SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
8/11/2006 11:23:00 AM
USC's Freshman Orientation
USC held its first pads scrimmage Wednesday and it quickly turned into what one observer described as "American Idol for freshmen." With junior RB Chauncey Washington sitting out, the three leading rushers in the scrimmage (Stafon Johnson, Emmanuel Moody and C.J. Gable) were freshmen. So were the top two receivers (Travon Patterson and tight end Anthony McCoy), as veteran WRs Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith also had the day off. Another freshman wideout, Vidal Hazelton, returned a kickoff 100 yards.
Bad news for the other 100-plus teams out there hoping the Trojans would have trouble reloading this time.
When I caught up with nearly hoarse USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin between practices Thursday, he couldn't stop raving about the three freshman tailbacks. "You couldn't come to a scrimmage or watch film right now and be more excited," said Kiffin. "A lot of times if you recruit three players at one position, you're bound to make a mistake on one. One is usually not as good as you thought. All three [of the freshmen] could be good players for us. And they each bring something different."
Johnson, the most highly regarded of the three as recruits, led the scrimmage with 13 carries for 119 yards. "He's a smart, patient runner, bounces off guys," said Kiffin. "He's a Denver Broncos-type guy." But the runner who's really excited Kiffin is Moody, who had a deceiving 28 yards on eight carries. "He made some Reggie-type plays – stop, start, get loose and make guys miss. He'll run 30 yards to get 11," said Kiffin. "But he's also got ball-security issues and doesn't run plays exactly right." Gable, meanwhile, has proven to be the best receiver of the three.
USC's tailbacks still have three more weeks to separate themselves before the opener at Arkansas, but right now it's looking like the coaches will have some tough, albeit fortunate decisions to make. "You don't really need four tailbacks, so you could redshirt one, but you can't afford to when they're this good." Ideally, the Trojans would like to settle on a tandem, like Bush and White, with Washington, who's more of a pounder, and one of the freshmen.
However, as Kiffin points out, USC faced a similar situation heading into its 2003 opener at Auburn and gave carries to four different backs in that game -- sophomore Hershel Dennis and freshmen Bush, White and Washington. "We don't see ourselves in the business of rotating four guys," said Kiffin. "It's our job to figure that out."
Holy Crap!! Mandel did you just mention the PAC 10 ?!?! This clearly must be a mistake on your part, because you've been ignoring the PAC for weeks.
Rumor is, the Pac-10 had a media day too... and there's a good 3-4 teams that are going to make some noise in the top-15 this year.... but don't worry about that, let's hear more about what the over-hyped Florida schools are doing... even though none of them could hold Pete Carroll's Jock.
Makes you wonder why all these high school players keep going to the same 10 schools. If 2 of these guys went to 2 dozen other schools, they'd go straight to the front of the line. I understand wanting to play on a national title contender, but are you really a national title winner if you were holding a Gatorade cup while the action was taking place? Besides, national titles would be easier to achieve if all the talent didn't end up on a handful of rosters. If I were a blue chip prospect, I wouldn't go to a school that has recruited any top level talent at my position in the last two years, at least. Some poor QB at Notre Dame is probably going to sit on the bench for his whole eligibility because that kid Clausen is coming there, even though that poor guy was a top level talent too.
Did you write this under the influence of Beach Boys music? "Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, and we didn't have to wait so long..." A little Brian Wilson goes a long way, Stew, and too much can damage your psyche. Gotta watch that.
I like the blog idea, but I hope you aren't hoping to get tons of people to join in these chats everyday. Obviously, people only care about the teams they love (or hate) and anything else, well, no one really cares about it. Who outside of LA really cares about USC? Evidently, not many.
Is there anything more frightening than a reloaded Trojan team? Consistently over the past several seasons the big boys keep getting bigger, with USC, Texas, OU, UGA, Florida, Ohio State, and Miami pulling in the best recruits over and over again. This is why it is so hard for Mid-major Schools (though I hear they prefer "Non-BCS") to break through to the BCS bowls. Good luck to anyone with USC on their 2006 schedule....or 2007....or 2008...or 2009....ad nauseam...
It alwasy nice to have too many good players, there was a time here at USC we would have been giddy getting one of these guys. I personally like Johnsons running style and becasue of it I think he gets more carries early on.
USC and Pete Carroll have been Known to go out and heavily recruit one position in one year. RBs in 2002-03 and 2005-06, In 03 we got Washington, Bush and White, in 06 we got Moody, Gable, Johnson. They have also done this at the LB spot. Another Great example was in 03 when we signed #1 recruit Whitney Lewis and then Convinced Steve Smith to still come to USC. Smith is and has been a Great WR for USC while Lewis is playing at some directional school in Iowa I think.
No programs has recruited and actually played as many Great Freshman as USC and pete Carroll, and unlike when Bowden says "Sure you will get a chance to play as a Freshman", people actually belive Carroll becasue they have eyes to see the truth.
