Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trojan Profile: Josh Pinkard

Name: Josh Pinkard

Number: 36
Class: sophomore
Position: cornerback (formerly safety)
Hometown: Oxnard, CA

Siblings: one brother, two sisters
Roommates: Desmond Reed and Mozique McCurtis

Girlfriend: yes, from home
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: sense of humor
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: being too sensitive, like when you can't joke with them

Non-football highlight: Just being in college
Best sport other than football: Basketball
Career other than football: own my own company

Scares you: snakes and alligators
Pet peeve: When people don't clean up after themselves
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: No, but I slept with a little blankie

Specialty in the kitchen: enchiladas

Favorite professional football team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite professional football player: Brian Dawkins

Opponent you dislike the most: I hate Cal the most

Funniest teammate: Clay Matthews
Prettiest: Thomas Williams
Most athletic: Reggie Bush
Most humble: Steve Smith

Funniest team moment: The Halloween prank. I totally believed it when LenDale [White] was yelling at the coaches and walked out.

Pete Carroll in one word: Awesome

Quote of the Week

Brandon Hancock on UCLA:
"We respect Notre Dame and at the end of the day it's a pretty healthy rivalry. But all bets are off with these pansies."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Trojan Profile: John Walker

Name: John Walker

Number: 18
Class: redshirt senior
Position: cornerback
Hometown: North Hills, CA

Siblings: one brother, one sister
Roommate: William Buchanon

Girlfriend: Yes
Dream girl: Adriana Lima (Victoria's Secret model)
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: faithful in support
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: insecurity

Non-football role model: Jesus
Non-football highlight: returning to Hawaii for the first time for this year's game against the Warriors [Walker was born in Hawaii but moved away several months later]

Best sport other than football: track (hurdles) [was ninth at the 2001 California State meet in the high hurdles]

Career other than football: television actor [from As a youngster, Walker was a television actor who appeared in such shows as "E.R." and "7th Heaven"]

Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: My Buddy doll

Specialty in the kitchen: anything to do with meat

Surprising fact: I have genuine love for everyone; I'm the most approachable person

Scares you: birds like ducks and geese...anything that scampers...squirrels are horrifying

Pet Peeve: dirty fingernails

Proud of: my work ethic

Favorite professional football player: Troy Polamalu

Opponent you dislike the most: I hate, hate, hate Notre Dame because that's where I'm from [Walker used to live in Chicago]

Funniest teammate: Chilo Rachal
Prettiest: Thomas WilliamsMost athletic: Josh Pinkard
Most humble: Patrick Turner

Funniest team moment: A group of us players were at a dinner in Malibu. There were two comedians there doing stand up and some of the players started booing them because they didn't think they were funny. So the comedians started making fun of the football team. They just roasted us.

Pete Carroll in one word: Competitive


MORE on Walker, from an article in Sunday's LA Times on UCLA and USC's pro prospects:
[NFL scouts] favored John Walker — a fifth-year senior who became a starter after Eric Wright transferred and Terrell Thomas was injured — over two-year starter Justin Wyatt, also a senior. Walker was hurt this season and has yet to reclaim his job opposite Wyatt from sophomore Josh Pinkard[...]

Scout 1: "Wyatt is small but a very good football player. He'll be drafted in one of the middle rounds. Walker is prototypical everything: size, speed, and he looks like a Greek god.

"He's somebody who's under the radar as far as the NFL, but a lot of scouts like him."

Scout 2: "[Walker] is very raw and not sound technique-wise. But he's got great upside. He's a player that NFL teams will work and try to develop."

Scout 3: "There's a lineage of Pete Carroll corners. They come out of there and know how to play. Pete's really a good secondary coach. Walker showed enough in the time he was healthy that this is a guy who has some tools."

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Call for Help

The producer of ESPN's College Gameday just emailed to ask if we would post the following:
ESPN's College GameDay invites the entire USC student body to a live broadcast of the premier college football pregame show in the country. Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard will be broadcasting LIVE beginning at 7:00 am on Saturday outside the main entrance of the Coliseum. The show is hoping to set the record for most people to view the show live on Saturday. We have already received a strong reception from UCLA and are hoping that the Trojan faithful will show up to outnumber the Bruins fans.

Come show your support and have the chance for your face to be LIVE on College GameDay -- 7AM on Saturday!
We promised to do all we can to encourage the Trojan family to come out and help set that record -- and outnumber UCLA's fans, of course.

UPDATE: We're blogging live from the Coliseum!

