Region 5 Coach of the Year. In 2002, just his second season at USC, his Trojans thrived despite playing what was ranked by the NCAA, Sagarin and the BCS as the nation's most difficult schedule (facing 9 AP-ranked teams and 11 bowl squads). USC--which beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl--posted an 11-2 overall record and a No. 4 ranking in the final polls, and won the Pac-10 championship while going 7-1. The Trojans also won their last 9 home games. It was USC's first 11-win season since 1979 and its highest ranking since 1988. Troy won its final 8 games (scoring at least 30 points in each), including blowouts of traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame (the first time USC beat both in the same season since 1981 and the first time in back-to-back games since 1978). USC led the Pac-10 in total offense (449.3) and total defense (284.9), as well as scoring offense (35.8) and scoring defense (18.5), and was in the NCAA's Top 25 in nearly every team statistical category on both sides of the ball. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Carson Palmer and safety Troy Polamalu were first team All-Americans. Carroll was 1 of 8 finalists for the 2002 Paul 'Bear' Bryant Coach of the Year Award and was 1 of 4 runners-up for the 2002 American Football Monthly Schutt Sports Division I-A Coach of the Year Award. 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 USC 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 52-year-old Carroll has 29 years of NFL and college experience, including 13 on the college level. 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 as a graduate assistant working with the secondary at Arkansas (1977) under Lou Holtz as the Razorbacks won the 1978 Orange Bowl, and then a season each as an assistant in charge of the secondary 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, 24, who played tight end at Pittsburgh (he previously played at Delaware) and is now an assistant at USC, and Nathan, 16, and daughter Jaime, 21, a senior 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.
USC's No. 1 concern in 2003 was finding a replacement for quarterback Carson Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner whose Pac-10 record 11,818 career passing yards and 11,621 yards of total offense were among the 33 Pac-10 and USC marks he set. The All-American first teamer completed 63.2% of his passes (309-of-489) in 2002 for 3,942 yards, 33 TDs and just 10 interceptions. Four players got a shot at the job in 2003 spring practice and the competition remained nearly even throughout the spring, but left-handed sophomore Matt Leinart (232-of-368, 63.0%, 3,229 yds, 35 TD, 9 int in 2003) emerged with an ever-so-slight edge--despite never having thrown a pass at USC while seeing brief action in 3 games in 2002--and he extended his hold on the job in this fall's practice (in Troy's 3 fall intrasquad scrimmages, he was 43-of-57, 75.4%, for 608 yards, 6 TDs and no interceptions). His performance this season has been outstanding. In fact, there appears to be little--if any--dropoff from last season's passing production.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Matt Leinart
Tony Mejia, CBS Sportsline.com: 'USC has positioned itself for a run at a national championship, and that is in no small part due to the job Leinart has done replacing Carson Palmer.'
Collegefootballnews.com: 'Five touchdown passes against Oregon State proved once and for all that Leinart deserves to be recognized as the top quarterback in college football this year. He was supposed to be the question mark coming into the season, and he came through with more than flying colors even playing better in some ways than Carson Palmer did last season.'
Stewart Mandel, SI.com: 'Has anyone else noticed how USC quarterback Matt Leinart has caught fire at about the same point in the season that Carson Palmer did last year?...If Leinart continues this level of play, the Trojans could be on their way back to the BCS. The scary thing is, unlike Palmer, who by the time he fully grasped Norm Chow's offense was off to the NFL, Leinart has two years left after this one.'
Backing him was heralded freshman John David Booty (7-of-14, 50.0%, 90 yds in 2003), believed to be the first football player to graduate a full year early from high school and enroll at a major Division I-A university. Booty rose to the No. 2 role by mid-season, but he's now sidelined with a broken wrist. So, moving up to the backup role now is junior Brandon Hance (4-of-9, 44.4%, 44 yds in 2003), who sat out last season after transferring from Purdue (he started 9 games there in 2001) and saw limited reps in 2002 practice after having surgery on his throwing shoulder. Also available is sophomore Billy Hart, whose only action was briefly in 2002 but he didn't throw a pass (he also plays on the Trojan baseball team). Then there's walk-on freshman Michael McDonald, the son of ex-USC All-American Paul McDonald.