Yes SC has recruited top classes the past 3 years, but there are several programs at this same talent level that didn't get it done last year. Does the name Michigan ring any bells? Great talen, no performance on the field. SC will be a top 10 team this year, but until they get it done on the field it remains to be seen just how good they are. Let's enjoy the coming season as there are always a few surprises, which is why college football is more fun to watch than the NFL.
I find it interesting that for most teams, replacing the entire backfield is a negative regardless of the "highly recruited freshmen". For other teams, the media pulls out the "reload" tag. Have you guys ever looked back to evaluate how often you are right when assigning these tags? One constant in college is turnover. The better your recruiting and coaching, the better you handle the issue. A big year of turnover can be a big problem in this beauty contest we call "the bowl subdivision" since a tough early opponent can end your season. It does not matter that by the end of the season, that new talent might be all world. too bad it can not be decided on the field like every other competative team sport I have encountered.
37-2. Played in and won 2 of the last 3 National Titles. Won 3 out of the last 4 Heisman Trophies. USC is this decades greatest college football team. All you SEC, ACC, Big 10 and Big 12 wannabes can keep wishing your team could sniff USC's success.
Uh, are you kidding me? Did you not see Regie Bush play last season? If USC thinks it won't miss Bush because of a few freshman running backs, then their level of denial can't begin to be described. Bush's antics on the field saved them from at least 4 losses the last two seasons. He was one of the alltime great playmakers college has ever seen. If any one of these guys were half that good, there would be no competition at running back.
Good stuff. In addition to these three young guns the USC backfield also has Chauncey Washington and Michael Coleman as well. One of these guys or the freshman will have a big year running behind that offensive line of theirs. The only question is which one?
While I agree that there are stronger divisions than the PAC-10 out there, especially defensively, I don't think USC would go 8-4 in the Big Ten or SEC. They're stacked at almost every position. They could easily go 10-2 perhaps, but certainly not 8-4. Who in the Big Ten could beat them this year? OSU, and who else? Penn State? not likely... Michigan? Perhaps, but again not likely. Which leaves who? Minnesota w/o there star RB's of the past? no. And if they played in the SEC Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and LSU would all give them a run for their money, but all 4 of these teams definitely wouldn't beat USC this year. Sorry to say it, but they're a good team for sure. I DO wish they played more talented teams on a regular basis though.
Everyone here in New England uses (ex-Patsy coach)Carroll's success at 'SC as proof that college football is easier to coach than NFL. But the big reason 'SC has been successful of late is that Carroll is not only is one of the best recruiters in the game, but he knows how to use those recruits (Carson Palmer was a top recruit, but wasn't going to be a Heisman winner under the unlamented Paul Hackett). This is the most nervous I've been about a Trojan squad since 2002, but I still think my alma mater has a great shot at a BCS bowl.
there is no doubt that these are talented freshmen running backs, but i would be suprised if any of them come near the success of guys like steve slaton or jamaal charles last year. There is going to be a definitve step down in the USC running game from last year. When you lose Reggie Bush and Lendale White, i dont care who you have in your backfield, the loss will be felt. And as for all you trojan lover-boys, before you start praising your team's success in the last couple of years too much, you might want to remember that you lost the title, and that odds are you will not see it go near Cali for another 5 years (and that's being generous).
"...played in and won 2 of the last 3 National Titles."
You USC bandwagoners are a joke. You are correct in stating that you PLAYED in two of the last 3 national title games, but you did not win them. USC only "played in and won" one national title over Oklahoma.
If you want to restate your claim and say, "We claim 2 of the last 3 national titles," then you would again be correct. BUT you didn't play more than 2 of the last 3 title games, and you certainly didn't win both of them (Hook 'em, Horns.)
The reason why the Trojans are the best is because of the competition. They recruit people who crave competition, and want to earn their spots by competing against the best. If you get scared away by other recruits or scared of competing to start, then you don't belong in a USC uniform. It is this kind of mentality that ensures that USC will stay on top for a very long time. It's true, the high level of talent at USC does scare away some recruits (Clausen for example). But all in all, this system ensures that the best and the most hungry come to this program.
Can't say I didn't wish my team had at least one of those three RBs on their team.
That being said, I want to know how Chauncey Washington, after spending the past two years on the academically ineligible list, magically posts a 3.8 GPA on the semester that would make him eligible for the season where he would be the only returning RB on the roster?
It's nit just recruting the talent but coaching to get the most out of it. How many top rated players go to other schools and suck it up. UCLA has a bunch of those guys. It comes down to caochign the talent and setting them up to win with play calling.
I will give credit to USc as the team of the decade. But they have a game with the team of the 90's. USC better watch out for the Huskers, as they are retooled and ready to break out in Callahan's third year.
I love all of these USC supporters...theyve had to win one game a year (the national title) because the conference is so weak. All of this trash talking coming off of the greatest one-peat in the history of sports. When you finish in the top five 14 years in a row you can start bragging.