USC Takes Home Most Conference Awards

Today the Pac 10 handed out its postseason awards, as selected by the coaches in the conference. Not surprisingly, plenty of Trojans were recognized. From the Pac 10 website:

Bush, a junior from Spring Valley, Calif., is an electrifying, multi-purpose player who excels as a running back and receiver, as well as a kickoff and punt returner. A leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Bush becomes just the fifth player in Conference history to be named Offensive Player of the Year two years in a row. With one regular-season game still remaining, Bust leads the nation in all-purpose yards with an average of 212.5 yards per game and is the only player to average more than 200 yards per game. He also ranks fourth in the nation in rushing with an average of 127.1 yards per game. In his most recent outing in USC win against Fresno State, Bush set a Pac-10 single-game record with 513 all-purpose yards. To date this season, Bush has rushed for 1,398 yards and 13 touchdowns and has averaged 8.6 yards per carry. He has added 31 receptions for 373 yards and two scores and leads the Trojans in punt and kickoff returns. He is averaging 10.0 yards on his 233 touches in 2005 and has scored a total of 16 touchdowns. Bush was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week three times this season.


Carroll earns Coach of the Year honors for the second time for keeping the Trojans on track in their quest for an unprecedented third consecutive National Championship. With one regular-season game to play, USC is 11-0 and has extended its winning streak to 33 games, the longest in the nation and a Pac-10 record. In addition, the Trojans have tied the Pac-10 record for consecutive Conference wins (22) and consecutive home wins (26). Carroll has had USC ranked No. 1 in the AP poll dating back to 2003. The Trojans are know this season for their prolific offense, leading the nation in total offense at 571.3 yards per game and ranked second at scoring offense at 48.6 points per game. Overlooked is the fact that USC leads the Pac-10 in total defense and ranks second in scoring defense.

First Team Offense:

QB Matt Leinart, Sr., USC
RB Reggie Bush, Jr., USC
WR Dwayne Jarrett, So., USC
OL Ryan Kalil, Jr., USC
OL Taitusi Lutui, Sr., USC
OL Sam Baker, So., USC

Second Team Offense:

RB LenDale White, Jr., USC
OL Fred Matua, Jr., USC

First Team Defense:

DL Frostee Rucker, Sr., USC
DL Lawrence Jackson, So., USC
S Darnell Bing, Jr., USC

Second Team Defense:

S Scott Ware, Sr., USC

Second Team Specialists:

PR Reggie Bush, Jr., USC

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Inaugural Video Report

We're excited to announce a new feature on this blog: video reports.

Below is the first effort, a video version of a story we reported last week on the Trojan whose jersey is in highest demand.

(Future video reports will contain original content not previously reported on the blog.)

NOTE: You'll need QuickTime installed on your computer to watch this video.

Watch the video

Inside USC Media Day

Tuesdays are especially hectic for the USC football team. That's because it's been designated by the sports information department as media day.

Last week, while children crowded the sidelines aiming to get autographs from their favorite players, camera crews and reporters like Shelley Smith (ESPN) and Lindsay Soto (Fox Sports Net) stood by to interview players and coaches.

The man of the hour was Reggie Bush, who had turned in a breathtaking performance against Fresno State just a few days earlier. ESPN and Fox's Best Damn Sports Show had requested interviews with the Heisman contender, and ESPN also wanted to talk to Carroll -- though they would have to wait until he finished a conference call with other reporters.

Despite just having completed an exhausting practice, Carroll and Bush patiently sat through hours of questions from reporters. Bush's fifteen minute interview with ESPN stretched to 45 minutes, but he never complained, politely answering all of Smith's questions. When she quizzed him about comparisons to the legendary Gale Sayers, Bush demurred. "It's flattering just to be compared to him."

Carroll was equally unassuming, taking the time to formulate his responses to each question and doing a poor job of hiding how excited he was to talk about his team and his players.

All this was expertly choreographed by veteran USC sports information director Tim Tessalone. At one point, Bush was talking to a reporter from Best Damn Sports Show and Carroll was on the conference call. In the blink of an eye, Carroll was downstairs talking to Smith while Bush sneaked out of Heritage Hall to grab some food at the Galen Center for ten minutes before being called back to his next interview.

At any other school, this would have been the busiest media day of the year. For the Trojans, it was business as usual.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mystery of Bush Messages Revealed

Many college football fans have noticed that Reggie Bush has been writing special messages on the tiny black strips he's been wearing under his eyes this season. Those strips, designed to mimic traditional eye black but without the smeary side effects, are worn to reduce glare from the sun or other bright lights.