Last year, USC relied on 3 effective senior tailbacks to carry the load: Justin Fargas (who started 5 late-season games and rushed for 715 yards and 7 TDs), Sultan McCullough (a 5-game starter who led the Trojans with 814 yards and 8 TDs, and finished eighth on the school's career rushing list with 2,800 yards) and Malaefou MacKenzie (a 3-game starter at tailback and 7-game starter at fullback who ran for 939 yards and caught 76 passes in his career). In 2003, the only experienced tailback entering the season was promising sophomore Hershel Dennis (130 tcb, 644 yds, 5.0 avg, 4 TD in 2003, plus 10 rec, 62 yds, 6.2 avg, 1 TD). He was USC's No. 3-leading rusher (198 yards) and its top kickoff returner (151 yards) in 2002. Joining him this fall as freshmen was a terrific trio of prep All-Americans in LenDale White (133 tcb, team-high 728 yds, 5.5 avg, 13 TD in 2003, plus 4 rec, 11 yds, 2.8 avg and 2 tac), who emerged by midseason as USC's top runner, plus Reggie Bush (82 tcb, 480 yds, 5.9 avg, 3 TD in 2003, plus 13 rec, 272 yds, 20.9 yds, 4 TD and team-best 16 KOR, 447 yds, 27.9 avg, 1 TD and 1 FR) and Chauncey Washington (19 tcb, 65 yds, 3.4 avg in 2003, plus 1 rec, 6 yds, 6.0 avg and 3 tac) and, plus frosh Jody Adewale. White has a trio of 100-yard games in 2003, 1 shy of tying Charles White's 4 in 1976, his 728 rushing yards are the second most ever by a USC freshman (behind Charles White's school frosh record of 858 in 1976), his 13 rushing TDs is a USC freshman record (breaking Charles White's mark of 10) and he is just 1 TD shy of the USC freshman TD mark (14 by Mike Williams in 2002). Bush--nicknamed 'The President'--has had 22 plays of 20-plus yards in 2003 out of 101 touches (rushes of 23, 27, 58, 20, 32 and 24 yards, receptions of 28, 37, 38, 27 and 30 yards, and kickoff returns of 23, 25, 30, 34, 35, 35, 20, 58, 96, 30 and 24 yards). He currently is 11th nationally in kickoff returns (27.9, second in Pac-10). Dennis and Bush--who both made the 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention squad--are speedy, darting runners, while White and Washington are known as the 'The Bruise Brothers.' Combined in 2003, USC's 4 young tailbacks who have seen action--Dennis, White, Bush and Washington--have 1,887 rushing yards (157.3 per game) and 20 rushing TDs (plus 4 receiving TDs and 1 kickoff return TD). Dennis, White and Bush each are averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry. The last time USC had 3 runners with more than 400 rushing yards in a season was 1991. White was named to the 2003 Collegefootballnews.com Freshman All-American second team, while White made Collegefootballnews.com Freshman All-American honorable mention. Both were named to the 2003 Rivals.com Freshman All-American honorable mention squad. Also available are 3 walk-ons: sophomore converted safety Andre Woodert (3 tcb, 19 yds, 6.3 avg in 2003) and freshmen John Griffin and Sean Kelly.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Reggie Bush
Steve Kelley, Seattle Times: 'Bush is one-of-a-kind. A freshman so good, so versatile, USC's coaching staff is just beginning to see all the ways he can be used. When he touches the ball, defensive coordinators hold their breath. Every play called for him can be a game-breaker. Every touch can be something you'll never forget...Bush zig-zags through defenses as if he has a sixth sense for the location of the next sliver of daylight. He cuts as sharply as a Ferrari in a chicane. He shimmies like a dancer in a music video. A football field is 53 yards wide, and there are plays where Reggie Bush seems to use every inch from sideline to sideline...'The President' is carving exquisite, artful-dodger runs through desperately grasping and gasping defenses. Re-awakening the echoes of all the great Trojans tailbacks who preceded him. Hail to the Chief.'
Dennis Dodd, CBS Sportsline.com: 'They call him 'The President.' They might soon be calling him The King...He is that rare back with the speed and strength to run through the line and the ability to make defenders miss in space when he goes out for a pass...The only reasons he won't get Heisman consideration is he is too young for voters and still has to share time with a deep stable of backs. He is a symbol for what USC was, is and will be.'
Randy Youngman, Orange County Register: 'Even if he got to carry or catch the ball on every down, I would never get tired of watching Reggie Bush, USC's electrifying freshman running back. Bush has so many open-field moves, he's more elusive than 'The Fugitive.' Now you see him, now you don't...touchdown, Trojans!'
Arash Markazi, Daily Trojan: 'Reggie Bush looks like a creation from a video game--an almost unreal character created by a kid who finds all the secret codes to make his player faster, quicker and better than everyone else on the field...He always makes the impossible seem possible. The scary thing for USC's opponents is that this creation isn't imaginary. He's not from a video game. He's a living, breathing human joystick who terrorizes defenses with his blinding speed and ankle-breaking shimmies...His speed borders on blinding and his knack for eluding defenders borders on ridiculous.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT LenDale White
Todd Harmonson, Orange County Register: 'It's too early to anoint White as the next great tailback at USC...but his quiet confidence and thunderous running style are enough to inspire Trojan imaginations. Fans with decent memories compare him to Ricky Bell. Offensive linemen who must make their blocks or risk having him run into their backs point to Justin Fargas.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT WHITE AND BUSH
Luke Winn, SI.com: 'This duo--along with Hershel Dennis--is liable to become for the Trojans what Carnell Williams et al couldn't be at Auburn: the best backfield in the nation. Bush has unlimited potential and a better shot of emerging as a Heisman back. White is the more physical runner and is putting up big numbers. 'Tailback U' will once again be apropos in L.A.'
