Trojans Look to Reload
The Trojans lose to Texas in a game I believe USC had every opportunity to win. I won't rehash the game and the calls, but I will give Texas credit, they won and the Trojans lost. It was certainly extremely disappointing and it has taken several days to rid myself of that empty/sick feeling in my stomach, but I left the Rose Bowl with a smile. This is simply one of the greatest runs in the history of college football and I am thrilled to have experienced it first hand. Sometimes we forget how amazing the last 4 years have been.....here is a quick recap:
48-4 (30-2 Pac 10)
34 Consecutive Wins
8-0 vs UCLA and Notre Dame
4 Consecutive Pac 10 Championships (3 outright, 1 shared)
4 Consecutive BCS Bowls (3 with national championship implications)
3 Heisman Trophies
2 National Championships
The list excludes ongoing streaks for Pac 10 wins and home wins. I was fortunate enough to attend 36 games in person during this stretch including all 4 BCS games.....experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. USC had won 35 straight games in which I was in attendance, dating back to the loss in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl. It would have been great to beat Texas, but it is hard for me to be too disappointed given the last 4 years. The Trojans will be back and I discuss my thoughts for next year below. 2006 will be a much different Trojan team, but it will be talented, experienced and well-coached...I expect another outstanding season.
Before talking about next year, it is time to name the 2005 All Tailgate Team. Thanks to everybody who contributed and helped make 2005 such a fun year to attend USC football games. Special thanks go to The Hoovers and Clare Flynn who really make the tailgate happen every week.....without them, there would be no tailgate. I would also like to recognize the Watkins Family (Dr. Bob, Robert and Andy) for their great contributions. The above mentioned are not eligible for All Tailgate consideration.
The selection process is rigorous, disciplined and based on several factors including attendance (pre and post game...bonus points for away games), effort (including time of arrival and departure), enthusiasm, new ideas and whatever else the Selection Committee wants to consider. There are 15 selections, 5 each on the First, Second and Honorable Mention teams (listed in alphabetical order by team).
- Dan Cherrie/Carolyn-Dan attended 11 games (missed only ASU and Washington), which we believe is a record for the tailgate crew. Dan has always been the first person to arrive at the tailgate to set up and last to leave. Dan made it to both GameDay broadcasts this year (@ND & vs UCLA) and was part of the overnight crew at the Rose Bowl. Carolyn completed her first year of tailgate attendance with some great efforts including a great showing in Chicago with her parents! Repeat first team selection.
- Matt Cherrie-Matt repeats as a first team selection by taking the redeye to Chicago for the Notre Dame game and making the trip to Cal as well. Despite missing the UCLA game, Matt gets extra credit for driving to home games from Ventura.
- Michael/Kimberly Goyan-The only new selection on the first team, Michael & Kimberly took arriving early to new levels and helped us secure prime tailgate locations on several occasions. Among the most die-hard USC fans I know...a great addition for the tailgate.
- Curt Himebauch/Jennifer Ignacio-Curt and Jennifer did an outstanding job with food at the tailgates this year...we could not feed everyone with such great food without their help. On top of great efforts at all the home games, Curt and/or Jennifer made road trips to South Bend and Eugene as well. Repeat first team selection.
- Aaron Wooler/Melanie Kimball-AT and Melanie were new selections for the first team last year and held onto their spot with great contributions. They are responsible for the keg(s) at the tailgates and also are credited with the RV plan at the Rose Bowl. Rumor is they are planning their wedding to avoid conflict with a USC home game...that is dedication!
- Jim Beaubien/Susan Welsh-Jim and Susan made limited appearances at the Coliseum, but when they showed, they did so with fixings for home made Bloody Mary's. Jim made road trips to Eugene, South Bend and the Rose Bowl.
- Jeff Hermann-Jeff is a repeat second team selection and made it to all the home tailgates except UCLA...he missed that for his wedding!
- Phil Navarro- Phil is responsible for the unbelievable lobster and yellowtail feast at the Fresno St. game...this is the 3rd year in a row he has provided the tailgate with this special meal.
- Lawrence Snapp- Lawrence makes second team based on two outstanding early morning efforts. First team potential with a more appearances.
- Eric Tis- A repeat second team selection, Eric made several home games and the trip to ND. ET also provides a steady dose of Patron to the tailgate.
- Jan & Bing Cherrie-Great to see Jan & Bing at the tailgate often this year. Thanks to Bing for setting up the Cal trip which was spectacular!