Bush has been adding his own personal touch to the eye black strips, writing 619 or SE on them with a marker. The 619 is easy enough to figure out; it's the area code of his home city of San Diego. But what about the SE?

"It stands for South East [San Diego]," said Bush.

He says both messages are his way of saying hello to friends back home.

"I don't ever want to forget where I come from."

Senior Bowl CEO Scouts Trojans

There was an unfamiliar face at USC practice last week, but he had a good reason for being there. Steve Hale, CEO of the Senior Bowl, was in Los Angeles to get a good look at the Trojans' senior class.

Part all-star game, part pre-draft showcase, the Senior Bowl features many of college football's top players. They're split into two teams, each coached by an entire NFL coaching staff and put through a week's worth of workouts. At the end of the week, they face off in Mobile, Alabama's Ladd-Peebles Stadium. This year, that game will be held on January 28th, 2006.

"We only take players who have completely exhausted their eligibility," said Hale in an exclusive interview. "There doesn't need to be any more incentive for players to leave college early than there already are."

But first, those players need to be selected, which is why Hale is visiting college campuses across the country.

"A certain cap is made for each position and from there we choose the best players, until the cap is reached," he said. "Unfortunately this method creates inconsistency, since each year the number of seniors varies per school. For example, this year there will be a disproportionate amount of players from the Deep South just because there are a great deal more talented seniors graduating."

Trojans eligible for the Senior Bowl include Frostee Rucker, Justin Wyatt, Taitusi Lutui, Dominique Byrd, Scott Ware, John Walker and David Kirtman. Matt Leinart is also eligible but not likely to accept an invitation; he is already projected as a top pick and not expected to risk injury by playing in the game.

Even with plenty of players to scout, Hale said he tried to fly under the radar and keep his presence at practice from becoming a distraction.

"I know that Pete [Carroll] doesn't want to focus on anything except his next game, so I'm not going to put any pressure on him about the [Senior Bowl]. He had other things on his mind."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush or Leinart: Who Sells More?

UPDATE: Watch a video version of this story

There's an epic battle being waged between USC teammates Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, but it's not over the Heisman Trophy. In fact, this competition can't even be settled on a football field.

Instead, you'll have to head to the USC bookstore, where number 5 and number 11 jerseys have been flying off the shelves.

Who sells more? That depends on the week, according to Gretchen Margolis, who supervises the jersey department.

"For instance, this week it's just going to be more Reggie Bush," said Margolis. "It just depends on which one does the most in the games."

Still, Bush's record breaking performance wasn't enough to sway one USC student considering making a purchase.

"I think I'd get Matt Leinart's jersey [if I bought one]," said Shelby Moore. "He's my favorite player."

Fans wanting a Bush or Leinart jersey have several options to choose from -- none of them cheap.

"The authentic jersey, which is the jersey the players wear, that's $150," said Margolis. "We have a replica jersey with the tackle twill numbers sewn on to it, and that's $70, and then we have a replica jersey, which is a screen print, and that's $50."

The bookstore also stock special jerseys just for girls, but only in Bush's number. "We never had Matt jerseys for girls," said Margolis, "but in the children's [sizes], we have both Reggie Bush and Matt and the girls will come in and buy the Matt Leinart jerseys."

But girls aren't the only ones buying number 11 jerseys.

"Matt Leinart's come in and bought a jersey," said Margolis. "He bought his own."

So were Leinart's personal purchases enough to push him past Bush when it comes to the all-important question of who has sold the most jerseys? Margolis was tight-lipped, but after some prodding, she revealed the answer.

"Reggie Bush."

Trojan Profile: Dwayne Jarrett

Name: Dwayne Jarrett

Number: 8
Class: sophomore
Position: wide receiver
Hometown: New Brunswick, NJ

Siblings: none
Roommates: Matt Leinart

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Halle Berry
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: personality
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: insecurity or jealousy

Non-football role model: grandfather
Non-football highlight: making it to college
Best sport other than football: basketball
Career other than football: music producer

Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Seriously, I never slept with one

Specialty in the kitchen: lasagna

Surprising fact: I sing R&B and church/gospel music

Scares you: having a close family friend pass away

Proud of: how I present myself

Favorite professional football player: Randy Moss

Opponent you dislike the most: Notre Dame

Funniest teammate: Fred Matua
Prettiest: Thomas Williams
Most athletic: Reggie Bush
Most humble: Matt Leinart