With Malaefou MacKenzie gone, a new fullback had to emerge. Sophomore Brandon Hancock (1 tcb, -2 yds, -2.0 avg in 2003, plus 11 rec, 152 yds, 13.8 avg, 2 TD and 1 tac), who started twice last fall, was slated to be the starter, but an ankle sprain in fall camp slowed him in USC's first 3 games of 2003 and again late in the year. So junior Lee Webb (4 tcb, 0 yd, 0.0 avg in 2003, plus 9 tac, 1 FF), who also has played linebacker at USC, assumed the starting job until Hancock returned to the starting lineup in the fifth game. Sophomore David Kirtman (5 tcb, 23 yds, 11.5 avg in 2003, plus 4 rec, 20 yds, 5.0 avg) sees action as a backup. Walk-on redshirt freshmen Mike Brittingham, a converted safety, and Morgan Craig, a one-time quarterback, also are in the mix.
COLBERT AND WILLIAMS
Even though USC career reception leader Kareem Kelly--he had 204 catches, including 46 last fall, and set an NCAA record by catching a pass in 47 consecutive games--was gone, the Trojans were in good shape in the wide receivers corps as a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (a first at Troy) returned. Both are playmakers who form the top receiving duo in the country. Underrated, yet consistent, senior Keary Colbert (63 rec, 864 yds, 13.7 avg, 7 TD in 2002, plus 3 tcb, 29 yds, 9.7 avg and 1 tac) starts for his fourth season after getting 71 catches for 1,029 yards in 2002.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Mike Williams
Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register: 'In less than a season and a half, Williams has established himself as the finest all-around receiver USC has put on a football field. He is faster than Keyshawn Johnson, bigger and stronger than Lynn Swann and a more complete package than Hal Bedsole...It was Willliams' presence as a go-to receiver that had much to do with teammate Carson Palmer running away with the Heisman last year...Williams was Palmer's 6-5 security blanket. And if you don't believe it, ask Carson. He'll tell you. This season, Williams is serving in the same role for Matt Leinart...Nobody since Bedsole, who was a jumbo-sized, All-American receiver on John McKay's first national championship team in 1962, has broken more tackles after catching the ball than Williams. This is the best football player on a team with justified BCS aspirations. And no, you can't call him just another one of those Williams guys anymore. As of now, he is the only one left who is a serious Heisman candidate.'
Mike Ventre, MSNBC.com: 'Williams' numbers are sick, twisted and perverse--if you're looking at it from the opponents' perspective. From a USC standpoint, they are wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary...And these days there are more defenders around him than there are bodyguards around Kobe Bryant...Some longtime USC observers think Williams may be the best wide receiver ever at the school, because of his unique amalgam of gifts. He is big, fast, smart, sure-handed, runs exact routes and is intensely competitive. Perhaps his value can best be up with one play that the Trojans run regularly, in which the quarterback drops back, fires a line drive laterally to Williams at his wide receiver spot, and Williams proceeds to deke, dodge, fake, fool, squeeze by and knock over anyone in his path. Unlike others at his position, Williams can turn nothing into something with the consistency of a power running back.'
Jim Rhode, Los Angeles Times: 'Mike Williams is college football's best receiver...Williams does it all. He catches balls long, short and in between, working the sideline and over the middle as well. He hauls in seemingly unreachable passes like Go-Go Gadget, drags defenders around like Ben-Hur, serves as a defender magnet so others such as Keary Colbert can steal away against single coverage and provides a security blanket for Leinart.'
R.J. Oliver, Arizona State cornerback: 'Not only would I pick Mike Williams over anyone else now, but I think he's the best wide receiver in college football in a long time.'
California defensive coordinator Bob Gregory: 'He causes huge, major problems...It's not like you can just tell a corner to go and cover him. Because of how big he is, you can't do much on him one-on-one. And if you put another guy on him, your run defense suffers because you take a guy out of the box.'
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Kent Baer: 'He's got deceptive speed. He's a long-strider and you don't realize he's faster than most receivers...The only thing that jumps out how to defend him is to try to keep two guys on him. But is there anything physically we can do? Not really.'
Kyle Veltrop, The Sporting News: 'Someone his size shouldn't have that burst, which is why he is like Terrell Owens.'
