Hackett pleased with debut season at USC
Posted: Tuesday December 22, 1998 08:41 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- USC coach Paul Hackett's resolutions for 1999 include always going for it on fourth down, and winning every game. That exempts the Trojans' next contest, however, since they meet TCU in the Sun Bowl on the final day of 1998.
Hackett, who offered his resolutions tongue-in-cheek, obviously is excited as he winds down his first season as the USC coach.
The Trojans finished the regular season 8-4 and tied for third in the Pac-10 with a 5-3 record. They were 6-5 under John Robinson last year and haven't played in a bowl game in three years.
Hackett said heading into this season that he had written down a certain number of wins as sort of a goal for the Trojans. Meeting with reporters Tuesday, he was reminded of his promise to reveal the number at the end of the season.
"I wrote down eight," he said. "I thought if we won eight games, I would feel that we would have made a good first step. Now we even have a chance to win our ninth."
When USC opened with a 27-17 victory over Purdue in the Pigskin Classic, the new coach felt the Trojans might live up to the wins total he had in mind.
"The Purdue game was the key," he said. "If we had lost that game, I would have thought I was too ambitious in my guess. And as it turned out, we could have won 10; we were close against Oregon [a 17-13 loss] and against Cal [a 32-31 loss]."
Following the game against TCU (6-5), Hackett and his staff will barrel into what he calls the "second season" -- recruiting. He didn't really begin his job at USC until last January, remaining in his old post as Kansas City's offensive coordinator until the Chiefs were eliminated from the NFL playoffs.
"One thing about this game [Sun Bowl] is that it's nationally televised on the day of New Year's eve, the only game on," Hackett said. "I hope a lot of top high school players will be watching. ... And that they'll like our uniforms."
While the Trojans' coaching staff will focus on luring new prospects to USC, Hackett and his staff also may be trying to hang onto a couple of their top juniors. Chris Claiborne, winner of the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, and wide receiver-kick returner R. Jay Soward both will consider declaring for the pro draft.
Hackett said he understands Claiborne might go as one of the first 10 players picked, with Soward projected somewhere in the second round.
The coach said of Claiborne, "He's doing his research, I'm doing mine, and we'll put our heads together after this game."
Hackett indicated that he would probably encourage Soward to return next season.
Soward missed one game this year because of an academic suspension, was slowed in several others by an ankle sprain, and could up his stock considerably with NFL scouts with a good senior season.
Meanwhile, the Trojans' coach said he is impressed with TCU's Horned Frogs.
"To go from 1-10 [in 1997] to 6-5 and have a chance to win a bowl game, that says something," Hackett said. "We're facing an opponent that's scary to me. I know what it means to them to play USC."
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