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19 USC
Richard Deitsch
August 16, 1999
The Trojans ride in with an eclectic mix of offensive weapons and a retooled D
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August 16, 1999

19 Usc

The Trojans ride in with an eclectic mix of offensive weapons and a retooled D

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Fast Facts

1998 record: 8-5 (5-3, tied for 3rd in Pac-10)

Final ranking: unranked

1998 Averages

Scoring

Rushing Yards

Passing Yards

Total Yards

OFFENSE

27.3

139.3

211.8

351.0

DEFENSE

17.8

142.4

187.4

329.8

USC senior tailback Petros Papadakis counts Che Guevara and T.S. Eliot among his heroes; refers to his father, John, who played linebacker for the Trojans under John McKay, simply as the Don; and was so inspired by reading Moby Dick that he purchased a harpoon. In the land of Troy, Papadakis is an eccentric Greek. He initially wore number 22 in honor of Catch-22 author Joseph Heller and thinks wideout R. Jay Soward's off-season problems stem from his devilish choice of wearing number 18 (the sum of three sixes). "I'm a Greek-American icon," says Papadakis, whose eight rushing touchdowns led Trojan runners last season. "They're tired of Pete Sampras. I'm what's new."

That's not the only thing new at USC. Gone from the Pac-10's stingiest defense are Butkus Award-winning middle linebacker Chris Claiborne and secondary standouts Daylon McCutcheon and Ra-shard Cook. For the first time in three seasons there is also no quarterback controversy. Sophomore Carson Palmer, one of nine returning starters on offense, has the job. Second-year coach Paul Hackett believes Palmer's development, and the key to the team's fortunes, rests in the hands of the running game. If senior tailback Chad Morton (985 yards) can avoid the nagging injuries that have slowed him for three years, USC will have its first 1,000-yard rusher since Delon Washington in 1995. Papadakis is adept at finding the end zone, while redshirt freshman Sultan McCullough is a human comet (10.17 speed in the 100). The X factor on offense is Soward, whose talent and conduct bring to mind Dennis Rodman. The senior was AWOL for the team's winter workouts and absent from informal training following spring practice. No one questions his All-America talent: Soward has scored a touchdown every 6.9 times he has touched the ball at USC.

On defense the key spot is middle linebacker, where junior Zeke Moreno replaces Claiborne. Senior David Gibson switches from weakside linebacker to strong safety to help a questionable secondary. The line, led by junior tackle Ennis Davis, is the strength of a unit that will need time to jell.

The road to Pasadena has potential roadblocks at Arizona and at California, as well as the usual border war with UCLA. "It's sickening," Morton says of the Bruins' eight consecutive victories over USC. "But I guarantee this year we are not going to lose."

USC over UCLA? Now that would be something new.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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