Trojan Football Hosts San Jose State
Sept. 17, 2000
TICKETS -- Tickets for the USC-San Jose State game, priced at $27, are available at the USC Ticket Office (213-740-GO SC), L.A. Sports Arena box office and all Ticketmaster agencies. For group discounts (25 or more), call (213) 740-4170.
RADIO-TV -- Live local cable TV: 3:30 p.m. (PDT), FOX Sports Net West 2, Tom Kelly, Craig Fertig, John Jackson. (Also live in the Bay Area on Bay TV, Mike Chisholm, John Ralston.)
Local cable TV replay: 1 a.m. (PDT), Sunday (Sept. 24) and 1 p.m. (PDT), Tuesday (Sept. 26), FOX Sports Net West 2, Tom Kelly, Craig Fertig, John Jackson.
Live local radio: 1:30 p.m. (PDT), XTRA-AM (690), Lee Hamilton, Paul McDonald, Tim Ryan (includes 1-hour USC pre- and post-game shows sandwiched by 1-hour college football pre- and post-game shows). Four other stations are included on the USC radio network: KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KGEO-AM 1230 in Bakersfield, KFIG-AM 1430 in Fresno and KRLV-AM 1340 in Las Vegas, Nev. Fans also can hear the live XTRA broadcast on the Internet as a "cybercast" on www.usctrojans.com or can pay to listen to it live by dialing 1-800-846-4675 ext. 5933.
USC Sports Magazine Show: 6 p.m. (PDT), Thursday, (Sept. 21), FOX Sports Net West 2, Tom Kelly. Also, 3 p.m. (PDT), Saturday (Sept. 23).
USC Trojan Talk: 7 p.m. (PDT), Sundays during football season, KDWN-AM (720), Harvey Hyde, Chuck Hayes. Fans also can hear the live KDWN broadcast on the Internet as a cybercast" (type http://www.usctrojans.com).
USC HOTLINE--Dial (213) 743-2989 for a brief taped interview with USC coach Paul Hackett.
USC ONLINE--The USC athletic department has an official "home page" on the World Wide Web, featuring current and historical information about Trojan sports. For access, type http://www.usctrojans.com.
IT'S NOT SOUTHERN CAL--Note to the media: In editorial references to athletic teams of the University of Southern California, the following are preferred: USC, Southern California, So. California, Troy, Trojans and (for women's teams) Women of Troy. PLEASE do not use Southern Cal.
PAC-10 ONLINE--Pac-10 information, press releases, statistics and links to all league schools are available online at http://www.pac-10.org.
USA TODAY/ESPN POLL
NO. 9 USC FOOTBALL HOSTS SAN JOSE STATE IN TROJANS' 500th GAME IN COLISEUM
THE FACTS--USC (2-0 overall) vs. San Jose State (2-1), Saturday (Sept. 23), 3:30 p.m. PDT, Los Angeles Coliseum.
THEMES -- It's just the second meeting ever between USC and San Jose State. It will be the 500th USC game in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Top 10-ranked USC -- on a 5-game winning streak -- is coming off its second bye of this young season, while the Spartans have won their last 2 games, including a victory over Stanford for the third year in a row. San Jose State features one of the game's hottest running backs in TB Deonce Whitaker, the nation's No. 3 rusher. The game will be shown live locally on FOX Sports Net West 2.
RANKINGS -- USC is ranked ninth by both AP and USA Today/ESPN. San Jose State is not ranked.
SERIES -- No. 7 USC opened its 1995 season with a 45-7 home win over San Jose State (then a member of the Big West) in its first and only meeting with the Spartans. Troy led 21-0 (behind a pair of short TD runs by TB Shawn Walters and another by TB Leonard Green) before SJSU got on the board. USC's other scores came on an 8-yard run by QB Brad Otton, a 1-yard Otton pass to TE Tyler Cashman, a 33-yard field goal by PK Adam Abrams and a 35-yard interception by Daylon McCutcheon. The Trojan offense had 462 total yards, while USC's defense posted 4 sacks, intercepted 3 passes and allowed just 247 total yards (70 rushing).
VERSUS WAC -- USC is 16-4-1 against Western Athletic Conference opponents and the Trojans have won 7 of their last 9 against WAC foes. On the other hand, San Jose State is 43-121-2 all-time against Pac-10 opponents.
500TH COLISEUM GAME -- USC's game against San Jose State marks the 500th contest the Trojans have played in the Coliseum, dating back to 1923. Troy has a 357-115-27 (.742) all-time record in the Coliseum.
AFTER BYES -- USC is 75-40-4 (.647) in all regular season games it has played following byes. Since 1955, the Trojans are 36-11-1 following byes (6 of those losses and the tie were to UCLA). USC is coming off its second bye of the 2000 season (Troy beat Colorado following its first bye of 2000).
CONNECTIONS -- USC has 4 players who previously attended a Bay Area school: DEs Matt Childers (Castro Valley HS and Chabot CC in Hayward) and Omar Nazel (Skyline HS in Oakland), CB Matt Lemos (St. Francis HS in Mountain View) and WR Forrest Mozart (St. Francis HS in Mountain View):USC head coach Paul Hackett has Bay Area roots, including attending Miramonte HS in Orinda and UC Davis and serving as an assistant at UC Davis (1969-71) and California (1972-75) and with the San Francisco 49ers (1983-85):USC assistant coach Dan Ferrigno also has a Bay Area background, having attended Riordan HS in San Francisco and San Francisco State, then coaching at St. Ignatius HS in San Francisco and at San Francisco State and California:Trojan assistant Matt Irvin prepped at Northgate HS in Walnut Creek:USC CB Kevin Arbet's cousin, Lamarr Arbet, is a freshman defensive lineman at San Jose State and his uncle, Darren Arbet, is the head coach of the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League:USC TB Sultan McCullough's late father, Bruce, was a hurdler at San Jose State in the 1960s during the famed "Speed City" days.
LAST GAME -- PK David Newbury, who had missed a pair of field goals earlier in the game, nailed a 24-yarder with 13 seconds to play to give No. 11 USC a thrilling 17-14 home opening victory over Colorado before 65,153 fans in the Coliseum and an ABC-TV regional audience, extending Troy's winning streak to 5. It was the first meeting between USC (coming off a bye) and Colorado since 1964. Newbury's game-winner (the latest in a game that a Trojan kicked a game-winning field goal since Don Shafer did so at the gun at Baylor in 1986) culminated a 9-play, 72-yard drive that began with 1:14 left on the clock after Buffalo PK Mark Mariscal missed a 40-yard field goal. USC QB Carson Palmer, who was an astonishing 25-of-30 for 275 yards on the day (3 of his passes were dropped), was 6-of-6 for 68 yards on that winning drive. USC got on the board first, as Palmer hit former walk-on WR Matt Nickels with an 8-yard scoring pass late in the second quarter. But CU responded on the ensuing possession, driving 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by an 11-yard TD pass from QB Zac Colvin to WR Javon Green with 4 seconds to go in the half. USC DE Matt Childers stripped Colvin on the opening possession of the second half, S Troy Polamalu returned it to the CU 21-yard line, and 3 plays later TB Sultan McCullough -- who rushed for 91 yards on 28 carries in the game -- ran 5 yards up the middle for a touchdown. But the Buffaloes struck back late in the third quarter on a 36-yard TD pass from QB Bobby Pesavento to TE Daniel Graham to tie the score. USC blew scoring chances on its first 2 possessions of the game after WR Kareem Kelly -- who caught a career-high 10 passes for 145 yards overall -- couldn't hold onto a 17-yard TD pass and Colorado FS Robbie Robinson intercepted the ball in the end zone and then Newbury missed a 30-yard field goal. Defensively, LB Markus Steele and S Ifeanyi Ohalete had a game-best 9 tackles each (Steele had 2 sacks), LB Zeke Moreno added 7 stops, DT Ennis Davis had 5 tackles (with 2 sacks) and DT Bernard Riley blocked a first quarter field goal attempt. USC had 6 sacks overall. For Colorado, true freshman TB Marcus Houston had a game-high 150 yards on 25 carries (becoming the first Buffalo to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard games), Green caught 6 passes for 64 yards, Colvin was 13-of-21 for 150 yards and Pesavento was 3-of-5 for 54 yards. The Trojans averaged 6.3 yards per play and outgained the Buffaloes, 433 to 368. The game began with a dramatic flyover by 4 Navy jets.
