National Champion Trojans Should Be Loaded Again

Jan 6, 2004

By KEN PETERS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Matt Leinart, Mike Williams and the entire group oftailbacks are expected to be back. So are defensive standouts Kenechi Udeze,Shaun Cody and Lofa Tatupu.

The USC Trojans, The Associated Press' national champions, may be evenstronger next season since their young players will have a year's worth ofexperience.

The Trojans will return 17 starters next year and 36 players who were on the48-man depth chart, assuming none of their underclass stars leave early for theNFL draft.

'The future here, you can't even see the end of it with the guys that areon the team,' said Cody, a junior tackle. 'Look at our freshmen, howproductive they have been.

'We've got the running backs, we've got Steve Smith out there at widereceiver, and some of the 'D' linemen are coming along fast. The freshmen thatcoach recruited really pulled in and it's amazing.'

Quarterback Leinart and All-American wide receiver Williams, who finishedsixth and eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, will be juniors next fall. Sowill starting tailback Hershel Dennis. LenDale White and Reggie Bush, both ofwhom played major roles coming off the bench at tailback, will be sophomores.

All-American defensive end Udeze, the team's sacks leader, will be a senior,and middle linebacker Tatupu, the Trojans' leading tackler, will be a junior.

Pete Carroll, who has restored the luster to USC football since he becamethe coach three years ago, believes the Trojans have a good chance to build onwhat they've accomplished so far.

'We feel confident that we can continue, based on the sense that we have onthe recruiting class that's coming together, and based on the group that camein last year,' Carroll said recently. 'There are a ton of guys that are goingto come out of redshirt years and play for us next year, guys we were able tohold out.'


All-American defensive end Udeze, the team's sacks leader, will be a senior.


Marlin McKeever, a USC end and fullback from 1958-60 and a two-timeAll-American, believes the Trojans are going to be a national power for manyyears.

'They have so many fine young players and Pete Carroll's without a doubtthe best coach in America,' said McKeever, among several hundred alumni,students and fans who gathered on campus for Monday's presentation of The AP'snational championship trophy.

'This is the beginning of a dynasty, although Pete would not like me sayingthat,' McKeever said with a grin.

The Trojans were 31-29 in the five years before Carroll arrived in LosAngeles. After losing five of his first seven games, he's 27-4 and USC has won20 of its last 21, including last Thursday's 28-14 Rose Bowl victory overMichigan.







'We feel confident that we can continue, based on the sense that we have onthe recruiting class that's coming together, and based on the group that camein last year.'
Head Coach Pete Carroll




USC last won a national title in 1978, when - like this year - thechampionship was split between the writers' and coaches' polls.

The Trojans, No. 1 in both the media and coaches' polls at the end of theregular season, received 48 of the 65 first-place votes in The AP post-bowlballoting. The coaches were obligated to vote for LSU (13-1) because of its21-14 victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, this year's designated BCSchampionship game.

The Trojans would have liked to play one more game this season - againstLSU.

'Oh, yeah, more than anything on Earth,' Cody said. 'I think everyone outthere would have loved to have seen that game. But we feel like we're No. 1.Nothing's going to change that.'

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