(1) FRANK STRONG--Linebacker, 6-1, 220, Sr./Sr.
CAREER: With 563 career yards in kickoff returns, Strong is 13th on USC's all-time list.
2001: Strong exhibited his versatility and athleticism as a senior in 2001. A one-time tailback and then a free safety, he was moved to the starting weakside linebacker spot in 2001 fall camp. Because of injuries to teammates, he also saw brief time at tailback (at California) and returning kickoffs (against Oregon State, California, UCLA and Utah), unusual roles for a linebacker. Overall in 2001 while starting 11 games (he missed the Kansas State contest with a sprained right knee suffered against San Jose State), he had 60 tackles (third on USC), including 6 for losses of 6 yards, 5 deflections, 1 interception that he returned 24 yards, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles, plus 6 rushing yards on 5 carries (1.2 average) and a 23-yard kickoff return. He tied for fifth in the Pac-10 in fumble recoveries (2) and forced fumbles (2). He was invited to play in the Paradise Bowl. He spent 2001 spring drills as a free safety and then at tailback.
In the San Jose State opener, he had game bests of 8 tackles and 2 deflections, then came back from his knee injury by getting 6 stops and recovering a fumble at Oregon. He had 4 tackles, forced a fumble which USC recovered and deflected a pass against Stanford. He had 5 tackles at Washington, 6 stops and returned an interception 24 yards to set up a field goal versus Arizona State, 4 tackles, forced a fumble (which USC recovered to set up a field goal) and deflected a pass at Notre Dame and 3 stops (with a tackle for a loss) at Arizona. Against Oregon State, He had 8 stops (1 for a loss), a deflection, a fumble recovery and a 23-yard kickoff return. He saw action on defense (1 stop), offense (6 yards on 5 carries at tailback) and special teams (as a kickoff returner, although he did not have a runback) at California. He had 3 tackles against UCLA. He had a career-high 12 tackles (including 4 for losses of 2 yards) against Utah.
2000: Strong spent most of his 2000 junior season backing up Ifeanyi Ohalete and then DeShaun Hill at free safety, but he ended up starting USC's final 2 games at that spot (UCLA and Notre Dame). He also made an impact on special teams. Overall in 2000 while appearing in all 12 games, he had 20 tackles, 4 deflections, 1 interception (at Arizona State) which he returned 67 yards, 1 forced fumble (against California, which USC recovered to set up a field goal) and 1 blocked punt (against Penn State, which USC returned for a TD). He also led USC in kickoff returns with 25 for 540 yards (21.6 avg.) and returned 6 punts for 79 yards (13.2 avg.).
He had 6 tackles at UCLA (tied for the team high), 3 at Arizona State (plus the interception, the first of his career) and 2 against Oregon and Notre Dame. Against Penn State, he was involved in USC's first TD of the season when he blocked a punt which Sandy Fletcher returned for a score 2:15 into the game. He returned 5 kickoffs against California for 85 yards, 4 against both Notre Dame (122 yards) and Oregon (94 yards), and 3 at UCLA for 72 yards.
1999: Strong began his 1999 sophomore season as a reserve tailback and saw some action there and on special teams, but he was moved to free safety prior to the mid-season Stanford game and saw time there as the backup to Ifeanyi Ohalete. Overall in 1999 while appearing in 9 games (all but the San Diego State, California and Louisiana Tech contests), he had 7 carries for 27 yards (3.9 avg.) and 3 catches for 34 yards (11.3 avg.) on offense and 1 tackle on defense (versus UCLA). He ran for 25 yards on 6 tries at Hawaii and had 2 catches for 22 yards at Oregon State. He missed the San Diego State game with a bruised right thigh suffered in practice.
1998: Strong, who spent most of his 1998 freshman season as a reserve tailback, became just the fourth USC first-year freshman to start at tailback (Charles White, Scott Lockwood and Malaefou MacKenzie were the others) when he did so for an injured Chad Morton against California. He also played on special teams. Overall in 1998 while appearing in 11 games (all but Washington and UCLA), he ran for 193 yards on 37 carries (5.2 avg.) and caught 3 passes for 22 yards (7.3 avg.). He had a game-best 82 rushing yards at Florida State, including a 73-yard burst to set up USC's TD (he won USC's Jack Oakie "Rise and Shine" Award for the longest run of the year), and added 45 yards on 12 tries against California. However, he lost 3 fumbles in 1998, which caused his playing time to decrease. He also made 1 tackle (against Purdue).
HIGH SCHOOL: His 1997 honors included Prep Star All-American, ESPN/National Recruiting Advisor All-American third team, USA Today All-USA honorable mention, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western Region, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West honorable mention, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team and All-San Joaquin Athletic Association MVP as a senior at Franklin High in Stockton (Calif.). He ran for 1,460 yards and 39 TDs on offense and had 100-plus tackles and 4 interceptions (2 returned for TDs) as a linebacker on defense. He also was the punter and placekicker and returned kickoffs (including 6 for scores). Franklin went 10-0 in 1997. He also played basketball. Current Trojan Chris Cash also prepped at Franklin.
He attended St. Mary's High in Stockton before that. As a 1996 junior at St. Mary's, he was named a Student Sports Junior All-American, Cal-Hi Sports Junior All-State first team, All-Area and All-League as he ran for 1,600 yards with 22 TDs and caught 17 passes for 457 yards (26.9 avg.) and 7 TDs. Current Trojan Kevin Arbet also prepped at St. Mary's.
PERSONAL: He's a public policy and management major at USC. His sports hero is Jackie Robinson.
FRANK STRONG ON: Confidence: "It's not actually convincing the coaches, it's convincing myself that I can play with these high-level athletes. I think it has boosted my confidence to be out there and play with the big boys because it's a big jump from high school to college."
GAME-BY-GAME WITH FRANK STRONG