Funniest team moment: Whenever someone asks Pete Carroll to do "The Trojan" and he starts to dance

Pete Carroll in one word: Fun

NOTE: Congratulations to Dwayne for being named a Biletnikoff Award finalist

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Trojan Profile: Frostee Rucker

Name: Frostee Rucker

Number: 90
Class: redshirt senior
Position: defensive end
Hometown: Tustin, CA

Siblings: two sisters
Roommate: Ryan Powdrell

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Just someone good-looking; I don't care about celebrities
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: great listener
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: being into me because I play football

Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes, a panda

Specialty in the kitchen: spaghetti or lasagna

Surprising fact: Outside of football, I'm not aggressive and I'm a fun guy

Scares you: Being lonely at the age of 35 [Rucker is currently 22]

Non-football highlight: Getting my USC acceptance letter
Best sport other than football: Madden Football...along with every other football player!
Career other than football: sports broadcaster

Proud of: The fact that I'm a hard worker and tough

Favorite professional football team: None
Favorite professional athlete: Shaquille O'Neal

Opponent you dislike the most: I hate Cal

Funniest teammate: Chilo Rachal
Prettiest: Reggie Bush
Most athletic: Dwayne Jarrett
Most humble: Matt Leinart

Funniest team moment: Watching Matt going into the shower and slipping and falling right in front of me. And it was a huge fall.

Pete Carroll in one word: Leader

Offensive Line Photo Gallery

Winston Justice, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Deuce Lutui on the sidelines during the Cal game last Saturday.

In The Inbox

An email from Pete Carroll:
Trojan Fans,

With the Holiday Season fast approaching, the Trojans, in conjunction with Chance for Children, will be hosting a toy drive for the homeless children living in shelters in the Los Angeles community.

Toys will be accepted three hours prior to kick-off, through the first quarter. Collection bins will be located at the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

We sincerely appreciate your kindness in this charitable endeavor!

Kalil Happy To Be a Trojan

Coach Pete Carroll, right, hugs Ryan Kalil following USC's win over Notre Dame. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

When Fresno State coach Pat Hill discussed USC's prolific offense during his weekly press conference Tuesday, he didn't single out usual suspects Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart.

"I am a big Ryan Kalil fan," said Hill, turning more than a few heads. "I think it starts with him. He is the leader of that [offensive line]. He is an outstanding, outstanding offensive center."

In fact, Hill tried to get Kalil to come play for the Bulldogs.

"I really liked him out of high school. We recruited him out of Servite. I thought we had a chance."

But in an exclusive interview, Kalil said Hill's staff was less than frank during his recruitment. "Fresno State told me that my good friend Sam Baker had committed to them, and they told Sam the same about me," said Kalil, "just because they wanted the two of us to play for them."

Instead, Kalil chose the Trojans.

"The first love I got was from 'SC," he said. "In high school I was in this phase where I didn't know what I wanted to do and it really stressed me out. Recruiting seemed like a forever process."

But a good showing at a USC football camp cleared things up. Kalil was attracted to "the energy, the love, the guys. And Coach Carroll was the icing on the cake."

"When Pete took me upstairs and offered me a scholarship, he was probably waiting for me to talk about my other options and ask for time to think about it," said Kalil, "but I was ready and said, 'I want to be a Trojan.'"

Now a USC veteran, Kalil is clearly happy with that decision.

"Coach Carroll knows how to do a good balance between fun and work. Attention all the time is tiring, mentally and physically," he said, "but Coach Carroll uses jokes, team outings and competition drills to get guys excited and in high spirits."

Kalil says that is especially helpful toward the end of a season, when the effects of big-time college football start to take their toll.

"Coach Carroll helps with the team's endurance for the long season by mentally refreshing us," he said, "making it fun. Otherwise people start to think of it as a job."

But that's not to say football isn't taken seriously at USC.

"We prepare every week as though it's our last," said Kalil. "It's so hard mentally and physically in practice each week, so for games all we have to do is bring our heart and the rest will follow."

Even so, Kalil admits that USC has underestimated teams in the past.

"Two years ago we did with Cal, and even last year with Stanford it happened."

"It's hard to do what we do, to win college football games," said Kalil, "and it's harder the higher up the totem pole you are. It's our opponent's championship game every week because everyone wants to beat us, so it has to be a championship game for us, too."

"But it's fun to see where we have come from since Cal two years ago and even the Stanford game," he said. "We are learning from our mistakes."