SCHEDULE--Although USC plays 7 of its 12 games at home, its 2000 schedule began with a challenge as the Trojans traveled to East Rutherford, N.J., to play Penn State in the Kickoff Classic. Beyond that, Troy doesn't have a long road trip, going to defending Pac-10 champion Stanford, 1999 bowl teams Arizona State and Oregon State, and UCLA. Visiting the Coliseum are non-conference foes Colorado (the 1999 Insight.com Bowl winner), Notre Dame and San Jose State, plus Pac-10 opponents Oregon (the 1999 Sun Bowl champ), Arizona, California and Washington State.
FUN FACT--USC's No. 9 AP ranking is its highest since it opened the 1996 season at No. 7.
HACKETT--Energetic and innovative Paul Hackett, a one-time USC assistant coach who has been on coaching staffs that have won a national championship in college and a Super Bowl in the pros, made an immediate mark on the Trojan football program upon his return to Troy as its head football coach. In his first year at USC's helm, he led the Trojans to an 8-5 record in 1998 (5-3 in the Pac-10 for a third place tie) and a berth in the Sun Bowl. With his 1998 opening win over Purdue, he became the first head coach to win his Trojan debut since Jess Hill in 1951, and by starting off 3-0, he became only the third Trojan coach since 1915 to win his first 3 games (joining Hill in 1951 and the legendary Howard Jones in 1925). Hackett is one of only two USC head coaches to have won their first outing against Notre Dame (John Robinson is the other). Hackett, Robinson and Larry Smith are the only USC coaches to have guided squads to a bowl game in their first seasons at Troy. In 1999 in his second year at USC, Hackett's team went 6-6 overall (4-5 in the Pac-10 for a sixth place tie) as Troy won its final 3 games of the season and snapped UCLA's 8-game winning streak over the Trojans. USC was in every game, as it was the first time ever that Troy lost all 6 games by 10 points or less. The 53-year-old Hackett signed a 5-year contract to replace Robinson on Dec. 17, 1997. Regarded as one of the game's most progressive offensive coaches, he has 31 years of experience as a college and professional assistant and head coach. He has tutored some of football's top players--including Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, Andre Rison, Tony Dorsett, Steve Bartkowski, Charles White, Brian Sipe, Herschel Walker, Danny White, Dwight Clark and Vince Evans--and has worked under such head coaches as Bill Walsh, Tom Landry, Marty Schottenheimer and Robinson. Before coming to Troy, Hackett was the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs for 5 years (1993-97). The Chiefs advanced to the NFL playoffs in 4 of those years, including 1997. Before that, he was at the University of Pittsburgh (1989-92), the first season as the quarterbacks coach and then 3 seasons as the Panthers' head coach (posting a 13-20-1 record). As a college coach, he has a 29-31-1 overall mark in 5 seasons, including 16-11 in 3 years at USC. Hackett began his coaching career for 3 seasons (1969-71) at his alma mater, UC Davis. He then was an assistant at California for 4 years (1972-75). Then, at age 29, Hackett moved to USC for 5 years (1976-80), where under Robinson he was in charge of the quarterbacks and receivers for the first 2 years and then the quarterbacks and passing game the final 3 years. During his Trojan tenure, USC was the 1978 national champion, won 4 bowl games (including 3 Rose Bowls), posted a 50-8-2 record and produced a Heisman Trophy winner (White). Hackett began his pro coaching career as quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns for 2 seasons (1981-82). He next was the quarterbacks and receivers coach with the San Francisco 49ers for 3 years (1983-85). The 49ers won Super Bowl XIX in the 1984 season. He then became the pass offense coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys for 3 years (1986-88) before returning to the college ranks at Pitt. A 3-year starting quarterback at UC Davis (1966-68), Hackett collects old music juke boxes filled with 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n roll music. A rock music fan, he sat in the front row at the final Beatles concert, held in 1966 in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Born on July 5, 1947 in Burlington, Vt., he shares a birthday with former USC head coach John McKay. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have 2 sons, David, 28, and Nathaniel, 20. David played on the 1988 Texas Division III state football champion while at Carroll High in Southlake, Tex., and then was an administrative assistant with the USC football program, while Nathaniel is a sophomore on UC Davis' football team.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE 2000 TROJANS
Tom Dienhart, The Sporting News: "A title run is expected this fall. This is as talented a USC team in some time, and it is one that should win the Pac-10 title."
Athlon: "Certainly, there is enough talent for the Trojans to win 10 games. But will they do it? They have one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and return 10 starters on defense, so the answer to that question, at least on paper, is yes."
Bob Cunningham, Preview Sports: "The third time should be the charm, primarily because the Trojans have one of the nation's top defenses:If the USC offense can play on a short field, this team could do some damage:The Trojans have the personnel to return to the top."
Phil Steele's College Football: "USC should at least get a Pac-10 co-championship this year as it is solidly improved on both sides of the ball and loaded with NFL-caliber talent."
Joe Wojciechowski, ESPN.com: "The expectations are back. USC is simply loaded defensively and have enough talented players back offensively that anything less than a trip across town to Pasadena would be disappointing."
--There's little doubt that sophomore Carson Palmer (35-of-50, 70.0%, 362 yds, 1 TD, 2 int in 2000) is one of the nation's premier quarterbacks. How valuable is he to the Trojans? With Palmer at the reins, USC started off the 1999 season undefeated as he completed nearly 75% of his passes. But when he broke his collarbone 2 plays before halftime in Troy's third game (at Oregon), USC hit a tailspin from which it took a while to recover. After missing the rest of the 1999 campaign while rehabilitating the injury (he was allowed to redshirt because he was knocked out so early in the season), he is fully healthy now and has regained the form that has him already ranking 11th on USC's career passing ladder (with 204 completions) with just 9 starts under his belt.
--In his first game after an 11-month layoff, Palmer was 10-of-20 passing for 87 yards (with an interception) against Penn State.
--He bounced back from that shaky debut against Penn State by hitting 25-of-30 passes (83.3%) for 275 yards and a TD (3 of his passes were dropped) against Colorado. On USC's game-winning drive -- a 9-play, 72-yard drive that began with 1:14 on the clock and culminated with a game-winning field goal with 13 seconds to play -- he was 6-of-6 for 68 yards.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT CARSON PALMER
Shana Newell, El Paso Times: "Rarely has a Trojan quarterback demonstrated as much promise as Carson Palmer. He could become USC's biggest name yet."
USC tailback Petros Papadakis: "Someday I can tell my kids that Carson Palmer handed me the ball once."
USC offensive coordinator Hue Jackson: "He makes good things happen:Two things I've notice about Carson now (after the injury). He's maturing and he has a burning desire to show everyone he's the player we all think he is."
USC wide receiver Kareem Kelly: "I knew he was good from watching him in high school. But I had no idea he was this good:He's the nucleus of the team. We need Carson. He's a playmaker:He just adds so much to the offense. It's a totally different team when he's in:On the first day of (2000) spring practice, you could tell right away how bad he wanted to be back because usually he would just be walking to practice, but now he was sprinting out there."
USC wide receiver Matt Nickels, Palmer's prep teammate: "In high school, the whole varsity would watch his freshman games and just stand around in awe. I knew this guy was going to be big-time some day."
