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History for the taking

I don't think we will ever see a team like the Trojans of 2003, 2004, and 2005 again anytime soon. That's OK, teams rebuild or reload if you prefer. USC 2006 has a chance to make their own history if they can keep the level of play up where it's been in past few years.

Pete Carroll is an excellent recruiter and he has an eye for talent. He also knows how to get the most out of that talent and he has shown that he can put a top team together. Today's Daily News has an excellent article by Steve Dilbeck on the history that USC can achieve if they keep the pedal to the metal.

Carroll first took the Trojans to national prominence in 2002 with Heisman Trophy quarterback Carson Palmer. Then he did it again, and even better, with consecutive national championships behind Heisman Trophy quarterback Matt Leinart and tailback Reggie Bush, and last season's runner-up finish to Texas.

Even though the Trojans lost 12 starters, plus all-time touchdown scorer LenDale White, even though Leinart and Bush and eight others were selected in last April's NFL draft, even though there are questions and uncertainties throughout the depth chart, this year's squad could provide something truly exclusive.

If Carroll can take his third cast of players back near the top of the polls, then this is not just some brief special time at USC.

It's a program that will be compared to those of John McKay, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Woody Hayes, Frank Leahy ... coaches who not only won multiple national titles, but with different teams over the course of several years.

It would be a remarkable climb up the coaching ranks in just six seasons, and this year's team offers few certainties.

While some columnists want to take shots at Coach Carroll, it is clear that he has truly found his niche in the college ranks. His seemingly easygoing presence and extremely positive attitude are infectious. Players want to play for him and coaches want to coach with him.

There has been a lot of talk that this year's team finds itself in much the same position that the 2003 team did. That's true, but what we experienced was the perfect storm of talent that may not come along again for some time. This year's team needs to put its own mark in the history books. It needs to shape its own personality and elevate a new leader to be the face of this team.

Seven tailbacks are listed on the depth chart, and who emerges is mostly guesswork, but fun guesswork.

"We really don't know until we get there, but we have enough choices where we'll find a guy that feels comfortable," Carroll said. "This is bigger than a committee. It's an exciting spot for us. We're going to figure it out. We'll spread it around and take some time."

Past success in this situation has given the Trojans more confidence than most teams might enjoy amid so much uncertainty. USC could start a defense Saturday without a single senior.

Yet it retains the assurance of a program used to success, of replacing stars with new stars. The Auburn game and rest of the 2003 season helps give almost an entirely new team confidence three years later.

"We have used that experience to help us," Carroll said. "We were not sure at that time if young running backs could carry the load, if they could be a big factor on a football team that has a lot of success.

I won't go so far out on a limb to say that SC will go undefeated thus year but if things get dialed in they could only have 1 loss when the season ends. I also don't see a lot of blow-out games this year, SC will have their share of nail biters that will give more than a few a Maalox Moment. This team is just too talented not have a high level of success.

Time marches on and player come and go but SC has a chance to continue the success that many have become accustomed to in the last few years. Arkansas will not be a push over but they should know that neither are we. We all want thee win but it is more important to come out the gate hot, a win and a flat performance will make for some uncomfortable times before our home opener. I am confident that we have the talent to succeed both inside and outside the lines.

FIGHT ON!