As the USC winning streak grows, the pressure on the program increases as well, but Kalil said it doesn't get to the players.

"Coach Carroll does a great job of keeping the pressure away from us," he said, "setting us up to do what we need to do to win."

"Every team has talented players. It's just how you utilize them. And Coach Carroll does a great job of doing that."

Trojan Profile: Ryan Kalil

Name: Ryan Kalil

Number: 67
Class: junior
Position: center
Hometown: Corona, CA

Siblings: one brother, one sister
Roommates: Sam Baker and Kyle Williams

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Jessica Alba
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: humble, possess a spark
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: needing attention

Non-football role model: Frank Kalil (father)
Non-football highlight: Coming to USC
Best sport other than football: Golf
Career other than football: movie director
Favorite movie: Swingers

Scares you: not knowing where I'm going in life
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes, Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Surprising fact: I'm a Frank Sinatra fan and although I'm not as talented as my little sister [who just signed with Sony and we can report is an amazing singer], I love to sing

Specialty in the kitchen: lamb

Pet peeve: People who exaggerate stories

Proud of: The relationship with my mom because she's my best friend and I love her to death

Favorite professional football team: San Diego Chargers
Favorite professional football player: Frank Kalil (who played center for Arizona after transferring from Arkansas and then professionally with the Buffalo Bills)

Opponent you dislike the most: Oregon State

Funniest teammate: Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui
Prettiest: Thomas Williams
Most athletic: Reggie Bush
Most humble: Sam Baker

Pete Carroll in one word: Real

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Highlights From This Week's Press Conferences

Pete Carroll:
Linebacker coaches Rocky (Seto) and Kenny (Norton) have really taken [the freshman linebackers] under their wings and have done a marvelous job preparing them, mentally and tactically and technically on how to get this done. It is a lot to ask of these guys.

Early on you would ask me if it was possible for one of these linebackers to start, and I really doubted the fact that they could do that, just because there is so much stuff going on. The outside backs spot is a little easier, in [the Mike] spot, possibly.

But now that we can see these guys play, and it has taken some time, they are ready to play. They can play (on a) full time basis. That is a great asset to us. We didn't realize it would be this necessary. They have turned out all right and now we are ready to go.


We have grown to this point where we need these match-ups (with teams like Fresno State), we need these kinds of challenges. It keeps us strong and directed. We don't need to have a varying degree of opponents. We need everybody to be tough, every step of the way.

How much more difficult can it be to finish off this season? Two 9-1 teams coming at us. We have earned everything that we get this year. We are going to have to earn it this week and [in two] weeks as well.


[Fresno State has] really good players. They do a really good job; Pat [Hill] is a really good evaluator of talent. He is able to find guys that other teams don't take and make them really good players.

Their football is at the highest level, as far as offense and defense and scheme-wise. Their coaching staff has been really solid, with good continuity.

Look at the end result of their players over there. They have a lot of NFL players. You don't just make those kinds of players. You recruit those guys and then you help them become that. You find the right kinds of guys that can play up to that talent level.

I don't know what their numbers are but I am sure there are just as many NFL guys [from there] as [from] anywhere else on the West Coast, maybe more. What difference does it make where they are from if they have the right stuff to play at this level?"
Pat Hill:
I have made it really clear that I am a really big USC fan. I am from southern California; I grew up going to games at the Coliseum. In this country when you have lived in Baltimore, you have lived in Cleveland -- a lot like Pete has when he was with the Jets -- there is always something about the West. That we don't play as good of football out here.

USC has picked up the flag for the west United States, especially California, in bringing us national championships and greatness with USC football. I think that is important.

I like their attitude of playing all comers. Their schedule is not like the other schools in the country. They will play everybody. I admire their attitude and they will back it up every week.

I have a lot of respect for them as a team and their philosophy. I have a lot of respect for the way they coach them.

I talk to pro scouts all the time; I am always interested in how other teams practice. I am not interested in what they do -- just how they practice. I know how USC practices: they practice very hard, they are very aggressive in their 9 on 7 drills, they go one-on-ones. There is a reason they are as tough as they are and they play as hard as they do.

I have respect for them; I like to see tough hard nose football teams, and they are definitely a tough team.

I don't need to go through and rehash their personnel. Everybody already understands offensively their personnel. I could go through them all if you want me to; I have studied them pretty hard.