Keary Colbert, USC wide receiver: 'He's so big, a lot of people don't realize how much quickness he has. He is big, but he also has the ability to separate from the defense on his routes...People just think that because he's big, he's going to muscle. But he does things a little guy does.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Keary Colbert
Richard Cirminiello, Collegefootballnews.com: 'Mike Williams gets so much well-earned pub that it's made fellow wideout Keary Colbert the most underrated receiver in college football...Think Detroit Lions circa 1996. He's a lot like former Trojan Johnnie Morton was to Herman Moore.'
Mike Williams, USC wide receiver: 'He's really fast and he catches the ball better than anybody I've ever seen at this level. When you have a fast guy who can catch the ball and run really good routes and he works hard, that's pretty much the recipe for a good receiver...He doesn't get the credit or recognition he deserves. But he doesn't care. He just goes out and plays ball. He's such a good example and such an impact guy with the things he does off the field. He's not a big rah-rah guy. He's not a big talker. But he carries himself well.'
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT WILLIAMS AND COLBERT
Bill Doba, Washington State head coach: 'Williams is as good as they come in the country, but you can't forget Colbert. If you do, you'll be in trouble.'
Ken Goe, Portland Oregonian: 'Mike Williams casts such a long shadow, it's easy to forget about Keary Colbert, who unobtrusively works the other side of the field. Easy, but deadly, because Colbert can destroy a defense, too. In a conference full of superlative receiving tandems, the Williams and Colbert duo is the best. Williams already is a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare, imposingly tall, with hands the NFL covets. Double-cover the flashy Williams and the secondary opens wide for Colbert. Double-cover both, and the Trojans' running game springs free...Pick the poison.'
Todd Harmonson, Orange County Register: 'USC's dynamic duo simply makes the most of its opportunities in one of the most balanced offenses in the nation, exploiting the weaknesses of opposing defenses with size and strength to be sure, but also with impressive skill. Williams is the one who has captured the college football world's imagination, because 6-foot-5 players aren't supposed to be able to do the things he does, and sophomores certainly shouldn't dominate the way he has...As much as Colbert often is relegated to the role of the trusty sidekick, he actually is every bit the co-star. No one seems to notice him until he is in the end zone, again.'
OTHER WIDE RECEIVERS
Dependable backup receivers have emerged behind Keary Colbert and Mike Williams (even though no other wide receiver on the roster caught a ball last year). The cast includes such veterans as seniors Sandy Fletcher (2 tac in 2003) and D. Hale, a walk-on-turned-scholarship winner who has started once in his career (an ankle injury has sidelined him most of this year), junior Jason Mitchell (2 rec, 27 yds, 13.5 avg in 2003, plus 2 KOR, 24 yds, 12.0 avg), sophomores Greig Carlson (team-best 21 PR, 188 yds, 9.0 avg in 2003) and William Buchanon (3 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int in 2003), who came to USC as a receiver before moving to cornerback in 2002 (he switched back to receiver by this mid-season, but is bothered currently by a back injury), and sure-handed redshirt freshman Chris McFoy (2 rec, 23 yds, 12.5 avg in 2003). Carlson, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this spring, was USC's top punt returner in 2002 (177 yards). Buchanon was out late this season with a back injury. Two walk-ons also figure in junior Steve Levario Jr. and redshirt freshman John Zilka. Adding to all of this, one of the nation's most highly sought-after high school pass catchers enrolled at USC this fall as a freshman and has made an impact: prep All-American Steve Smith (16 rec, 310 yds, 19.4 avg, 2 TD in 2003, plus 1 tcb, 8 yds, 8.0 avg). Prep All-American Whitney Lewis (3 tcb, 11 yds, 3.7 avg in 2003, plus 3 rec, 27 yds, 9.0 avg) came to USC as a wide receiver, but he has also played as a running back in 2003, first at fullback (usually in motion) and then at tailback (he's back to receiver now). Also enrolling this fall was prep All-American Desmond Reed, who was a safety-cornerback until moving to offense in mid-season.
USC began 2003 well-stocked at tight end, with a returning starter and a pair of experienced backups. But that returning starter--senior Alex Holmes, who has caught 58 passes in his career (including 29 in 2002, the most by a Trojan tight end since 1993)--has been bothered in 2003 by a back injury and is redshirting. In his place, sophomore Dominique Byrd (14 rec, 268 yds, 19.1 avg, 1 TD in 2003) took over and was impressive, but he is out for the season with a mid-season knee injury. Playing often behind (or with) Byrd was junior Gregg Guenther Jr. (16 rec, 148 yds, 9.2 avg, 2 TD in 2003, plus 1 blk FG), who started once last fall and now has assumed the starting role this season. USC's tallest player at 6-8, he also stars on the Trojans' men's basketball squad. Then there are redshirt freshmen Kurt Katnik (1 rec, 13 yds, 13.0 avg in 2003, plus 1 tac), a converted center (and the younger brother of starting center Norm Katnik) and walk-on Nick Vanderboom, a converted quarterback, plus walk-on junior Owen Hanson, who also is on the Trojan men's volleyball team. Junior Matt Cassel (6-of-13, 46.2%, 63 yds in 2003), Carson Palmer's backup at quarterback the past 2 seasons who had thrown just 6 passes in his career before this year, moved over to tight end this mid-season (he made a similar mid-season move to wide receiver in 2001).