Former USC safety David Gibson: "He has, by far, the strongest arm I've played against. And it's just not how hard he throws, either. It's his accuracy and touch, too. He can put the ball anywhere. You can have a receiver covered, but he's going to find a way to get the ball to him."
Former USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald, now USC's radio analyst: "He's so far ahead of the learning curve, it's scary."
Former USC quarterbacks coach Ken O'Brien: "He is such a talented young man, with the potential to be as great as anyone I've seen."
Former UCLA cornerback Julius Williams: "If a receiver has a little bit of room and the defensive back is not covering him completely, Carson is going to throw the ball right there and there's no way the defensive back is going to get the ball."
Santa Margarita High coach Jim Hartigan: "Carson has the size of Troy Aikman and the arm strength of John Elway. He's got the super quick release of Dan Marino and the ability to put zip on the ball or touch depending on what the situation calls for. He is extremely calm and poised and he always makes the right decisions. He thrives on pressure. The bigger the game, the better he performs."
ALSO AT QUARTERBACK--USC might have the most experienced backup signalcaller in the nation in senior Mike Van Raaphorst. A 15-game starter in his career, he is ninth on USC's all-time passing list (232 completions) and 19th on the Trojans' career total offense chart (2,809 yards). He took over for 5 games in 1999 when Palmer went down before being replaced by John Fox. Against Stanford, he set USC single game passing yardage (415 yards) and total offense (390 yards) records. Also a star in the classroom, he has a team-best 3.72 GPA and has begun classes in USC's M.B.A. program this fall after receiving his bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and political science this spring. He is applying for a Rhodes Scholarship.
RUNNING BACKS--One tailback usually carried the ball for Troy in 1999: Chad Morton, a 2-year starter who ended his career as USC's No. 8 rusher (2,511 yards), including a dozen 100-yard outings, and now plays in the NFL. Last fall, he ran for 1,141 yards (the most at USC since 1990) and 15 TDs (the most by a Trojan since 1981). In 2000, look for a combination of speed burners and power runners to share the load at tailback. Sophomore Sultan McCullough (57 tcb, 219 yds, 3.8 avg in 2000, plus 4 rec, 3.2 avg) is a legitimate speed merchant. He currently is 22nd nationally in rushing (109.5, fourth in the Pac-10). The 1999 Pac-10 100 meters champion and eighth-place finisher in the 2000 NCAA 100 (he also ran a leg on USC's 400-meter relay which was fifth at the 2000 NCAA Meet), McCullough is the fastest Trojan footballer ever (10.17 in the 100, the best mark in the world in 1999 by an under-20 runner). He showed flashes of his gridiron potential last fall, even jetting 48 yards against UCLA for Troy's longest run of 1999. The power guys are junior Malaefou MacKenzie (3 tcb, 8 yds, 2.7 avg in 2000, plus 3 rec, 7.3 avg and 1 KOR, 20.0 avg), who has 489 rushing yards and 2 starts in a career that has been injury-plagued, and senior Petros Papadakis (16 tcb, 52 yds, 3.2 avg, 1 TD in 2000), who ran for 365 yards and a team-best 8 touchdowns while starting 4 times in 1998 but missed all of 1999 and last spring's practice with a serious foot injury. He is healthy now. A pair of Trojans appear at fullback, led by returning starter Charlie Landrigan (1 tcb, 3 yds, 3.0 avg in 2000, plus 1 rec, 11.0 avg), an unheralded junior who performed solidly in 1999, and sophomore Chad Pierson (2 tcb, 16 yds, 8.0 avg in 2000, plus 2 rec, 14.0 avg). Both are rugged blockers and good pass catchers, but none has been asked yet to prove his running ability.
--In his first-ever career start, McCullough ran for 128 yards on 29 carries (both career highs) against Penn State (he also caught 3 passes for 16 yards) to gain Kickoff Classic MVP honors, while Papadakis had 29 yards on 11 carries (with a 2-yard TD on his first carry of 2000 after missing the 1999 season with a broken foot) and Pierson had 16 yards on 2 carries and another 28 yards on 2 catches.
--Against Colorado, McCullough ran for a team-best 91 yards on 28 carries and had a 5-yard TD run, while Papadakis had 23 yards on 5 tries, MacKenzie caught 2 passes for 16 yards and Landrigan caught an 11-yard pass.
WIDE RECEIVERS--You'd think that USC would be in trouble at the wide receiver spots in 2000, since such high-caliber players as starters R. Jay Soward and Windrell Hayes are gone. After all, Soward finished his time at Troy as the school's No. 4 all-time pass catcher (161 grabs, including 51 last fall) and was an NFL first round draft pick. Hayes, another NFL draftee, caught 79 passes in his Trojan career, including a team-best 55 in 1999 with 4 TDs. But USC might have the best young wideout corps anywhere, led by experienced sophs Kareem Kelly (12 rec, 13.3 avg in 2000, plus 1 tcb, 3.0 avg), Marcell Allmond (4 rec, 9.8 avg in 2000, plus 1 tcb, 29.0 avg and 1 KOR, 16.0 avg) and Steve Stevenson. Kelly, the 1999 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American second teamer, was USC's second-leading receiver last fall. He set Pac-10 freshman records for most catches (54) and receiving yards (902) while starting twice. The only Trojan with a catch in every game in 1999, he had 4 outings with 100 receiving yards. He was third in the Pac-10 in receiving yards (75.2). He's on the 2000 Biletnikoff Award Watch List. Kelly currently is tied for 15th nationally in receptions (6.0, third in Pac-10). Allmond started 3 times in 1999, while Stevenson's start at Oregon marked the first time that a true freshman started at wide receiver for USC since 1984. Kelly (sprints) and Allmond (hurdles, decathlon), former California state prep champs in their specialties, also compete for the Trojan tracksters. Kelly owns the world junior record in the indoor 50-meter dash, while Allmond was second in the 110-meter high hurdles and seventh in the decathlon at the 2000 Pac-10 Meet. Other wideouts who figure to contribute are senior Matt Nickels (3 rec, 8.7 avg, 1 TD in 2000), an ex-walk-on who earned a scholarship this season, redshirt freshman Sandy Fletcher, who spent the early part of last season as a safety and also briefly played point guard on the USC basketball team this past season, and prep All-American Keary Colbert (3 rec, 11.3 avg in 2000), a freshman.
--Kelly had 2 catches for 15 yards against Penn State and Allmond added a 21-yard grab (Fletcher ran a blocked punt 6 yards for a TD on special teams).
--Kelly had a career-best 10 catches for 145 yards (both game highs) against Colorado, while Allmond (18 yards), Nickels (26 yards) and Colbert (34 yards) each had 3 grabs (Nickels caught an 8-yard TD).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT KAREEM KELLY
Former USC tailback Chad Morton: "He's going to be one of the game's greats. That's the Biletnikoff Award winner right there."
Karen Crouse, Los Angeles Daily News: "Kareem Kelly has more tools than a carpenter. Before he's through, he could add on another wing to Heritage Hall. He has height, heart, great hands, a gazelle's gait and as many gears as a Ferrari:He's just naturally equipped for success:He is an astute student of the game. On the field, the only thing churning faster than his legs is his mind."
Long Beach Poly track coach Don Norford: "His gait is so smooth and relaxed that you really can't judge how fast Kareem is. It's like when a cheetah attacks the gazelle. The gazelle doesn't realize how fast the cheetah is until it's right into him. With Kareem, a cornerback thinks he has an angle on him, then he shifts into another gear. And Kareem has about three or four more gears he can use."