It all starts with their offensive line. I am a big Ryan Kalil fan. I really liked him out of high school. We recruited him out of Servite; I thought we had a chance. He isn't as big as people are looking for in this day and age. I think it starts with him. He is the leader of that unit. He is an outstanding, outstanding offensive center.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Number 58

Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
Lofa Tatupu rocks. Learn about him. There aren't five middle linebackers playing any better right now.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

More Trojans in Sports Illustrated

There's another former USC Trojan in this week's Sports Illustrated, Mike Williams, who talks about about what he misses now that he's in the NFL:
"When I watch SC play, Matt [Leinart], Reggie [Bush] and those guys, that's the thing I regret," says the USC star who had to miss a year of football when he unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's minimum-age rule after his sophomore year. Williams, who says he enjoys the NFL, and who has 19 catches, goes on: "Sometimes I feel stupid that I left that part of my life too soon.... Here, nobody sees us until Sunday. In college, kids see you when you leave practice, see you in school. The same guy [who] cheers for you sees you Monday through Friday."
Lofa Tatupa also talked about his first season in the NFL:
Tatupu, a 5'11", 238-pound second-rounder from USC leads Seattle in tackles with 52, but it is a humbling experience that has stuck with him: facing the Cowboys' 6'3", 325-pound, nine-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen, who in an SI Players poll of his peers last year was voted the NFL's strongest man. "He is not playing around," says Tatupu, who experienced Allen's wrath in a Week 7 win over Dallas. "The man is a beast. He laid me out a couple times. Once he got me good. I was on my back, [and] he turned me over like ... I don't even want to know what it was like. I've never seen anybody get handled like [I was]."

New USC Blog

The Orange County Register has a new USC football blog called Talking Trojans. In their first post, they link to TrojanWire's post on my post on Troy Polamalu's Sports Illustrated cover.

Friday, November 11, 2005

BCS Still Causing Controversy

With two more undefeated teams going down last week, only three -- USC, Texas and Alabama -- enter this weekend without a loss. If all three win out, an unbeaten team will be excluded from the BCS championship game for the second year in a row.

Last season, USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all finished the regular season undefeated. USC and Oklahoma met in the national championship game, the Orange Bowl. Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. USC finished at the top of both polls, effectively winning a consensus national championship.

"I felt bad for Auburn last year," said USC fullback Brandon Hancock.

A year earlier, it was the Trojans who were squeezed out of the BCS title game, even though they the top spot in both human polls. Oklahoma played LSU in the Sugar Bowl; USC defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl and won the AP national championship. The coaches, contractually obligated to vote for the winner of the Sugar Bowl, chose LSU.

The BCS continues to spark fervent debate among college football fans. Earlier this season, USC briefly dropped behind Texas even though they far outdistanced the Longhorns in both human polls, thanks Texas' strong showing in the computer ranking component of the BCS formula. Those computer rankings are the product of complicated formulas devised by mathematicians with no practical football experience.

"It's like having a dentist operate on a foot," said Hancock, who has been asked to be part of a debate on the BCS system.

Seeing as how mathematicians get to select the best team in football, one wonders what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot and football players were relied on to devise mathematical formulas.

"It just wouldn't be right," said USC tailback Desmond Reed. "I mean, we're just football players." When asked to name his favorite equation, Reed replied, "a2 + b2 = c2."

If he had to suggest a teammate to devise a formula, Reed said he would pick Hancock, who is generally considered the best student on the team.

Hancock would rather not focus on formulas at all. "A computer doesn't know the intangibles," he said. "The AP and coaches poll are more credible."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Markazi: Bush is Sportsman of the Year

Recent USC graduate Arash Markazi, who currently writes for Sports Illustrated, SI on Campus and, says Trojan tailback Reggie Bush is his pick for 2005 Sportsman of the Year.
Look at the faces of the helpless defenders who try to tackle Bush, and watch them fall over themselves like villains trying to take on Bruce Lee in a Kung Fu movie. Look at the people in the crowd hold their breaths with anticipation every time Bush touches the ball. Look at his teammates as they whoop and holler and hit each other like fans at a slam dunk contest every time he reverses field and makes players miss.

Ask any player on the USC football team who their most valuable player is and they will all -- even Matt Leinart, the team's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback -- say Bush. Despite being unbeatable for the past two years, the Trojans know that they would probably have a handful of losses if it hadn't been for the man they call The President. Says USC coach Pete Carroll, "I told him you're the most valuable guy on the field for what you're creating by your presence."