The 2003 version of USC's offensive line is Troy's best in years. Players returned at 4 positions--only 4-year starting right guard Zach Wilson is gone--and there are some big-potential younger players angling for time. Both tackles returned and they're good ones: senior Jacob Rogers, a 3-year starter who earned All-Pac-10 first team laurels in 2002, and sophomore Winston Justice, a 2002 Freshman All-American first teamer. They make up the nation's best bookend tackles (Rogers on the left and Justice on the right). Rogers was named to the 2003 Football Writers, Football Coaches, Walter Camp, SI.com and Collegefootballnews.com All-American first teams (the first All-American first team Trojan offensive lineman since Tony Boselli in 1994), as well as The Sporting News All-American second team and Rivals.com All-American honorable mention. Rogers also made the 2003 All-Pac-10 first team (for the second year in a row), while Justice was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention choice. Senior Lenny Vandermade, a 4-year starter, returned at left guard (he also has started at center in his career), while reliable center Norm Katnik, another 3-year starter, also returned (he also has started at guard and tackle in his USC tenure). Katnik was 1 of 6 finalists for the 2003 Rimington Trophy, plus he made the 2003 Collegefootballnews.com third team and the All-Pac-10 first team. Redshirt freshman Fred Matua, a guard who was set to start the 2002 opener before a knee sprain sidelined him, captured the starting job at Wilson's right guard spot for the first half of 2003 (he's now back in the lineup). He made the 2003 Collegefootballnews.com Freshman All-American second team. Versatile senior Eric Torres, who started 7 times in 2002 at every line spot except center (Torres started all of 2001 at right tackle), is finally contributing in 2003 as a backup and on special teams after missing the first 4 games of the season. He broke his left ankle in the Orange Bowl and missed spring drills (he was slowed in fall camp, too). Returning squadmen who work into the rotation are senior tackle Nate Steinbacher, who worked some at defensive tackle last fall, junior guard Travis Watkins, and redshirt freshman guard-tackle Kyle Williams, plus walk-on junior center Spencer Torgan, a converted defensive tackle, and walk-on redshirt freshman center-guard John Lanza. Coming aboard this fall were tackle John Drake, a junior college transfer who is a junior (he has seen considerable action in 2003 at tackle and guard, even emerging as a starter the second half of this season before breaking his ankle late in the year), plus a trio of freshmen who were prep All-Americans: Sam Baker and Drew Radovich at guard (Radovich can also play tackle) and Ryan Kalil at center. There's also freshman Matt Spanos, a converted defensive end.
Simply put, USC's defensive line is the best in the nation. Nicknamed the 'Wild Bunch II' in honor of USC's famous 1969 defensive front (Al Cowlings, Jimmy Gunn, Willard Scott, Tody Smith, Charlie Weaver and Tony Terry), 4 key veterans return from a unit that was sixth in the country last fall versus the rush (allowing just 83.2 yards per game) and let only 4 of 13 offenses run for more than 100 yards (no individual ever rushed for 100 yards). More than half of USC's 43 sacks last season were by defensive linemen. Both ends returned: senior Omar Nazel (25 tac, 6.5 for loss, 4 sack, 2 FR, 1 int for a TD, 1 dfl in 2003) and junior Kenechi Udeze (51 tac, team-high 22 for loss, team-best 13.5 sack, 4 FF, 1 FR for a TD, 3 dfl, 1 blk FG in 2003). However, Nazel is sidelined with a thumb injury he suffered midseason. Udeze, a 3-year starter, set a USC record with his Pac-10 leading 6 forced fumbles in 2002 (he has 13 forced fumbles in his career). He was 1 of 6 finalists for the 2003 Hendricks Award (given to the nation's top defensive end) and was selected as the Pigskin Club of Washington D.C. National Defensive Player of the Year. He was named to the 2003 Football Writers, The Sporting News, ESPN.com, SI.com, Collegefootballnews.com and Rivals.com All-American first teams (the first All-American first team Trojan defensive lineman since Tim Ryan in 1989). He currently is tied for fifth nationally in sacks (1.1, tied for second in Pac-10), fifth in tackles for a loss (1.8, first in Pac-10) and tied for 13th in forced fumbles (0.3, tied for third in Pac-10)...1 of only 2 players ranked in the Top 13 in all 3 categories. His 22 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks in 2003 are the most by a Trojan defensive lineman since Tim Ryan's 28 and 20, respectively, in 1989. He is the first Trojan with double digits in sacks since Willie McGinest in 1992 (16). In the past 7 games, Udeze has 11 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Also back is junior Mike Patterson (53 