Another reason USC isn't sweating is because apparently NCAA rules don't apply to them as others. Still not sure why no national media has questioned the Jarrett decision. SI even had Jarrett's photo up as one of three players for the 'Great Wide Open' feature this week, BEFORE he was cleared to play. Does someone know something we don't?
Are you kidding me? USC is so overrated it is not funny. I have to agree with the previous post USC is in the PAC 10 no school is descent in the conference. Put them in the Big Ten they would have lost 5 games easy. They are going to fall from the face of the college football after this year it happened to Miami and it will happen to USC count on it!!! Go Bucks
Got to love SEC homers who don't get the fact that USC has boat raced the last three teams it played in that conference. SEC defenses are good becuase of poorly run offenses. Same goes for the BIG Ten.
true mandel - as the first post from anonymous said - HOLY CRAP!!!not much love for the pac 10 from any of you guys. but with USC/Oregon/Arizona State/Cal you gotta give some love. As usual were right up ther with the big ten, big 12, overhyped sec, and overly overhyped big east. all you haters name a better conference and give solid true reasons and dont just say urban meyer or the talent in texas or florida. we got cali and peter carroll. oh and throw in Tedford while your at it.
With the defenses in the Pac-10, it's not so hard for anyone to look like a Reggie Bush. Look at what happened when USC played tough, hard-nosed teams the last 3 years. Virginia Tech - phantom interference saved them; Notre Dame - needed an extra "push"; Texas - lost. Give them credit for winning all but that last one, but they wouldn't have come close to surviving unscathed in the SEC or Big-10, where defenses are significantly better.
Very nice piece Mr. Mandel. Good, bad or indifferent feel free to write about SC' as much as possible (writing about this collection of athletes/coaches never gets old). It also never ceases to amaze me after even the most benign of stories, the ignorance which manages to stumble from the woodwork. The lack of knowledge of the sport is almost palatable as you read some of these posts. "USC would finish no better than 8-4 in the Big 10/SEC (substitute any other conference here)." Or the assinine/drunken rant of, "The PAC 10 stinks..blah, blah.
Question, do you ever get tired of hearing that ignorant B.S?
Sniffed it? We were it not too long ago. USC is in their run now, Miami, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska, Oklahoma, have had strong runs in the past decade. Looks like Texas may be gearing up for one as well. Look, USC has had one of the great teams in NCAA history, but playing in the PAC-10 where they get an extra creampuff or two more than the teams in the SEC, Big 10 or Big 12 have traditionally gotten has been helpful in the run as well. I hope they keep going, a strong USC is good for college football, but let's not pretend they're reinventing the wheel here.
Thanks for the update on my alma mater! Question for you.. did you see the defense practice, and if so, were they the caliber of the defense that was part of our 2004 national championship team? Last year's offense was loaded with talent, but the defense was rebuilding, and we lost a few guys this year too.
Wow, you've got some grande cojones deciding to write about USC's next wave of running backs. I definitely would have snubbed Cal's Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett to write about a bunch of spoiled recruits from USC too! You are such a talented and creative writer.
Please ll the 'Hillbillies' in the south, especially the SEC, and the other redneck states USC has beaten Arkansas, okie-homa, auburn and by BIG scores. It took a GREAT effort from Vince young to not make it 4 redneck scools. uSC put up No.#12 NCAA trophy!!
I am sure it is a matter of time until ESPN will report some inappropriate action (rape, taking payments, steroids) by one or all of these future studs. The NCAA will slap them on the wrist and ESPN will go back to their love affair with the men of Troy. Uncle Petey really runs a tight ship. I guess "its all good" on the left coast. I'll ask Snoop Dogg
Although I am a pac-10 guy, I do agree that the conference has been slacking lately. However, I am pretty sure that USC has lost only 2 non-conference games in the past 4 seasons (against "powerhouses" from the Big-10, Big 12, SEC, and ACC). I agree with a previous post, SEC defenses look good because they play against rancid offenses!
Let me get this straight... Someone from the SEC actually said that USC plays a couple of patsies each year, in their schedule??? Well, if you count Arkansas and Auburn the last couple of years, you would be correct. Overhyped, inefficient teams, for sure! Im positive there is a state law here on the Left Coast that Div I teams cannot play Div II teams. The SEC would collapse if they could not play Div III Southern Backwater U's every year!
I propose a New NCAA by-law, you play D II, no BCS for you...
I love how all you tree-huggers out west think everyone in the south is a redneck, well aside from that USC has a good team but they would not make it to the National Championship if they were in the SEC bottom line. Just look at the undefeated Auburn team- pushed aside by the AP poll which is a bunch of west-coast writers being biased.
WOW, this is great. You know USC must have a great team when everyone continues their jealous "player hating". Anyway, have you looked at the last 3 years conference bowl records (the best way to calibrate strength of the top conferences). Well, I have and the SEC and Big 10 are well behind the PAC 10.