To every father who has sat down with his child and tried to describe the greatness of Gale Sayers or the elusiveness of Barry Sanders, breathe easy. The next generation has arrived. In Bush, who averages more than 200 all-purpose yards per game and scores a touchdown nearly every 10 times he touches the ball, college football fans are treated to the most exciting player in the sport every Saturday.
RELATED: Sports Illustrated's Reggie Bush photo gallery

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Post-Op Report

"Desmond Reed," USC quarterback Matt Leinart once remarked, "is the best kept secret in college football."

Unfortunately for Leinart and the rest of his teammates, Reed will remain under wraps a little while longer, thanks to an injury he suffered several weeks ago at Notre Dame.

Yesterday morning, Reed had surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered against the Irish. It was performed in San Francisco by Dr. Arthur Ting, an orthopedic surgeon who is the team physician for the NHL's San Jose Sharks and also happens to be the father of Trojans Ryan and Brandon Ting.

After the surgery, Reed confessed to being in significant pain, but said he was heartened by the news that the damage was not as bad as initally feared. "Normally when [the ligament] snaps it curls up," said Reed, "but mine was just chillin' so that was good."

Reed will be on crutches for three weeks and then begin his rehabilitation. "I'm going to try my hardest and hit rehab every day."

Reed will stay in the Bay Area through the weekend, giving him a chance to join his teammates on the sidelines when the Trojans take on Cal.

As for the pain, "I'll be fine by Thursday or Friday," he said.

Just in time for the game.

PREVIOUSLY: Weis Game Plan Leaves Reed Hobbling

Trojan Profile: Brandon Hancock

Name: Brandon Hancock

Number: 40
Class: redshirt junior
Position: fullback
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Siblings: one sister
Roommates: I live by myself in a studio

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Kelly Monaco
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: sense of humor
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: arrogance

Non-football role model: Lance Armstrong
Non-football highlight: Graduating with the team-high GPA
Best sport other than football: Cycling (after injuring my knee it was my main form of exercise)
Career other than football: entertainment law or a sports attorney

Scares you: spiders
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes, Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Surprising fact: I have a 3.89 GPA, I eat 7,000 calories a day

Specialty in the kitchen: the bare essentials, steak and egg whites

Favorite professional football team: Cincinnati Bengals
Favorite professional football player: Mike Alstott (that's why I wear #40)

Opponent you dislike the most: Cal because a good friend of mine plays for them

Funniest teammate: Formerly Matt Clay Matthews
Prettiest: Thomas Williams
Most athletic: Reggie Bush
Most humble: Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui

Funniest Trojan moment: When linebackers coach Nick Holt gave a long-winded Kentucky Derby analogy and impersonated a horse (Holt is now head coach at the University of Idaho)

Pete Carroll in one word: Competitor

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Trojan Profile: Desmond Reed

Name: Desmond Reed

Number: 22
Class: redshirt sophomore
Position: tailback/special teams
Hometown: San Gabriel, CA

Siblings: one brother, three sisters
Roommates: Josh Pinkard and Mozique McCurtis

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Beyoncé Knowles
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: sense of humor
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: a "nagger"

Non-football role model: My grandmother
Non-football highlight: Graduating from high school and my whole family flying in town for it
Best sport other than football: Basketball
Career other than football: professional basketball player

Scares you: Snakes
Last time you cried: At Notre Dame

Surprising fact: I'm a neat freak
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes

Specialty in the kitchen: peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a Caesar salad

Favorite professional football team: Dallas Cowboys
Favorite professional football player: Emmitt Smith

Opponent you dislike the most: Cal because one of my good friends plays for them

Funniest teammate: Josh Pinkard
Prettiest: Thomas Williams or Hershel Dennis
Most athletic: Dwayne Jarrett
Most humble: Darnell Bing

Pete Carroll in one word: Business

Trojans in the NFL

Former Trojan standout Troy Polamalu is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, sporting the trademark mane that should be familiar to USC fans.

Polamalu is the subject of Nunyo Demasio's cover story, titled, "The Mane Man."
What distinguishes Polamalu -- aside from the hair -- is the multitude of roles he plays in the Steelers' defense. At times he ambles to the line of scrimmage, then sprints back before the snap to become a third cornerback. Other times he'll jog up from his safety spot to become a fifth linebacker. But his most exotic role is as a pass-rushing end, in essence giving Pittsburgh a 4-4 formation; he'll even occasionally execute a stunt with a defensive lineman. In a Sept. 18 victory over the Houston Texans, Polamalu came at quarterback David Carr from all angles, tying an NFL record for a safety with three sacks. Only linebackers Porter and Clark Haggans have more for the Steelers this season.

