As millions of Americans take to the road for the long weekend - and they are welcome to it - the early signs are that sports-writers of America have seen the bat-signal to fire up the hype bus for the 2007 USC football team. I wouldn't care to give the over - under for how long it takes before every neutral sick of hearing about it, but I'm guessing it's maybe 20 minutes.
Anyways... the Wazoo Daily Evergreen, of all things, had a nice little preview of the need to adapt to new receivers and other changes:
If recent USC teams have had a defensive weakness it has always seemed to be the defensive backfield. This means 2007 should be different as USC returns all four starters. Corners Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris are solid and safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays improve with every game. If this unit can keep their opponents' big plays to a minimum the talented front seven should make this defense by far the best in the country.
In all actuality the season will be a disappointment for USC if they don't take home another national title. Coach Pete Carroll has turned USC into an almost unstoppable machine and they should tear through the Pac-10 unscathed this year. If the Trojans can avoid land mine games at Nebraska and at Notre Dame I believe they can take care of business in the National Championship Game.
No pressure there or anything: anything less than world domination is failure!
Over at the LA Times, one might expect cooler heads to prevail, until you get to Bill Plaschke's very enthusiastic account of his most recent visit to Heritage Hall:
That is not a misprint. With the addition of at least three all-world freshmen, USC has perhaps more good running backs than the rest of the Pac-10 combined.
"They have so much energy out there, sometimes I'm thinking, why can't we have 10 quarterbacks?" Booty says with a laugh.
Look, over there, nine star defensive backs, and six star linebackers, and five defensive linemen who could start for anyone in the country.
This is also not a misprint. The Trojans are returning all but one starter from a defense that gave up only eight touchdowns in last season's final six games.
On paper, we have a really, really, really good defense," senior end Lawrence Jackson said. "This is not about 'if.' This is about 'when.' "
Wait, are those the quarterbacks? A Heisman candidate, a couple of prep All-Americans, and a guy who last year went 8-0 in leading one of the best teams in the country?
We're also not making this up. As if Booty and Mark Sanchez and Aaron Corp weren't riches enough, this week the gold-standard Mitch Mustain from Arkansas showed up on campus.
Why, Bill? Why is it that all these players arrive at SC and mostly stay? He has an answer:
First, unlike many other top programs, USC is not about college politics, but NFL production. If you produce, you will play, whether you are a 17-year-old freshman or a 23-year-old senior.
Last season, USC was one of the top veteran teams in the country again, yet 16 freshmen still played, a statistic that has become a Carroll trademark.
"There are no favorites around here, and guys love that," Jackson said. "It's like life -- the more you do for your boss, the more he will do for you."
Second, unlike any other top program, you can become an NFL player simply by competing in USC's practices. This is known as the Matt Cassel Law.
Cassel is a reserve quarterback for the New England Patriots even though, at USC, he did not throw a single touchdown pass. He sat the bench behind two Heisman Trophy winners, remember? Turned out to be one lucrative view.
"Even if I never played here, I would have loved being here learning from Pete Carroll," said Booty, leaning against a hallway wall. "Players just want to be around this environment. They want to be around winning."
Holy football hottness!!!!!!!
Returning to planet earth for a moment: there's talent, and then there's gameday results. The O-line and D-Line look good, the backfield is heading in the right direction, but any repeat of last year's fullback Spinal Tap revival or failure of Turner and Patterson to step in to the starter roles, and it could get ugly fast. No team brings their b-game against SC, after all, and while defense will win you some games, boatloads of points help too.
I'm excited about the coming season - although according to this week's poll, I am apparently the only one whose "dirty old man calendar" has a reminder for the Oregon game - but I'm not going to get crazy with the expectations three months out...
Thoughts? Comments? Betting the farm on another MNC? You tell us.