National Champion Trojans Should Be Loaded Again
Jan 6, 2004
By KEN PETERS
The USC Trojans, The Associated Press' national champions, may be even stronger next season since their young players will have a year's worth of experience.
The Trojans will return 17 starters next year and 36 players who were on the 48-man depth chart, assuming none of their underclass stars leave early for the NFL draft.
"The future here, you can't even see the end of it with the guys that are on the team," said Cody, a junior tackle. "Look at our freshmen, how productive they have been.
"We've got the running backs, we've got Steve Smith out there at wide receiver, and some of the 'D' linemen are coming along fast. The freshmen that coach recruited really pulled in and it's amazing."
Quarterback Leinart and All-American wide receiver Williams, who finished sixth and eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, will be juniors next fall. So will starting tailback Hershel Dennis. LenDale White and Reggie Bush, both of whom played major roles coming off the bench at tailback, will be sophomores.
All-American defensive end Udeze, the team's sacks leader, will be a senior, and middle linebacker Tatupu, the Trojans' leading tackler, will be a junior.
Pete Carroll, who has restored the luster to USC football since he became the coach three years ago, believes the Trojans have a good chance to build on what they've accomplished so far.
"We feel confident that we can continue, based on the sense that we have on the recruiting class that's coming together, and based on the group that came in last year," Carroll said recently. "There are a ton of guys that are going to come out of redshirt years and play for us next year, guys we were able to hold out."
Marlin McKeever, a USC end and fullback from 1958-60 and a two-time All-American, believes the Trojans are going to be a national power for many years.
"They have so many fine young players and Pete Carroll's without a doubt the best coach in America," said McKeever, among several hundred alumni, students and fans who gathered on campus for Monday's presentation of The AP's national championship trophy.
"This is the beginning of a dynasty, although Pete would not like me saying that," McKeever said with a grin.
The Trojans were 31-29 in the five years before Carroll arrived in Los Angeles. After losing five of his first seven games, he's 27-4 and USC has won 20 of its last 21, including last Thursday's 28-14 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.
USC last won a national title in 1978, when - like this year - the championship was split between the writers' and coaches' polls.
The Trojans, No. 1 in both the media and coaches' polls at the end of the regular season, received 48 of the 65 first-place votes in The AP post-bowl balloting. The coaches were obligated to vote for LSU (13-1) because of its 21-14 victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, this year's designated BCS championship game.
The Trojans would have liked to play one more game this season - against LSU.
"Oh, yeah, more than anything on Earth," Cody said. "I think everyone out
there would have loved to have seen that game. But we feel like we're No. 1.
Nothing's going to change that."