The 2004 Pro Bowler's play at the line compels opposing coaches to pay special attention to him in their game plan, often using motion and shifts to force him to stay deep, where he has a tendency to bite on play-action. "If you don't know where he is, he'll kill you," says Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "He's all over the field." The Packers got a firsthand look on Sunday, when Polamalu made six tackles and recovered two fumbles, returning one for a 77-yard touchdown in a 20-10 Steelers victory.

Polamalu so effectively masks his intentions that keeping track of him is a challenge. The quirkiest disguise is when he moves up, faking a blitz, then turns his back to the offense as if he's about to return to the secondary. At the snap Polamalu will suddenly whirl back around and rush the quarterback. "The thing that puts teeth into those moves is the fact that he can [do so many things]," says Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "So when he's at the line of scrimmage, the offense has to say, 'He may be coming.' If he turns his back to go deep, they're saying, 'Oh, no, he's going deep.' And then he wheels from that and blitzes. So you're dealing with the element of surprise."

Polamalu's frantic movement and ravenous appetite for ballcarriers earned him the nickname Tasmanian Devil from fellow starting safety Chris Hope last season. "It goes with the way his hair goes all over the place and the way he runs," Hope says. "He's always into something. If you look at our film, he's always diving, scratching, clawing under a pile. He's always full speed, going 125 mile per hour."

Once the whistle blows, though, Polamalu appears to be the most serene person on the field. He often helps up an opponent he just walloped, then saunters back to the huddle, head down, saying a silent prayer. He hardly chats with teammates and never talks trash. Porter has heard the safety curse on the field only twice, both times shocking his teammates.

Defensive end Kimo Von Oelhoffen noticed Polamalu's idiosyncrasies during the safety's first NFL preseason game, in 2003. "I love to watch him," says Von Oelhoffen, a 12-year veteran. "He [just] smiles between plays. Then it's Bing! Bing! Bing! He's all over the place."


Polamalu grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., the youngest of five children (he has a brother and three older sisters) in a household headed by his divorced mother, Suila. During the summer of 1989, when Troy was eight, the family took a trip to tiny Tenmile, Ore., where his Uncle Salu and Aunt Shelley lived with their three sons, one of whom, Joe Polamalu, played football at Oregon State. Troy was struck by the pastoral setting. "This was a complete contrast to my life in L.A.," Polamalu says. "I saw horses in the field, sheep, cows, beautiful green trees. I'm thinking: Dang, this is awesome."

After a week Suila was ready to drive back to California, but Troy asked to stay behind for a while. His mother agreed, and when she called a few days later, Troy cried and pleaded for more time. Realizing that rural Oregon was a better environment for her child, Suila allowed him to remain with his aunt, uncle and cousins. Troy grew into a star running back and defensive back at nearby Douglas High in Winston, and didn't return to Southern California until 1999, as a highly prized freshman for the USC Trojans. At USC, Polamalu embraced his Samoan heritage, joining Polynesian dance clubs and learning the Samoan language from friends. After his freshman year he took his first trip to American Samoa to visit his mother, who had moved there in 1996 after remarrying.

Success in football was also part of his heritage. His brother, Kaio Aumua, played at Texas-El Paso; his cousin Nicky Sualua was a tailback for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys; and Troy's uncle Kennedy Pola played fullback at USC from 1982 to '85 and is now the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Polamalu maintained the family tradition at USC, where he was a two-time All-America and one of three finalists for the 2002 Thorpe Award.

It was at USC, too, that he had his last haircut -- in 2000, when as a sophomore he was told to do so by a coach. Polamalu's mane is now so long that it obscures the name on the back of his jersey, revealing only the first and last letters, but he has no plans to cut it again unless his wife, Theodora, insists. "It's a part of you," he says. "It just feels like an appendage. I guess I'd save a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner, rubber bands.... "
In the same issue, Peter King has a related story on the number of young defensive players making a big impact this season:
The Jets followed middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma's young leadership to the playoffs last year, and now two contenders -- Cincinnati (with Odell Thurman) and Seattle (Lofa Tatupu) -- have rookie middle 'backers calling defensive signals.

[...]The most accomplished of the young bunch, and certainly the most recognizable, may be Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who in just three seasons has become a force in the league, ranging all over the field, hair flowing as he delivers game-changing plays.

RELATED: Polamalu and his wife, Theodora