tac, 13.5 for loss, 7 sack, 3 FR with 1 returned for a TD in 2003), who started 10 times at nose tackle (where he is in 2003) and 3 at defensive tackle last fall. His 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2003 are the most by a Trojan defensive tackle since Darrell Russell had 19 in 1996. His 4 fumble recoveries topped the Pac-10 in 2002. Although tackle Bernard Rileyhe had 19 career starts, including the last 7 games of 2002, when he posted 25 tackleswas gone, a familiar face re-assumed that defensive tackle spot. Junior Shaun Cody (23 tac, 10.5 for loss, 6 sack, 1FF, 1 dfl, 2 blk FG in 2003), a 2001 Freshman All-American first teamer, started the first 6 games of 2002 before tearing knee ligaments. He missed spring drills, but is fully recovered this fall. Udeze, Patterson and Cody all made the 2003 All-Pac-10 first team (the most defensive line first teamers from any school since Washington State also had 3 in 1994). Among the returning squadmen pushing for time at end are junior Van Brown (7 tac, 1 for loss in 2003) and sophomore converted linebacker Frostee Rucker (25 tac, 4 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 int, 1 dfl, 1 FF, 2 FR in 2003), who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado State (he's taken over for the injured Nazel), and at tackle are soph LaJuan Ramsey (6 tac, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 FF in 2003) and redshirt freshman Travis Tofi (3 tac, 1 for loss, 2 dfl, 1 sack for a safety in 2003). Then there's junior walk-on Jay Bottom (2 tac in 2003) at end. Six new players enrolled at USC this fall as freshmen. The ends are prep All-Americans Chris Barrett (he's out with a shoulder injury), Lawrence Jackson and Alex Morrow, while the tackles are prep All-Americans Sedrick Ellis (he's sidelined with a foot injury) and Manuel Wright (7 tac, 1 for loss, 2 dfl in 2003), plus Ryan Watson.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE 'WILD BUNCH II'
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville: '(Quarterback Jason Campbell) didn't have a chance. He was running around for his life. We just couldn't get any rhythm going. You could just feel our offensive line didn't feel good about being able to block those guys.'
Tom Dienhart, The Sporting News: 'Southern California has the nation's best defense. No doubt, Oklahoma's defense is formidable, but the Trojans' unit is better. It starts with the best line in the nation, aptly named the 'Wild Bunch II.'
Pat Haden, NBC-TV: 'Mike Patterson is like hair in the sink. He just kind of clogs things up.'
USC is solid at the outside linebacker spots, as junior Matt Grootegoed (40 tac, 4.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, 1 dfl, 1 FR, 2 FF in 2003) returned on the strong side and senior Melvin Simmons (52 tac, 8 for loss, 3 FR, 3 dfl in 2003) is back on the weak side. Grootegoed, a 3-year starter who has a knack for always being around the ball, was 1 of 11 semifinalists for the 2003 Butkus Award (the only Pac-10 selection) and 1 of 12 semifinalists for the 2003 Lombardi Award. He also made the 2003 All-Pac-10 second team. He's been bothered recently by an ankle sprain. He won All-Pac-10 first team honors in 2002 when he led the Trojans in tackles (81), tackles for a loss (16.5) and sacks (8). Simmons was USC's No. 2 tackler last fall (71). Simmons, who made 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention, has been slowed recently by a bruised leg. There's a new middle linebacker now that Mike Pollard-a 2-year starter who had 49 stops last year--has departed. The starter is sophomore Lofa Tatupu (team-high 86 tac, 10.5 for loss, 3 sack, 10 dfl, 3 int with 1 for a TD, 1 FF in 2003), who sat out last season after transferring from Maine, where he started in 2001 (he is the son of ex-USC and NFL fullback Mosi Tatupu). He made the 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention squad. He was backed by junior Daniel Urquhart (20 tac in 2003), a converted defensive end (he's been sidelined with a shoulder injury). Then there's sophomore Oscar Lua, who tore knee ligaments prior to the Orange Bowl and missed spring practice (he had surgery on his other knee early this fall and is sidelined). Other linebackers from last year's roster in the mix are junior Bobby Otani (6 tac in 2003) and sophomore Dallas Sartz (53 tac, 4 for loss, 1 sack, 3 dfl, 1 blk P in 2003, plus 1 PR, 0 yds), who has subbed lately for an injured Grootegoed (he can also play safety), plus walk-on sophomore Collin Ashton (28 tac, 0.5 for loss, 1 FF, 1 dfl in 2003, plus 1 KOR, 0 yds), who has started 2 late-season games. Prep All-American Thomas Williams, along with Salo Faraimo (10 tac in 2003), joined the linebacking corps this fall as freshmen. Walk-on junior Marco Chavez, who spent part of 2002 at Hawaii, is redshirting this year after transferring.