- Kris Galashan- 3 appearances this year...late arriver, but better late than never
- Mark Stegemoeller-Making the team almost exclusively on his effort in Eugene
- Dan Withers- First time selection...he made a strong run at second team. Dan set us up with a great tailgate in Eugene and made appearances at most home games. Arrival time needs some work...first team potential
- Marcus Wooler-Former first team selection whose job has impacted his performance each of the last two years. He will be back!
Congratulations to everyone who made the team this year and for those who didn't, now you know what it takes. Please send me any suggestions for future tailgates or comments on the team and selection process. Any grievances will be brought to the Selection Committee for review.
Thoughts on the 2006 Trojans
The Trojans are losing some of the greatest players in the history of the program, including 2 Heisman Trophy winners. Leinart, Bush, White, Latui and Bing are among the All Americans the Trojans will miss in 2006. Throw in Matua, Justice, Ware, Wyatt, Byrd, Ramsey, Malone and there are some big holes to fill. Make no mistake, the 2006 Trojans will be much different than the 2005 version. However, USC will be extremely talented in 2006 with depth and experience at many positions (WR, FB, DE, LB, OL). Dan Cherrie and I attended the USC Recruiting Dinner/Celebration and there is an amazing amount of talented athletes coming to USC next year. Some of these freshman may make an immediate impact.
I believe John David Booty will be the starter next year, but he will be pushed by RS Frosh Mark Sanchez. This will be JDB's 4th year in the program and I am confident he will excel. JDB is more like Carson Palmer (but smaller) than Leinart...he has a very strong arm, throws well on the run and has decent mobility. JDB is much farther ahead than Leinart was before his first start in 2003. He is a bit of gun-slinger and tends to rely on his cannon arm to squeeze throws into dangerous situations. If JDB can minimize his interceptions, I think he will be the next great Trojan QB. If JDB stumbles early in the year, I would not be surprised to see Sanchez get his shot. Garrett Green will be a true freshman this year and is a valuable addition to the team.
The Trojans have a plethora of highly talented backs, however, several are returning from injury and others have limited or no game experience. There are many questions as to who will be healthy in 2006 (Dennis, Reed, Coleman) or eligible (Washington). In addition to these returning players the Trojans signed an unbelievable RB class including Stafon Johnson, CJ Gable, Emanuel Moody and Allen Bradford. Gable and Bradford will likely play defense, but they were both outstanding high school running backs. I believe Herschel Dennis will be given every opportunity to start at RB...he knows the system and is an everydown back with outstanding blocking and pass catching ability. If Reed and Coleman are healthy, they will get a number of carries as well. Look out for Chauncey Washington if he is eligible and don't be surprised if Stafon Johnson gets some carries early in the year. With the talent and depth that USC has at RB, I feel confident the Trojans will be productive at this position.
Brandon Hancock (starter in 2004) will regain his spot following the graduation of David Kirtman. Hancock is a fabulous athlete with great speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Ryan Powdrell will be moved from LB to play the role of punishing blocker. True frosh Stanley Havili could see some time here, but he may also play RB.
The Trojans return the entire WR corps from last year including Jarrett, Smith, Turner and McFoy. In addition, the Trojans signed several top WRs including David Ausberry (big WR in Mike Williams mold), Jamere Holland (a true speed receiver that USC has been missing...the fastest football player in America), Travon Patterson (small, shifty slot receiver) and likely Vidal Hazelton (a very polished receiver who just makes plays). The Trojans continue to have an embarrassment of riches at the WR position and have successfully added some speed and shake to the group, which has been missing in the past.
Fred Davis proved he is a powerful blocker and a dangerous receiver in 2005....look for him to have a breakout year in 2006. Dale Thompson has significant experience and has been used often in two tight end sets. Jimmy Miller caught two TD passes this year and is an athletic tight end who is difficult to cover. USC also signed a very talented TE out of Fresno, Anthony McCoy....he reminds many of a leaner Dominique Byrd. Again, I think the Trojans have both talent and experience at this position. Note---I hope that the USC offensive coordinators use this talent more so than in 2005.