TIGHT ENDS -- Look for USC's tight ends to be more prominent in 2000. Senior Antoine Harris (2 rec, 14.0 avg in 2000), a reliable veteran, starts at tight end for his fourth season in 2000 and could be in for a big senior campaign. An accomplished blocker and able receiver, he has 33 receptions with 2 touchdowns in his career. Besides backup Scott Huber, a sophomore, a pair of top-quality recruits have entered the picture this fall: sophomore Doyal Butler, who spent 1998 at Purdue, and freshman Alex Holmes (1 rec, 1.0 avg in 2000).
--Against Colorado, Harris had 2 catches for 28 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN--For the first time in Paul Hackett's 3 years, USC has solid depth on its offensive line. But, as has been the case the past 2 seasons, Troy's offensive success will depend heavily on the performance of these blockers. Dependable senior Brent McCaffrey starts for his third season at left tackle. Senior Trevor Roberts, who started 3 times at left tackle last year, entered the fall as the starting left guard, but has been slowed with a foot injury. So, redshirt freshman Lenny Vandermade, who can also play center, has stepped in there in the interim. The right side of USC's line suffered the loss of 1999 All-Pac-10 first team tackle Travis Claridge, last year's Pac-10 Morris Trophy winner who started all 48 games of his USC career (the first Trojan offensive lineman ever to do so without redshirting) and is now in the NFL. But junior Faaesea Mailo, who started 5 times last fall at guard, has moved out to right tackle. He also was used as a fullback in short yardage situations at times last year and proved to be a devastating blocker, watch for him in the backfield again in 2000. Sophomore Zach Wilson, who started the final 7 games of 1999 at right guard and was impressive enough to earn Freshman All-American second team notice, starts there once again. Senior Eric Denmon returns at center after starting there most of last year at center, but his Trojan career has been marked by nagging injuries.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN--The defensive line is the most veteran unit on the entire USC team. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better pair of tackles than USC's returning starters: senior Ennis Davis (9 tac, 4 for losses, 3 sac in 2000), a 2-year starter and on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy "Watch List," and junior Ryan Nielsen (5 tac in 2000). Davis, a 1998 All-Pac-10 first teamer, was never quite himself last season after suffering a knee injury in the 1998 Sun Bowl, but he still showed his big-play potential often, tying for the team lead in sacks (5) and even intercepting a pair of passes (returning one 30 yards for a TD as he hurdled his 300-pound body over an opponent to get into the end zone). The underrated Nielsen was named USC's Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1999. Sophomore Bernard Riley (4 tac, 1 BLK in 2000), who appeared mostly in short yardage situations last fall, will push this duo for time. USC's already-deep group of ends was bolstered by the return of senior Sultan Abdul-Malik (4 tac, 1 sac in 2000) to the position. He was USC's sack leader in 1997 and 1998 while starting at end, but started at strongside linebacker last fall. He was moved back to the line to take advantage of his pass rushing skills (he has 19 sacks in his career). Abdul-Malik competes with junior Lonnie Ford (3 tac, 1 sac, 1 dfl in 2000), who started at end in 1999 after playing tight end earlier in his USC career. Ford's 5 sacks last fall gave him a share of the Trojan lead. The other end spot again is manned by seniors Matt Childers (6 tac, 1 sac, 1 FF in 2000) and Shamsud-Din Abdul-Shaheed (1 tac in 2000). They are an interchangeable pair as Childers started 7 times last season and Abdul-Shaheed had 5 starts. Childers tied for the team lead in sacks (5) in 1999.
--Davis had 4 tackles (2 for losses, with a 17-yard sack) against Penn State, Childers added 3 stops and Ford had 2 tackles (with a 4-yard sack) and a deflection.
--Against Colorado, Davis had 5 tackles (2 were sacks), Abdul-Malik and Childers each added 3 stops (with 1 sack apiece, Childers also forced a fumble which USC recovered), Nielsen had 3 tackles and Riley made 2 stops and blocked a field goal.
MORENO/STEELE--USC's 2 returning starters at linebacker are good enough to merit consideration for the Butkus Award (both are on the Butkus Award "Watch List"): seniors Zeke Moreno (13 tac, 3 for losses, 1 dfl in 2000) in the middle and Markus Steele (12 tac, 2 sac in 2000) on the weak side. Moreno, who is starting for his third year and is also on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy "Watch List," was USC's leading tackler in 1999. He was third in the Pac-10 in tackles (9.0), tied for first in forced fumbles (5) and tied for third in fumble recoveries (2). Steele, who made an immediate impact in 1999 after transferring from a junior college, topped Troy in tackles for losses last season and was second in total tackles. He was third in the Pac-10 in forced fumbles (3) and tied for third in fumble recoveries (2). Each found the end zone in 1999, Moreno twice (on an interception and fumble recovery against Oregon State) and Steele once (on a fumble recovery at Hawaii).
--Moreno led USC with 6 tackles (including 3 for losses) against Penn State, while Steele added 3 stops.
--Against Colorado, Steele tied for the game high in tackles with 9 (2 were sacks) and Moreno added 7 stops and broke up a pass.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT ZEKE MORENO & MARKUS STEELE
Tom Reynolds, USC Report: "On the field, Moreno -- USC's ferocious inside linebacker -- stalks every play, searching for a ball carrier to pounce on. He is like a cat searching for prey. Off the field, Moreno couldn't be any more the opposite of his on-field demeanor. He is a soft-spoken, God-fearing momma's boy (by his own admission). But don't call him soft."
David Cisneros, Daily Trojan: "Ask anybody who knows him. They'll tell you what a wonderful guy he is. They might tell you how he has become a role model. And they'll tell you he's a hell of a middle linebacker:Moreno displays character rarely seen in sports."
Arizona head coach Dick Tomey: "He's an incredible player. There was nobody in our conference who was as outstanding at linebacker in 1999."
USC cornerback Kris Richard: "Markus can play. He had a lot of hype coming in and he backed it up. When you watch him on film, it's pretty amazing. To be as fast as he is at that position. He plays fast and he hits hard. And he is so intelligent on the field."
Former USC tailback Chad Morton: "He's fast, real fast. People try comparing him to (ex-USC Butkus Award winner) Chris Claiborne, but they're not the same type of players. Chris would run through people and rough you up. Markus' game is to get to the ball and cover well. He's very fast. He'll catch you if you're not running your fastest."
USC safety DeShaun Hill, Steele's junior college teammate: "The first time I saw him with pads on, I knew what the deal was. I started calling him ‘freak' because he has freaky athletic ability. He's fast enough to play defensive back but strong enough to take on offensive tackles. He's just amazing. He's just scratching the surface."
Phil Collin, South Bay Daily Breeze: "He makes numerous highlight film-type plays with his relentless pursuit and ability to slither away from blocking schemes designed to slow him down."
Scott Wolf, Los Angeles Daily News: "His speed and size make him attractive. He could probably even play strong safety in the NFL because of his athleticism."
Former USC linebackers coach Shawn Slocum: "He's a guy with the ability to make plays all over the field. He's just plain fast. He comes off the edge and slithers through. What stands out is his range and that he plays with violence."
USC football television analyst Craig Fertig, a former Trojan player and assistant coach: "People are starting to run away from him. But, hey, go ahead. He'll catch them."
Long Beach City College head coach Larry Reisbig: "He's the best player I've ever had. Sure, he's got great athletic ability, but he's much more than just a great athlete. He has a real feel for the game and how the position is supposed to be played. He'd constantly talk to the coaches and watch as much film as he could. He's a great leader and a wonderful kid to coach."
OTHER LINEBACKERS--Even though one of 1999's starting linebackers--Sultan Abdul-Malik--moved to the defensive line, there's no cause for concern at the Trojans' strongside linebacker position in 2000. The new starter there is junior Kori Dickerson (4 tac in 2000), who played defensive end earlier in his career (even starting once there last fall). He also high jumps for the USC track squad, with a best of 6-8.
--Dickerson made 2 tackles against Penn State.
