For the next three days USC fans get to experience the way much of the rest of the world of college football fans view the annual extravaganza the NFL Draft has become – from the outside looking in.
No. 1 in so many NFL Draft categories, USC a bit removed this year
And without any real connection to Day 1, for example, unless you’re from Chicago -- or a Rams fan, because of course, that’s all the relocated Rams have – that one No. 1 pick until whenever. Didn’t they trade half the Wal-Mart stores in the Midwest to get on camera for it?
No thoughts that there’s a Ron Yary, O.J. Simpson, Ricky Bell, Keyshawn Johnson or Carson Palmer out there to add to USC’s record five No. 1 overall picks. Not even close.
Nor any Trojan who will add to USC’s national-best number of 79 first-rounders and its 12 in the last eight years including Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor a year ago.
Although last fall, you could have hoped that somehow, some way Cody Kessler would be able to build on his sparkling junior season and Heisman Trophy candidate standing and somehow find himself there. No, really, that was a thought. Then 2015 happened.
Or would Max Tuerk make his status as the nation’s No. 1 center in preseason pay off? Not with ACL surgery that had him out after five games and down to No. 3 among centers now.
So that left it up to a three-and-out Su’a Cravens. But he still hasn’t found a position and the indecision about his 225-pound weight – is he a linebacker or safety? – and questions about his athleticism, production, combine results and decision not to do individual workouts have him moving away from where he might have finished in the Draft.
The question now for USC fans is not who the next Trojan will be to add to the 12 USC Pro Football Hall of Famers, again tops in the nation, but how many will be added to another USC national best – the 488 Trojans drafted by the NFL that’s just ahead of No. 2 Notre Dame’s 485.
Hard to believe a USC program with the most quarterbacks drafted all-time (17) and the one tied for the most wide receivers with Miami at 40 and second all-time in three categories – running backs to Nebraska (40 to 39), tight ends to Notre Dame (21 to 20) and O-linemen, also to Notre Dame (63 to 58) and third overall in D-linemen to Miami and LSU (49 to 45 to 44) is on the outside looking in, even for a year.
After all, USC still has managed to be No. 3 in draft picks the last 20 years with 113 behind No. 1 Florida State’s 123 even through the NCAA scholarship-limiting sanctions years.
And yes, it will get better starting next year. But today USC fans will be mostly observing.
And Friday and Saturday, they’ll be mostly hoping that the Trojans who sustained USC through four head coaches and the teeth of the NCAA penalties catch a break and get – a) picked, and b) picked by the right team where they’ll get a better shot than some of the coaches they played for at USC gave them.
Because it’s hard to look back on Kessler’s position on the Heisman list in August and now, to look at one NFL Draft list put together by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that goes 12 deep on every position with anonymous – and snarky – comments by NFL scouts that has the likes of these QBs -- Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett (???), Kevin Hogan, Jake Driskel, Nate Sudfeld and Liberty’s Josh Woodrum -- on its 1 through 12 QB list with comments but relegates Cody to “Others” without comment.
Could make for a very long, or maybe busy, Day 3 Saturday if none of the Trojans fall in place Friday and Kevin Seymour, Tre Madden, Soma Vainuku, Anthony Sarao and all the D-line guys – Antwaun Woods, Delvon Simmons, Greg Townsend, Cody Temple and Claude Pelon are added to the waiting list, which they probably will be.
For USC football, the motto has been less “Fight On” and more “What can go wrong will go wrong” when you have your second head coach fired in midseason in three years, something this NFL class of Trojans has had to live through.
No wonder Cody has had to answer questions about not beating any top teams. Of course that question is wrong. He did lead USC to wins over a No. 3 Utah and a No. 5 Stanford as well as wins over arch rivals Notre Dame and UCLA.
But still, the failings that were mostly those of his head coaches and offenses that just could not execute against better opponents for a whole host of reasons, only one of which was Cody, often came down on him. He’s hardly the first USC senior QB whose junior year was far better than his senior season.
Tuerk’s fate was just bad luck as USC’s need to play him all across the offensive line probably helps him this weekend despite the injury. But Su’a is a different story. Where does he play?
Talking to the NFL people after the season hasn’t helped Su’a, who said they split down the middle between linebacker, where he’d played the last couple of seasons, and safety, his high school and freshman spot. Should he have picked one – safety probably – and stuck with it as he got his weight down to 210 and his speed to 4.6. Maybe.
That’s how Su’a felt as a sophomore when switched in late August to linebacker and he was not happy about it. Had he known he’d be in a system that didn’t allow anyone to be very productive, he’d have probably been even less happy.
But like the rest of these guys, Seymour, who astonished with his 4.41 time in the 40 at the Combine but hadn’t gotten the chance to play much man even when he was healthy, he’ll just have to make the best of it. And do it at the next level.
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