To some, with the way the 2011 season finished, it feels a lot like 2002.
With USC finishing off a sanction shortened season, comparisons are being made to 2002 when USC went on their run of national prominence.
Of course, things are a little bit different when compared to then versus now.
USC is heading into the next three seasons of scholarship reductions…and USC is a little short on depth, but with how this team played going down the stretch you can see that things are coming together.
Lane Kiffin sees it too…
The 2002 Trojans featured a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Carson Palmer and an emerging star receiver in Mike Williams. Tailback Justin Fargas provided an aggressive midseason surge and the defense got progressively better as the season wore on.
The 2011 Trojans of quarterback Matt Barkley, receiver Marqise Lee, tailback Curtis McNeal and a young defense did the same.
"They're just really a special group that came together," Kiffin said Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Trojans' season-ending 50-0 victory over UCLA.
That 2002 season had a lot of great memories!
How USC performs next season will depend a lot on who comes back.
Barkley is 50/50, as expected he filed his evaluation paperwork with the NFL.
Barkley, at Coach Lane Kiffin's direction, simply made the standard evaluation request that most draft-eligible players file after their junior seasons.
Nevertheless, it was the first step in what will be a weeks-long process as Barkley decides whether to turn pro or return for a final college season.
"There's not really a timetable," he said in an interview on campus. "But there's definitely going to be a process."
Barkley faces a mid-January deadline to make himself available for the April 2012 draft.
Strictly routine, but I am staying with my prediction that Barkley is gone.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley's future is on the minds of everyone who follows the Trojans, but offensive tackle Matt Kalil also must decide if he will return for his senior season.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do right now," Kalil said. "It's going to be a tough decision."
Kalil is listed as a top-10 pick in NFL mock drafts and some within the program believe he will be selected higher than Barkley if he turns pro.
Barkley and Kalil have indicated that stay or go, they are a package deal. 2001 I think we have a long way to go before he we hear the final answers here.
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If Barkley does indeed head to the NFL, then the race is on as to who takes his place. Scroggins now has two full years into the system but no real playing time. Wittek and Kessler are pretty much in the same boat but they have only been here a year.
"They're a young group of guys who have been maturing and are right on the cusp, I think, of really taking hold of the reins," Barkley said.
Barkley holds the key to their immediate future. He has watched all of them grow — in the film room and on the field.
"I think Cody has the best leadership skills right now," Barkley said. "Max probably has the best intangibles right now, and I think Jesse has probably the strongest arm."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Scroggins, a former Lakewood High star, opened training camp as the No. 2 quarterback but suffered a thumb injury during a scrimmage. He was sidelined for more than a month after surgery.
Scroggins' absence allowed the freshmen to take more snaps, enabling them to close the gap enjoyed by Scroggins from having been in the program in 2010.
They are the competition, and they will be anxious to compete with all three prospects chomping at the bit…
USC has a lot of promising talent on their roster, but this team is still very young. They are still coming together, so even with all the progress we have seen over the past two months there is still a lot of work to be done. Especially if we have some early departures in conjunction with our departing seniors.
Both the offense and defensive lines are going to need a few more experienced players. The question is who steps up and fills the void if we lose Kalil?
In 2002 USC had a little bit more experience and depth on the lines.
Kiffin is going to put a huge amount of responsibility on his underclassmen in no skill positions. That is going to take a lot of patience. Playing the lines is all about smarts…pure physical talent isn't as important if know your position and where you are supposed to be.
It's going to be an interesting off-season...