--Dickerson had 2 stops versus Colorado.
DEFENSIVE BACKS--If it's competition you're looking for, watch USC's secondary throughout the 2000 season. The Trojans are well-stocked here, particularly at the cornerback spots, so expect all the players to be going all out all the time to get into the lineup. Both cornerbacks who started in 1999 came back, although only one will see the field in 2000. Junior Kris Richard (2 tac, 3 dfl in 2000, plus 3 PR, 14.3 avg) led USC in interceptions (6, tied for 17th nationally) last season (he returned 2 for scores), opening some eyes in the process. He currently is 22nd nationally in punt returns (14.3, second in the Pac-10). Senior pre-season All-American Antuan Simmons, a 3-year starter who has blocked 6 kicks in his career (including 2 field goals and a PAT last year), missed spring drills while recovering from late-season back surgery. He then had surgery in May to remove a benign abdominal tumor and will redshirt the 2000 season while recuperating. He returned a fumble 44 yards for a TD at Arizona in 1999. Grabbing Simmons' corner spot are sophomore Darrell Rideaux (4 tac, 2 dfl in 2000), who started USC's last 2 games of 1999 for an injured Simmons and was named a Freshman All-American second teamer, and junior Chris Cash (4 tac, 1 FF in 2000), a junior college transfer who enrolled at USC last spring and participated in spring practice. Rideaux doubles as a sprinter for the Trojan tracksters (in the spring of 2000, he was fifth in the 100 meters at the Pac-10 Meet and ran leadoff for the 400-meter relay squad which was fifth at the NCAA Meet). Sophomore Kevin Arbet (7 tac, 1 for a loss in 2000), a one-time walk-on who made such an immediate impression in 1999 that he earned a scholarship during his initial fall camp, is USC's nickel back (he can play either cornerback or safety). Arbet, who started twice in 1999 as an extra defensive back, returned an interception 75 yards for a TD against Louisiana Tech last season. Last season's starting free safety, senior Ifeanyi Ohalete (team-high 14 tac in 2000) is back and joins with new starting strong safety Troy Polamalu (7 tac, 1 dfl, 1 int for TD, 1 FR in 2000), a sophomore. Ohalete led USC in deflections (15) and was third in tackles (84) in 1999, and also tied for first in the Pac-10 in forced fumbles (5) and fumbles recovered (3). Polamalu is looking to fill the shoes of USC's only departed defensive starter from last season, 1999 All-Pac-10 first teamer David Gibson, a 3-year starter who had 241 career tackles (81 last fall). Two other safeties figure to see playing time: junior Frank Strong (2 tac, 1 BLK in 2000), a one-time tailback who was moved to defense in the middle of last season, and sophomore DeShaun Hill, who was able to redshirt last fall after suffering an early-season back injury.
--Ohalete had 5 tackles versus Penn State, Arbet and Rideaux had 2 apiece (Rideaux also broke up 2 passes), Polamalu had a 43-yard scoring interception return to go along with 2 tackles, Strong blocked a punt which USC returned for a TD, Cash forced a fumble and Richard broke up 2 passes.
--Against Colorado, Ohalete tied for the game high in tackles with 9, Polamalu made 5 stops and returned a fumble 14 yards to set up a USC TD, Arbet had 4 tackles, Cash made 3 stops and Richard had 2 stops and a deflection before leaving with a knee sprain.
SPECIALISTS--Junior Mike MacGillivray (47.0 avg in 2000) is back for his third season as USC's punter and is listed on the "Watch List" for the Ray Guy Award. An effective placement punter with an above-average leg (23 of his 166 career punts have traveled at least 50 yards), he is looking to become more consistent in 2000. Although junior David Newbury (4-of-6 FG, 4-of-5 PAT in 2000) was USC's placekicker last fall, a 3-way battle for the job was waged this fall between Newbury, senior David Bell and 1999 prep All-American John Wall, a freshman. Newbury, who finally regained his job for 2000, began his first year at Troy by nailing a season-long 48-yard field goal on his first attempt at Hawaii in 1999, but then struggled with consistency the rest of the way. He currently is tied for fifth nationally in field goals (2.0, first in the Pac-10). Bell, who is in his fourth season as USC's strong-legged kickoff man, has had touchbacks on 8 of his 10 kickoffs in 2000 (another was not returned past the 20). Last year, he took over the placement chores for Newbury in the third quarter of the season-ending Louisiana Tech game and nailed a 38-yard field goal and both extra point kicks.
--Newbury, who missed 9-of-20 field goals in 1999, hit all 3 attempts (47, 27 and 44 yards) against Penn State to tie a Kickoff Classic game record, MacGillivray averaged 46.3 yards punting (but had 1 blocked for a safety) and 5 of Bell's 6 kickoffs were touchbacks.
--Newbury, who had missed a pair of field goals earlier in the Colorado game, nailed a game-winning 24-yarder with 13 seconds to play (it was the latest in a game that a Trojan kicked a game-winnign field goal since Don Shafer did so at the gun at Baylor in 1986), for his performance, he was named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. MacGillivray averaged 48.0 yards on his 2 punts against the Buffs and 3 of Bell's 4 kickoffs were touchbacks (the other was not returned past the 20).
NEW COACHES -- There are 4 new assistant coaches on the USC staff: linebackers coach A.J. Christoff (whose 27 years of experience include stops at Colorado, Alabama, Notre Dame, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon and Georgia Tech), wide receivers coach/special teams coordinator Dan Ferrigno (formerly at California and Oregon State), running backs coach Kennedy Pola (the former Trojan fullback who has worked at San Diego State, Colorado and UCLA), tight ends coach Brian Schottenheimer (the son of ex-NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer who was at Syracuse and in the NFL). Also, Steve Morton takes over the offensive line coaching duties this year after handling the tight end in 1999 and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson goes from running backs to quarterbacks. Two young coaches -- Matt Irvin (offensive line) and Derrick Winston (secondary) -- joined the staff as graduate assistants.
TO THE RESCUE -- Four USC players--DT Bernard Riley and Malcolm Wooldridge, WR Steve Stevenson and S Kyle Matthews--have received quite a bit of national attention for their role in coming to the aid of an injured USC student early in the season. In the early morning hours on Sept. 1, USC sophomore Danielle Dauenhauer accidentally fell head first out of the second floor window of her campus apartment, only to get impaled in the buttocks by a pair of spikes on a security fence. The players, who were in the downstairs apartment, heard her screams and rushed outside. For the next 20 minutes, they supported the 165-pound woman (her feet were sticking in the air, her head was pointed down) to relieve the pressure of the spikes while paramedics were summoned. They also kept talking with her to help calm her down. When the paramedics arrived, the bars were cut off the fence still sticking in her, she was taken to a local hospital where the bars were removed, and unbelievably she was released the following day in good condition. (If she hadn't been impaled, she likely would have landed on her head and broken her neck). The players subsequently appeared on such national television shows as NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America" and ESPN's "College GameDay." They also received a commendation from California lieutenant governor Cruz M. Bustamante.
STATS OF NOTE -- USC currently is seventh nationally in scoring defense (9.5, second in Pac-10), 15th in total defense (255.0, second in Pac-10), 16th in rushing defense (71.5, second in Pac-10), and 20th in punt returns (14.6, second in Pac-10):USC returned its 1999 leaders in every defensive category (tackles, tackles for losses, sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, pass deflections and blocked kicks)...USC was first nationally in total takeaways (39) in 1999...USC's defense scored 8 touchdowns in 1999...All 6 of USC's losses in 1999 were by 10 points or less, a first in Trojan history...USC lost 6 of its next 7 games in 1999 once starting quarterback Carson Palmer was sidelined by a broken collarbone in the third game of the season...USC was penalized a Pac-10 record 128 times for 1,093 yards, an average of 10.7 penalties and 91.1 yards a game.
***Quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst has 15 career starts, is ninth on USC's all-time passing list, owns the USC single game passing record (415 yards), has a team-best 3.72 GPA, already earned his bachelor's degree and is taking courses in USC's M.B.A. program this fall. Not bad for a backup!
***OT Brent McCaffrey, who worked on his grandfather's Fresno farm as a youngster, was named to the 2000 All-American Farm Team by Successful Farming magazine (he was similarly honored in 1999).
***James Pursell, USC's oldest living football letterman, turned 100 on Aug. 20. He lettered in 1921-22-23 as a 156-pound guard and was a member of USC's first Rose Bowl team (Troy beat Penn State, 14-3, in the 1923 Rose Bowl).
***Marcus Allen, USC's 1981 Heisman Trophy-winning tailback, will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this Dec. 12. USC has 29 representatives in the College Football Hall of Fame, including 22 players.
***The Sept. 23 game versus San Jose State will be USC's 500th football game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
***The 2000 season is the 50th anniversary of the adoption of "Conquest" as USC's battle cry and the 100th anniversary of the birth of the song's composer, Alfred Newman.
***This might be one of the fastest teams USC has fielded. In fact, the Trojan men's track team (which won the 2000 Pac-10 title and was seventh at the NCAA meet) has benefited greatly from the USC football squad. TB Sultan McCullough (bests of 10.17 in the 100 meters, 20.61 in the 200 meters) won the 100 at the 1999 Pac-10 meet, placed eighth in the 100 in the 2000 NCAA meet and 3 times has clocked 10.17 in the 100 to become the fastest Trojan footballer ever. WR Kareem Kelly (10.28, 20.53), who set the world junior record in the indoor 50-meter dash (5.67) and ran a best of 10.33 in the 100 in 2000, won the 100 and 200 at the 1999 California state meet after capturing the 200 in 1998. CB Darrell Rideaux (10.30, 21.03), who clocked a best of 10.37 in the 100 in 2000, won the California state 100 in 1998 (he was second in 1999 and third in 1997) and was fourth in the 200 in 1999. CB Miguel Fletcher (10.47, 20.94), who went a best of 10.61 in the 100 and 21.06 in the 200 in 2000, was the runnerup in the California state 100 in 1997 and 1998 and in the 200 in 1998. The Rideaux-McCullough-Fletcher-Kelly quartet even ran an early-season 400-meter relay in 2000, winning in 40.08. WR Marcell Allmond (13.54 in the 110-meter high hurdles) won the California state high hurdles in 1998 and 1999 (he was sixth in the 1999 intermediates), and also set a National Junior Olympics record in the decathlon in 1999. In 2000, he was second in the high hurdles in the Pac-10 meet and the U.S. Junior Nationals, and ran a best of 13.89. And speaking of track, another Trojan footballer contributes in the field portion of the sport. LB Kori Dickerson (6-8 high jump) placed third in the high jump at the 1999 and 2000 USC-UCLA dual meets.
***OT-OG Faaesea Mailo, a 6-4, 330-pound Hawaiian, participated in the sumo club in high school, where he won the Hawaii state championship. He even went to Japan in 1996 to train with pro sumo wrestlers, who tried unsuccessfully to convince him to take up the sport as a profession. He missed the 1997 and 1998 USC seasons while on a Mormon mission in Sapporo, Japan (imagine opening your door and seeing him!). In short yardage situations last season, he lined up at fullback a la Refrigerator Perry and proved to be a devastating blocker (USC converted all but one try in that formation), he's doing that again in 2000.
***LB John Cousins is deaf in one ear and impaired in the other. He wears a hearing aid. That handicap could present some unique challenges on the football field.
***OT Phillip Eaves spent part of 1997 in the Army at Fort Jackson, S.C.
***Four Trojans have fathers who played on national championship USC football squads: DE Sultan Abdul-Malik (father, Ed Powell (now Wali Abdul-Malik) was on 1972 and 1974 teams, OT-OG Derek Graf (father, Allan, was on 1972 team), OT Brent McCaffrey (father, Bob McCaffrey, was on 1972 and 1974 teams), and S Kyle Matthews (father, 1977 All-American Clay, was on the 1974 team). Matthews' uncle, Bruce, was a 1982 All-American offensive guard at USC. Two other Trojans have dads who lettered at Troy in 1970 and 1971: TB Petros Papadakis (father, John) and S John Morgan (father, Mike). And S-CB Kevin Arbet is the stepson of ex-Trojan (1980-82) Jeff Simmons. Papadakis also has a brother (Taso, 1994 and 1996) who played at USC, as does LB Darryl Knight (Ryan, 1984-87, and Sammy, 1993-96). Two Trojans have cousins who played at USC--WR Kareem Kelly (Rashard Cook, 1995-98) and TE-SNP Joe Boskovich (Martin Boskovich, 1993)--and two have uncles who were Trojan footballers: S Troy Polamalu (Kennedy Pola, 1982-85, now USC's running backs coach) and OG-C Norm Katnik (John Katnik, 1986-87).
***Speaking of genes: DE Sultan Abdul-Malik's brother, Hassan, is a junior safety on Cal State Northridge's football team, while brother Saeed is a senior defensive end at UNLV. S-CB Kevin Arbet's cousin, Lamarr Arbet, is a freshman defensive lineman at San Jose State and his uncle, Darren Arbet, is the head coach of the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. TE Alex Holmes' father, Mike, lettered at defensive end at Michigan in 1974 and 1975. Besides his 2 brothers who played at USC, another of LB Darryl Knight's brothers, Greg, played defensive line at Colorado, and his father, Sam Sr., played on the California state championship basketball team in the early 1960s at Riverside (Calif.) Community College that was coached by Jerry Tarkanian. TB Sultan McCullough's brother, Saladin, was a tailback at Oregon, while his late father, Bruce, ran track at San Jose State in the 1960s. OT-OG Faaesea Mailo's father, James, played football at Hawaii, while brother, Anipati, is a sophomore linebacker at Hawaii and brother, Fulutusi, is a freshman linebacker at Montana State. LB Zeke Moreno's brother, Moses, was a 3-year (1995-97) starting quarterback at Colorado State who now plays for the San Diego Chargers, his mother, Arcinia Arenas, played fullback and linebacker with the Mighty Mommas in a San Diego women's tackle football league for a season when Zeke was little. PK David Newbury's father, Gerry, played professional soccer in England. S Ifeanyi Ohalete's half brother, Earl Simpson, played football at Texas A&M and another, Carl, plays pro basketball overseas. S Troy Polamalu's uncle is former USC fullback Kennedy Pola (1982-85), now the Trojans' running backs coach, while another uncle, Al Pola, played football at Penn State, a cousin, Nicky Sualua, was a running back with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys who attended Ohio State, another cousin, Leie Sualua, was a defensive lineman at Oregon, and another cousin, Joe Polamalu, played for Oregon State in 1987 and 1988. LB A.J. Single's father, Doug, played at Stanford, then was the Cardinal's offensive line coach before serving as athletic director at Northwestern and SMU. QB Mike Van Raaphorst's brother, Jeff, was a record-setting quarterback at Arizona State (1983-86) and the 1987 Rose Bowl MVP, his dad, Dick, was a kicker with Ohio State and the San Diego Chargers, while another brother, Bill, was an offensive lineman at San Diego State. TE coach Brian Schottenheimer is the son of ex-Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer. DB coach Dennis Thurman's brother, Junior, was a USC defensive back (1985-86). LB coach A.J. Christoff's son, Rob, is an assistant football coach at Montana State.