I have heard many people express significant concern about the offensive line, particularly since USC only signed one OL this year. I actually think USC is in great shape on the offensive line. The Trojans return two starters from an OL that was the best in the nation last year. Sam Baker is among the best offensive tackles in the country and Ryan Kalil is among the best centers in the country. The Trojans lose Winston Justice, who in my opinion played better 2 years ago than in 2005. He will be replaced by Kyle Williams, who has played in every game the last 2 years. Kyle is a good player who has been in the program for 5 years...USC may take a small step back at OT, but not much. There is not much experienced depth at tackle however. Drew Radovich is a great player who can man either the tackle or guard position...it is unclear where he will play in 2006. The Trojans lose both starting guards in Deuce Latui and Fred Matua, but there are some outstanding players filing their spots. Jeff Byers started 6 games in 2004 as a true frosh and missed last year with a hip injury. Byers is 100% healthy and will be starting at guard in 2006. Chilo ("Chai-lo") Rachal will likely take over at the other guard position. Chilo is simply a monster and I expect him to be an improvement over Fred Matua next year. Tiny Malu will be the main reserve at guard, depending where Radovich plays. USC has 6 outstanding OL, but there is a concern about depth.
USC is loaded at defensive end. Lawrence Jackson, a 1st team All Pac 10 selection last year, returns as a starter at one DE and there will be substantial competition for the other spot vacated by Frostee Rucker. Kyle Moore has the inside track on securing that position, but he will be pushed by Jeff Schweiger, Rashad Goodrum and maybe true frosh Mike Morgan. Morgan is undersized and will likely be used only in passing situations. There is a chance that Keith Rivers is moved from LB to DE as well. At nose tackle, the Trojans return starter Sedrick Ellis. I thought Ellis had an outstanding year and I expect a breakout season from him. He will be backed up by red shirt frosh Avrell Spicer. Fili Moala will try and lock down his spot at the 3 technique DL position. He will be pushed by Travis Tofi and true freshman Butch Lewis and Walker Ashley. Chris Barrett is a physical specimen and can play either DE or DT...I like him more at DT and hope he can make some noise there in the spring. Also, look for true frosh Derrick Simmons, he reminds me a bit of Shaun Cody, probably quick enough to play end, but will likely play DT.
The Trojans have a ridiculous number of quality LBs. I think sophomore Rey Maluagua will take over the starting MLB position. He will be backed up by Oscar Lua and Luther Brown. Brown is an explosive player and could also compete for playing at WLB or DE. Dallas Sartz (3 year starter) and Brian Cushing will compete for the SLB spot. I believe Cushing is the better player, but I suspect that Coach Carroll will want his most experienced LB (Sartz) on the field. I think there is a real possibility that Sartz and Cushing both start (SLB and WLB) and that Keith Rivers plays DE. If Rivers keeps his spot at WLB, it will be a battle for that SLB position. Other players in the mix will be Thomas Williams, Maiva and true frosh Josh Tatum. SC is literally stacked 3 deep at each LB position. Ryan Powdrell will be moved to FB.
After sustaining the loss of Eric Wright in the preseason and Terell Thomas in the second game, the CB spot was an area of concern all season. In 2006, it will be an area of strength in my opinion. I believe Josh Pinkard will stay at corner after being converted from safety in 2005. He developed into a very solid corner and is positioned to have a huge year in 2006. The other corner spot will be a battle between 2005 starter Terell Thomas (returning from ACL surgery), sophomore Kevin Thomas, JC transfer Mozique McCurtis and true frosh Shareece Wright. Wright has all the skills to be an unbelievable corner, but both of the Thomas' have experience. Cary Harris and Will Harris will be in the mix as well. CJ Gable may see some time corner as well.
USC loses both starting safeties to graduation. If Kevin Ellison can recover from ACL surgery, I would expect him to lock down the FS spot. There are several extremely talented true frosh competing for playing time as well. Antwine Perez is a hard hitting SS, who enrolled in January and will participate in spring practice. Taylor Mays is a 6'4" 225lbs safety who is the 2-time Washington State Champion in BOTH the 100 and 200 meters. The kid is just sick and could play safety, WR or maybe even CB. Allen Bradford, the #1 high school player in CA, will compete at the SS spot, but may also play LB or RB. The Ting brothers also return for their senior year. This is the most talent USC has ever had in the secondary.
Look for CJ Gable, Taylor Mays, David Ausberry and Cary Harris to return kickoffs (maybe Desmond Reed if he is healthy). Travon Patterson will be given an early opportunity to return punts. Mario Danelo returns to kick field goals. As it stands today, USC will be looking to a walk-on punter.
The more I think about the 2006 Trojans, I think USC will be very good. The schedule is difficult and the team will be young in spots, so there may be some early bumps in the road. Look for this team to be playing great football in November. I can't wait for spring practice...see you there!