While the biggest holes to fill on USC's defense were in the secondary, the situation wasn't as dire as it might have appeared. Granted, the Trojans lost 3 quality starters in 2-time All-American strong safety Troy Polamalu (the 2002 Thorpe Award finalist was a 3-year starter who amassed 278 tackles and 6 interceptions in his career), free safety DeShaun Hill (he had 54 stops and a team-best 8 deflections last season) and cornerback Darrell Rideaux (he notched 46 tackles, 7 pass break-ups and 2 picks in 2002). Only senior cornerback Marcell Allmond (43 tac, 2 for loss, 2 sack, 3 int, 4 dfl, 3 FF, 1 FR in 2003, plus 9 KOR, 208 yds, 23.1 avg) returned as a starter. The Trojans are 17-1 when he starts in the secondary. The one-time starting wide receiver also was a top-flight hurdler on USC's track squad. There were plenty of experienced options to fill the 3 open secondary spots. In fact, 3 players had starting experience at cornerback: senior Kevin Arbet (5 tac, 1 for loss, 1 dfl, 1 FF in 2003, plus 4 PR, 19 yds, 4.8 avg), who missed all of last season with a broken foot, junior Ronald Nunn (38 tac, 3 for loss, 2 sack, 1 int for a TD, 4 dfl, 1 FF, 3 FR with 1 for a TD in 2003) and sophomore William Buchanon (3 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int in 2003). Arbet--who started 4 times in 2000 and was an All-Pac-10 first teamer as a special teams player in 2001--won the job going into 2003 and started the first 2 games, but his foot injury flared up and has sidelined him the rest of this year. So Will Poole (70 tac, 6 for loss, 1 sack, 3 FF, 2 FR, team-best 7 int, team-high 14 dfl in 2003, plus 5 PR, 26 yds, 5.2 avg), a senior who started at Boston College in 2000 before earning J.C. All-American laurels last fall and then enrolling at USC this fall, took his place. Poole made the 2003 Collegefootballnews.com second team and Rivals.com All-American honorable mention squad, plus the All-Pac-10 first team. He currently is tied for seventh nationally in interceptions (0.6, tied for first in Pac-10) and tied for seventh in deflections (1.8, first in Pac-10). His 7 interceptions in 2003 are the most in a season by a Trojan since John Herpin had 7 in 1994. He is backed by Nunn, while Buchanon moved back over to wide receiver by this mid-season. Nunn started USC's first 3 contests in 2002 before tearing knee ligaments (he missed most of 2003 spring drills) and then Buchanon started the next 3 games (after converting from wide receiver) before giving way to Allmond. The new starting free safety is junior Jason Leach (80 tac, 4.5 for loss, 1 sack, 5 dfl, 1 FR, 1 FF, 2 int with 1 for a TD in 2003), who started twice at strong safety last fall for an injured Polamalu, including in the Orange Bowl. He led Troy in interceptions in 2002 with 4. Taking over Polamalu's strong safety spot is freshman Darnell Bing (60 tac, 2 for loss, 1 FR, 2 int, 5 dfl in 2003), who originally signed with USC in 2002 after a prep All-American career at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High but did not qualify for admission then (he enrolled at Troy this past spring). Leach and Bing were 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention selections. Bing was named to the 2003 The Sporting News, Collegefootballnews.com and Rivals.com Freshman All-American first teams. Other cornerbacks back from last year's group are sophomores John Walker (3 tac, 1 dfl in 2003) and Justin Wyatt (9 tac in 2003, plus 3 rec, 20 yds, 6.7 avg and 3 KOR, 41 yds, 13.7 avg), who began his career as a corner but moved to wide receiver in 2003 spring drills (he switched back to cornerback this mid-season), and walk-on sophomore Alex Gomez. Identical twin freshmen cornerbacks Brandon Ting (2 tac in 2003) and Ryan Ting (1 tac in 2003), who were 2002 prep All-Americans, graduated a semester early from high school and enrolled at USC this past spring (Brandon can also play safety). Battling for action at safety from last year's squad are sophomore Mike Ross (10 tac in 2003), plus 5 walk-ons in seniors Greg Farr (6 tac in 2003) and Forrest Mozart and juniors Chris Bocage (1 tac in 2003), who is out with a knee injury, Matt Lemos (1 tac in 2003) and Kyle Matthews (1 tac in 2003). This fall, joining the fray were 2 incoming freshmen who were prep All-Americans: safety Terrell Thomas and cornerback Eric Wright, but both are out with injuries.