***Two Trojans have Hollywood connections. OT Derek Graf's father, Allan, is a stuntman, stunt coordinator and second unit director who has been involved in many noted Hollywood films, most recently "On Any Given Sunday" and "The Replacements." TE Antoine Harris' late stepfather was comedian/actor Robin Harris, who appeared in movies such as "Mo' Better Blue," "House Party," "Do The Right Thing," and "Harlem Nights." The cartoon series, "Bebe's Kids," is based on characters in Robin's comedy routine.
***USC head coach Paul Hackett is a rock music fan. He sat in the front row at the final Beatles concert, in 1966 in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. He still goes to concerts quite frequently. As a hobby, he collects old music juke boxes filled with 1950s and '60s rock 'n roll music.
ROSTER UPDATES -- There are several personnel updates that are not listed in the 2000 USC football media guide: Malcolm Wooldridge, a 6-2, 300-pound first-year freshman defensive tackle (he'll wear #96), joined the Trojans midway through training camp as a scholarship player. He played at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., in 1999 after spending the 1997 and 1998 seasons at Olympic Heights High in Boca Raton, Fl. (he was a 1998 All-Palm Beach County Athletic Conference Class 5-A first teamer and made 80 tackles with 9 sacks in 1997)...OT Nate Steinbacher is now #71, SNP-TE Joe Boskovich is now #64 and S Danny Bravo is now #47...Ten walk-ons have joined the Trojan squad: #5, QB Richie Wessman (6-1, 195, San Clemente, San Clemente HS/Orange Coast JC), #13, CB Peter Polk (5-10, 175, Los Angeles, St. Bernard HS/West Los Angeles CC), #15, QB Matt Harris (6-4, 210, Las Vegas, NV, Meadows HS), #18, P Tommy Huff (6-1, 225, Bellevue, WA, Bellevue HS, U. of Michigan), #31, P-PK Drew Thomas (6-3, 200, Johnson City, TN, Westlake HS), #41, P-CB Matt Lemos (5-10, 165, Redwood City, St. Francis HS), #46, WR Forrest Mozart (6-1, 195, Los Altos Hills, St. Francis HS), #48, S Kyle Matthews (6-0, 170, Agoura, Westlake HS), #61, LB Aaron Orndorff (6-1, 235, Bakersfield, Stockdale HS), and #70, OG Spencer Torgan (6-1, 265, Calabasas, Harvard-Westlake HS). Wessman and Polk are sophomores, Huff is a redshirt freshman and the others are first-year freshmen...A trio of walk-ons -- #40 Michael Torres, #47 Spencer McCroskey and #82 D. Hale -- has quit the team, as has #57 Carlos Acosta...Freshman DT Sagan Atuatasi did not meet USC admission standards and is not with the Trojans in 2000...Three Trojans likely will redshirt the 2000 season, but should return in 2001 -- CB Antuan Simmons (abdominal tumor), TE Chad Cook (torn knee ligament) and DE Jamaal Williams (broken leg) -- while a fourth -- S John Morgan (torn knee ligament) -- also will miss the season, but his eligibility will expire.
USC: COLLEGE OF THE YEAR 2000--USC was named the "College of the Year" by the 2000 edition of the Time/The Princeton Review College Guide. USC was chosen because of the remarkable bonds the university has forged with local schools, community residents, police, businesses and community organizations. "More institutions might do well to emulate USC's enlightened self-interest," according to the guide's editors. "For not only has the 'hood dramatically improved, but so has the university." The editors cited the university's model of service learning -- the practice of applying academic theory to real-life situations through public service -- as their main reason for choosing USC as college of the year, saying USC has one of the most ambitious social-outreach programs of any university in the nation. USC also has seen its undergraduate applications nearly double over the last few years and enrolled the most academically accomplished freshman class in its history. And USC is the only university in history to have received three individual gifts of $100 million or more.
USC: "HOT SCHOOL" OF 2001--USC has been chosen as one of America's nine "hottest schools" by the 2001 edition of the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide. USC was selected because it lives up to its reputation as a top-notch institution of higher education. "Just as East Coast students go for New York and NYU, the West Coast is gravitating to USC in Los Angeles," according to the guide's article. "USC has morphed from a jock school to a serious contender for top students." Students quoted in the article said Los Angeles' ethnic diversity, the offer of scholarships, the small classroom sizes and USC's standing in academe attracted them to the university.
ACADEMICS--USC's official 2000 NCAA football graduation rate is an all-time high 80%...and the 2001 rate will rise to 82%. That rate is more than 20 points higher than the national football average for Division I schools. Among the top scholars on the 2000 Trojan squad are QB Mike Van Raaphorst and LB Ryan Shapiro, who both sport a team-best 3.72 GPA. Both received their bachelor's degrees last spring and are taking graduate courses this fall (Van Raaphorst -- who is applying for a Rhodes Scholarship--received his degree in broadcast journalism/political science and is now taking M.B.A. classes, while Shapiro was a business administration grad who is going after his master's in communication). Other USC footballers who star in the classroom are: FB Brennan Ochs (3.12, political science), TE Scott Huber (3.10, business), TE Chad Cook (3.00, business), OG-OT Trevor Roberts (2.96, public policy and management), OT Brent McCaffrey (2.82, planning and development), DT-DE Bobby DeMars (2.82, business administration) and OT Phillip Eaves (2.80, business). Van Raaphorst and Ochs made the 1999 Pac-10 All-Academic first team (Van Raaphorst was an honorable mention selection in 1997 and 1998 and Ochs was an honorable mention pick in 1998), while Huber was an 1999 Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention pick. In its history, USC football has produced 22 Academic All-American first teamers (tops in the Pac-10 and tied for fifth in the nation), 20 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winners, 12 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 4 NCAA Today's Top Six winners, 1 Rhodes Scholar and 1 Academic All-American Hall of Famer.
IN THE NFL--USC is always well-represented in the NFL. There were 31 ex-Trojans on 2000 opening day NFL rosters (tied for seventh among all schools), including players such as LB Junior Seau, OLs Tony Boselli and Bruce Matthews, DLs Willie McGinest and Darrell Russell, WRs Keyshawn Johnson, Curtis Conway and Johnnie Morton, QB Rob Johnson, and DBs Jason Sehorn and Mark Carrier. Six NFL head coaches have USC ties (either as former players or assistants): New York Giants' Jim Fassel, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Seattle's Mike Holmgren, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci, Washington's Norv Turner and San Diego's Mike Riley. Seven current USC players have relatives with NFL playing backgrounds: C Eric Denmon (cousin, Rod Jones), WR Kareem Kelly (cousin, Rashard Cook), LB Darryl Knight (brother, Sammy), S Kyle Matthews (grandfather, Clay Sr., father, Clay Matthews, uncle, Bruce Matthews), OT Brent McCaffrey (father, Bob McCaffrey, uncle, Mike McCaffrey), S Troy Polamalu, (cousin, Nicky Sualua), QB Mike Van Raaphorst, (father, Dick Van Raaphorst). Additionally, head coach Paul Hackett and assistants Dennis Thurman and Brian Schottenheimer were NFL assistants (Thurman also played in the NFL).
ON TV--USC is one of America's most televised teams. The Trojans have appeared on live national, regional or local telecasts 274 times, including all 12 games in 1998 and 1999. In fact, USC had an amazing streak of 111 consecutive games on some form of live television from 1988 to 1997.
