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Football News and Notes

Lets start with a brief recap of the big win at the Rose Bowl. Steve Sarkisian has take more than his fair share of criticism so it is only fair that he gets some big props for a solid game plan on Tuesday.

It took a while, longer than some impossibly spoiled fans would have liked, but as the season wound down and finished with a Pasadena flourish, the Trojans forged a clear offensive identity, a look we can expect to see from USC again next season.

Gone, maybe for good, are the days of hair-raising fireworks and quick-strike touchdowns. No more Leinart and Bush, Williams and Chow.

Under Sarkisian, in his first year running solo as offensive coordinator, things were different -- but in the end, no less effective. This year's Rose Bowl, a 49-17 Trojans victory over Illinois, told the story. The offense was masterful. Steady and sharp, controlled and balanced. It gave the Trojans defense time to sit on the sidelines and breathe. It had just the right amount of hard-hat toughness, just the right amount of Hollywood flair.

"Everything Sarkisian said would happen," tackle Sam Baker told me after the game, "is exactly what happened . . . the guy drew up a perfect game."

As usual Streeter likes to stoke the flames of controversy. You could point to a number of things that Sarkisian misfired on this season but the one that stands out to me was the 4th and goal against Oregon when the Ducks' defense shifted to the right...which was the direction of the play. There is no need to go back and rehash it all over again but what did Streeter expect the fans to do once Sarkisian admit it, jump for joy? Who knows how that game turns out if we get a TD there. Sarkisian made a mistake and it was appropriate to call him out for it.

Sarkisian's game plan in the Rose Bowl was picture perfect and everything except for the continued dropped passes showed just how dominant and efficient SC can be when they focus. Joe McKnight is the real deal and so is Stafon Johnson and it will be another battle in March and August to see who wins out.

I don't think that SC will lose any under-classmen to the NFL draft. The only real possibility is Chilo Rachal, as he has some family issues to work through.

USC offensive guard Chilo Rachal said he might turn pro and would probably make up his mind in the next few days.

"I just want to set back and talk to my family," Rachal said. "Just see the pros and cons. My mind is not made up to stay or go."

But Rachal said his mother, who has a stomach tumor and is in the process of getting insurance approval for treatment, is a primary concern and could influence his decision.

"That's been on my mind the whole season, I just didn't want to go public until now," Rachal said. "And my dad's had two hernias this year. You have to realize that I came from nothing."

That's a lot of baggage to carry and it isn't the first time we have seen it but I think that Pete Carroll will be affective in persuading Chilo that it might be better to wait and stay that extra season to get his draft stock up. I will admit it's gotta be a hard decision on the kid and I don't envy him in having to make this tough decision lets just hope it all works out.

With the Rose Bowl now behind us its time to start focusing on next season and replacing those players who are heading out. But before we do that we need to take a look back at the class that is the Class of 2003. Regular CC commenter tapoutstylist put up a great diary on the subject so I hope he doesn't mind if I take a little bit of his thunder here as I pick out some of the highlights of this class.

  • Jody Adewale, FB, Los Angeles: Former Roosevelt High star redshirted in 2003, then served as career backup. Coaches coaxed him to return as a graduate student for 2007 season to provide depth.
  • Sam Baker, OL, Tustin: Redshirted as guard in 2003, then became four-year starter and three-time All-American at left tackle. Possible first-round pick in 2008 NFL draft.
  • John David Booty, QB, Shreveport, La.: Graduated from high school a year early, backed up Matt Leinart for three seasons and then led Trojans to two Pacific 10 Conference championships and Rose Bowls.
  • Darnell Bing, S, Long Beach: Signed in 2002 but did not enroll until 2003. Three-year starter declared for 2006 draft and was selected by Oakland Raiders in fourth round.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, Spring Valley, Calif.: Showed flashes of greatness as a freshman, starred as a sophomore and then won Heisman Trophy as a junior in 2005. Selected No. 2 overall by New Orleans Saints in 2006 draft.
  • Mario Danelo, K, San Pedro: Redshirted as walk-on in 2003, became record-setting starter in 2005, died after fall from cliff in the week following the 2006 Rose Bowl.
  • Sedrick Ellis, DL, Chino: Redshirted in 2003, backed up Mike Patterson in 2004, then became dominant three-year starter and 2007 All-American. Possible first-round pick in 2008 draft.
  • Lawrence Jackson, DL, Inglewood: Redshirted in 2003 and then became four-year starter, registering 49 tackles for losses, including 29 1/2 sacks. Selected All-Pacific 10 Conference in 2005 and 2007.
  • Ryan Kalil, C, Corona: Played in six games in 2003 and then became three-year starter and anchor of offensive line. Selected by the Carolina Panthers in the second round of 2007 draft.
  • Drew Radovich, OL, Mission Viejo: Redshirted in 2003, was backup tackle in 2004 and redshirted in 2005 after hip surgery. Started at left guard in 2006 and right tackle in 2007.
  • Desmond Reed, RB, Temple City: Redshirted in 2003, special teams standout in 2004 and 2005 before suffering torn knee ligaments and nerve damage against Notre Dame. Sure-handed punt-return specialist last two seasons.
  • Drean Rucker, LB, Moreno Valley: Former Canyon Springs High star drowned off Huntington State Beach a few weeks before his first training camp was scheduled to begin in 2003.
  • Steve Smith, FL, Canoga Park: Played behind Mike Williams and Keary Colbert as freshman, then became three-year starter and a 2006 All-American. Selected by New York Giants in second round of 2007 draft.
  • Matt Spanos, OL, Corona: Redshirted in 2003, then was backup at guard and tackle for two seasons before was academically ineligible in 2006. Started at center this season despite torn right triceps.
  • Terrell Thomas, CB, Alta Loma: Redshirted in 2003 after shoulder surgery, started two games in 2005 before season-ending knee injury. Started last two seasons and has eight career interceptions.
  • Chauncey Washington, RB, Torrance: Backup tailback and special teams player in 2003, he was academically ineligible in 2004 and 2005 but has led Trojans in rushing last two seasons.
  • LenDale White, RB, Denver: Split time with Bush throughout career and rushed for Pac-10-record 52 touchdowns in only three seasons. Selected by Tennessee Titans in second round of 2006 draft.
  • Thomas Williams, LB, Vacaville, Calif.: Redshirted in 2003, then became special teams standout and played all three linebacker spots over next four seasons. Also played fullback in 2006.

Pretty impressive!

Looking to the future SC will have a little more competition now that Slick Rick has come back to town. I think it's a good thing as competition will get the competitive juices flowing back into this rivalry. Now that the drama is over about whether or not Walker would stay at ucla we can go back to business as usual for SC. The only real difference I see is that ucla will finally be able to put an offence together to go with an OK defense. Yes, Slick Rick will get his share of publicity, that's what's he's good at, but any publicity is good when compared to the previous regime. I got a kick out reading elsewhere Slick is already running circles around SC and Pete Carroll. Whatever, just keep telling yourself that Huckleberry you have a long way to go yet. I'm not sure what this means for Coach Norton he may still have his heartstrings being pulled about coming back home so until he says something different I won't speculate on the outcome.

Recruiting now goes into high gear as SC needs to close strong on some potential recruits, I am Liking what I am seeing with this class so far and I think that the Rose Bowl win will do a lot in swaying some of those on the fence. I will get more into the recruiting wars probably next week.