Sophomore Tom Malone (49.2 avg in 2003) has proven to be the nation's top punter. He was 1 of 10 semifinalists for the 2003 Ray Guy Award and made the 2003 ESPN.com, SI.com and Collegefootballnews.com All-American first teams (USC's first-ever All-American first team punter). He made the 2003 All-Pac-10 first team. He led the nation in punting for 5 consecutive weeks this midseason and would still be the leader, but because of the efficiency of USC's offense he is 5 punts shy of having the NCAA-required minimum 3.6 punts per game to be listed. In fact, his 49.2 average is 1.2 yards above the current national leader! He is aiming to become only the second Trojan to lead the country in punting (Des Koch did so in 1952 with a 43.5 average). His 49.2 punting average is way above Jim Wren's USC season record of 45.6, set in 1996 (and close to the Pac-10 season record of 49.3 set by UCLA's Kirk Wilson in 1956). So far in 2003, 23 of his 39 punts have gone at least 50 yards and 25 have pinned opponents within the 20-yard line. He earned Freshman All-American second team notice last fall when nearly half of his 62 punts pinned opponents within the 20-yard line and 12 traveled at least 50 yards (including a 72-yarder). He is backed by a pair of walk-ons, senior Tommy Huff and sophomore Zach Sherwood. Junior Ryan Killeen (19-of-23 FG, 61-of-63 PAT in 2003, plus 2 tac) is in his second year as the placekicker. He is 1 of 20 semifinalists for the 2003 Lou Groza Award. He was a 2003 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick. He currently is ninth nationally in scoring (9.8, first in Pac-10) and tied for 13th in field goals (1.6, second in Pac-10). So far in 2003, 32 of his 94 kickoffs have been touchbacks. His 61 PATs in 2003 is a Pac-10 season record and his 19 field goals ties the USC season mark. He was only supposed to handle the kickoff duty last year, but took over the placekicking job during the third game of 2002 and was impressive. His 16 field goals in 2002 were 3 shy of the USC season record, he hit his last 30 PATs (and missed just 2 out of 49 all year), he led Troy in scoring (95 points) and 27 of his 89 kickoffs were touchbacks. Walk-on freshman Mario Danelo pushed him throughout 2003 fall camp. Both of USC's snappers--seniors Joe Boskovich, in for the placekicks, and Matt Hayward (2 tac in 2003), in for the punts--are back. It's the fourth season in that role for Boskovich, a one-time walk-on who earned a scholarship this spring, and the third year for Hayward. Both have been near flawless in their careers. Walk-on freshman Will Collins can also snap. Sophomore punter Tom Malone returns as the holder on all placekicks, with junior tight end-quarterback Matt Cassel the backup. USC's top punt returner--sophomore wide receiver Greig Carlson (team-best 21 PR, 188 yds, 9.0 avg in 2003)--and kickoff returner--soph tailback Hershel Dennis--from last season are back (Carlson had 177 yards and Dennis had 151 in 2002). But in 2003, senior cornerback Kevin Arbet (4 PR, 19 yds, 4.8 avg in 2003)who led USC in punt returns in 2001 (225 yards)handled the punt returning chore before being sidelined with an injury, so Carlson, backed by freshman tailback Reggie Bush, senior cornerback Will Poole (5 PR, 26 yds, 5.2 avg in 2003) and sophomore cornerback-wide receiver Justin Wyatt (1 PR, 0 yds, 0.0 avg in 2003), have taken over. Arbet and senior cornerback Marcell Allmond (9 KOR, 208 yds, 23.1 avg in 2003) were the kickoff returners in 2003 before Arbet's injury. So joining Allmond now are Bush (team-best 16 KOR, 447 yds, 27.9 avg, 1 TD in 2003) and Wyatt (3 KOR, 41 yds, 13.7 avg in 2003). Bush currently is 11th nationally in kickoff returns (27.9, second in Pac-10).
USC's assistant coaching staff stayed relatively intact from 2002, with some slight positional changes. Tim Davis, who last year handled the offensive guards and centers, took over the entire line. Rocky Seto, a Trojan graduate assistant last fall, is now a full-time coach in charge of the safeties. Ed Orgeron, USC's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, this year added the title of assistant head coach. Dennis Slutak is the only newcomer on the staff; the one-time Florida State punter and North Carolina State graduate assistant is a graduate assistant working with the special teams. However, at the end of the regular season, linebackers coach Nick Holt accepted the head coaching job at Idaho (he will continue with USC through the Rose Bowl).