SCOUTING SAN JOSE STATE -- San Jose State, under fourth-year head coach Dave Baldwin (the former Cal State Northridge head coach), went 3-7 in 1999, but is off to a good start in 2000. After losing their opener at Nebraska, the Spartans won at Stanford, 49-13 (their third straight win over the Cardinal), and then handily beat Southern Utah at home last Saturday, 47-7. SJSU's headline performer is senior TB Deonce Whitaker (57 tcb, 548 yds, 9.6 avg in 2000), who currently is third nationally in rushing (182.7) and fourth in all-purpose running (193.3). He rushed for 147 yards on 15 carries at Nebraska, 254 yards with 2 TDs on 21 tries at Stanford and 147 yards with a TD on 21 attempts against Southern Utah. He owns the NCAA record for season kickoff return yardage (1,214 yards in 1998). Other key players in the Spartans' 1-back, 3-wideout offense are sophomore QB Marcus Arroyo (35-of-65, 53.8%, 471 yds, 7 TD, 2 int in 2000), who is 20th nationally in passing efficiency (144.1), plus junior WRs Rashied Davis (13 rec, 22.2 avg, 3 TD in 2000), who is 16th in the nation in receiving yards (96.0), and Casey Le Blanc (9 rec, 11.8 avg in 2000, plus 18.8 KOR avg), and senior TE Sean Brewer (6 rec, 10.2 avg, 1 TD in 2000). SJSU is 15th nationally in rushing offense (225.3) and 19th in total offense (441.0). Defensive leaders are senior MLB Josh Parry (24 tac, 1 int in 2000), a 4-year starter, senior SS Travis Seaton (24 tac in 2000), senior WLB Rick Ockimey (21 tac, 2 for losses in 2000), and junior FS Willie Adams (18 tac, 2 int, 3 dfl, 1 FR in 2000), who is 13th nationally in interceptions (0.7).
HACKETT SAYS -- "The byes are finally over. Now, we start on a 10-week run for the roses. The attitude and health of our team is what's most exciting to me. We're ready to play and make that run. There's a very good feeling here about USC football:We've got to improve our tackling and our pass protection. We worked very hard on those areas during the bye week. Now, we're looking forward to playing a game:San Jose State has had an interesting start to their season. They played at Nebraska and at Stanford, so they're prepared to play on the road. And they defeated Stanford fairly handily. There are several things you've got to like about them. They have experience on defense, with a lot of seniors who are playing with great enthusiasm and energy. Offensively, their young quarterback, Marcus Arroyo, has done very well and, of course, Deonce Whitaker is one of the most exciting players in the country. So, having the combination of a quarterback who can throw well in that 3- and 4-receiver offense and a great running back to hand it off to means we'll have to be well prepared for the game."
GAME PROMOTIONS -- Free trading cards featuring USC's senior footballers will be available before the game at the California Highway Patrol booth inside the peristyle end of the Coliseum:About 2,500 local disadvantaged youths will be in attendance as part of the "Touchdown For Youth" program conducted jointly by USC and the Los Angeles Sports Council Foundation:Other local youths will view the game in the Kid's Corner, courtesy of tickets provided by State Farm and Nike:Fans who bring an unwrapped $10 toy (for patients at local hospitals) to the Coliseum's peristyle end will receive a free general admission ticket as part of "ChiPs for Kids," sponsored by the California Highway Patrol and USC:U.S. military personnel can present a valid military ID at Gate 29 and receive 4 free tickets:Junior Aniko Pelle, an All-American first teamer on USC's 2000 national championship runner-up women's water polo team who has a 3.44 GPA as a business major, will be recognized during the Verizon Academic Salute:The women's golf team, which placed fourth at the 2000 NCAA Championships and is currently ranked fourth in the nation, will be saluted during the Team Trojan Spotlight.
INJURY UPDATE -- OUT: S Matt Grootegoed (mono), Joe McGuire (back), Gregg Guenther (back), TB Chris Howard (knee), LB John Cousins (finger), CB Antuan Simmons (abdominal tumor), TE Chad Cook (knee), DE Jamaal Williams (leg), S John Morgan (knee). POSSIBLE: DE Lonnie Ford (back), OG-OT Trevor Roberts (foot). PROBABLE: Kris Richard (knee).
A LOOK AT USC'S:
At 22 years of age, senior wide receiver Matt Nickels isn't exactly an old man, but his young teammates in the Trojan receiving corps call him "grandpa" anyway.
But they also know to respect their elders. After all, it wasn't any of the young speed demons catching quarterback Carson Palmer's first touchdown pass of the season--it was Nickels, a former walk-on who at Palmer's urging came to USC by way of Dartmouth.
"I wasn't expecting it," said Nickels of his 8-yard scoring snag from Palmer in the second quarter of USC's win over Colorado. "I ran my route and looked back and Carson put it in there perfectly. I looked down and saw the yellow paint. That's when I realized I was in. I was so excited. It felt almost unreal."
The touchdown was the culmination of a long journey for Nickels. As a wide receiver his senior year at Santa Margarita High in Rancho Margarita, Calif., in 1995, he can remember when his teammate Palmer was just a back-up sophomore quarterback.
"I was best friends with the starting quarterback while Carson's best friend was (current Colorado wide receiver) John Minardi," said Nickels. "We kind of had a big brother-little brother thing going on. We never hooked up on a pass play, but we've always had a camaraderie ever since those days."
But while Palmer's path would lead to the intense spotlight of USC, Nickels' path led him to the cloistered halls and ivory towers of the Ivy League and Dartmouth.
"Jim Hartigan, the head coach at Santa Margarita, is legendary for putting athletes into the Ivy League to play football," Nickels said. "There were four or five before me who did it. At the time it just seemed like an excellent opportunity. Dartmouth was a great school academically and it also gave me the opportunity to play football. And the I-AA level seemed like the right level for me. It seemed like I could compete and play."
Actually, Nickels didn't see any action in his two years at Dartmouth.
Then, to make matters worse, he received some bad news from the home front.
"I enjoyed my two years at Dartmouth," said Nickels. "Then my father became very sick with cancer and I struggled with it for a summer back there. He was in the hospital for an unusually long time. He was going through chemotherapy and it was driving me crazy knowing that if something went wrong, I was at least a day's travel away. If something happened during that 24-hour period and I wasn't there to help, I would never forgive myself."
Soon, despite his parents' wishes for him to stay at Dartmouth, he was on his way to USC. He enrolled in the fall of 1998 and spent the entire academic year as just a regular student majoring in sociology. But he couldn't keep his mind off of football. Finally, at the urging of Palmer and his parents, he decided to join the football team as a walk-on in the spring of 1999.
"I was bored out of my mind doing the normal student thing," said Nickels. "My parents really pushed me to walk on. I wasn't going to, but finally I said,'What the heck.' It turned out to be basically the same time committment as when I was at Dartmouth, but the biggest difference was the speed."
One thing Nickels noticed right away was how quickly his teammates accepted him, despite his walk-on status.
"Being a walk-on is just like coming in as a scholarship freshman -- no one really knows you," said Nickels. "It takes some time to get to know the guys. So obviously people are going to look at you like, ‘Who are the new guys?' But no one ever gave me a hard time. It's such a great group of guys on this team that they make you feel right at home right away."
After playing sparingly in 1999 and not catching a pass, Nickels' hard work and stellar play on Howard Jones practice field raised some eyebrows this past spring. He became one of USC's most dependable targets: always open, always glue-fingered. As the fall got underway, the reward for his efforts was a full scholarship, courtesy of Paul Hackett. Nickels has so far shown he is worthy. As one of the first receivers off the bench for the Trojans, he has had a solid start so far this season, with three catches for 26 yards and the touchdown to his credit.
"He's a sure-handed receiver who runs great routes," said Hackett. "He just makes play after play."
But as the only senior receiver in the playing rotation, Nickels knows his time to make plays is limited. That's one reason his touchdown against Colorado was so special. Plus, he got his main goal for the season out of the way.
"My goal to start the season was to score a touchdown at home," said Nickels. "I got that a lot sooner than I expected so everything else is icing on the cake now."
But Nickels is hardly complacent. After all, he's not at Dartmouth anymore.
"I'm in a situation where I have to make every play count," Nickels said. "I can't screw up because there are guys who are incredible athletes right behind me who want to play as much as I do. So I have to go out there and cherish every single play and every chance I get."
By Chris Huston