Eligibility thoughts

With the news today that junior offensive lineman Matt Spanos will not be eligible this fall, Trojan fans breathe a little sigh of relief to find out there has only been one academic casualty among the returning players. This is not to minimize the loss of Spanos, in fact, his loss could be critical to the overall depth on the o-line but when you consider how many players were forced to sit out practices toward the end of spring due to academics, the number of losses could have been worse.

On top of that, we are coming off the recent news that Chauncey Washington has officially regained his eligibility after being forced to miss the last two seasons. The return of Washington will not only be a tremendous boost to a Trojan running game lacking in experience but it also brings us one of the best stories we've heard in terms of a player sticking with it and trying to keep his dream alive.

To be forced to sit out one season would be tough enough but to make the decision to stay at USC for a second year after being told that you would have to sit out again is one that had to be hard to make. On top of that very real academic hurdle staring him in the face, Chauncey was also forced to pay his own way at a school that certainly costs a few pennies these days. When you are also considering your future, and a possible career in the NFL, it was a risk for Chauncey if he never qualified again and never got a chance to show what he could do on the field yet he perservered and was rewarded with a golden opportunity to head into fall camp as the probable favorite in the competition for the starting tailback spot.

On the flip side, Spanos has been eligible throughout his Trojan career but he had never been in the running for real playing time until this year. After an off-season when he impressed the coaches and his teammates with his work ethic and performance he came out for the recent spring ball session and was one of the most pleasant surprises of the team. He was solid early on with the first unit at left guard while Jeff Byers eased back into the rotation and then he also did well as a reserve at both right tackle and center. His play in spring ball and his versatility made him a valuable option on the line as we headed toward the season and you know Matt had to be fired up for the chance to be a major part of the rotation.

Now, Spanos will be forced to watch from the sidelines as he will be allowed to practice but not take part in games. His news certainly isn't the end of the Trojans worries when it comes to academics either as several incoming high school players will await their final spring semester grades before knowing their qualifying status for the fall.

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