Obvious/Not So Obvious - The Aftermath

One of Pete Carroll's goals was to bring back the "old guard" of Trojan legends to surround his current players to bridge the USC football heritage and in those important televised national games, it sure didn't hurt for the country to see again the likes of Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Davis and Munoz, Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Boselli, and Rodney Peete on the sidelines with an occasional "down to the field" televised interview.

The Obvious - Evolving from a work in progress in the late August heat of Los Angeles to a work of art in the early January humidity of Miami, the 2002 USC Trojans football team completed one of the great runs in USC gridiron lore going 11-2 and finishing the season as the nation's No.4 ranked team in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, respectively.

The Not So Obvous - And while the celebrations in Columbus heralded the first national title at Ohio State since 1968, Keith Glantz, who helps on the betting line of the Associated Press, told local columunist Doug Krikorian that the Trojans would have been established as at least a seven-point favorite over Ohio State if the two would have met.

The Obvious - There are many computer formulas that selected Ohio State and Miami for the BCS championship in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Not So Obvious - So it was a bit ironic that by winning eight straight games in a torrid and with machine-like precision, the Trojans were named the nation's number one team in the final computer rankings announced by USA Today's respected Sagarin Poll and the Mathews/Scripps Howard Poll.

The Obvious - The Trojans return to national prominance was done in a year when a major portion of their games was accomplished against "glamorous" opponents such as Auburn, Notre Dame, and Iowa on ABC in national telecasts.

The Not So Obvious - Couple these exposures with the usual ABC regional, and national TBS and Fox games in Pac-10 play, and the Trojans gained five months of invaluable exposure to the country, and its high-profile blue-chip talent.

The Obvious - One of Pete Carroll's goals was to bring back the "old guard" of Trojan legends to surround his current players to bridge the USC football heritage.

The Not So Obvious - And in those important televised national games, it sure didn't hurt for the country to see again the likes of Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Davis and Munoz, Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Boselli, and Rodney Peete on the sidelines with an occasional "down to the field" televised interview.

The Obvious - The 2002 Trojans established themselves as one of the greatst team in USC history with a prolific offense and an almost ironclad defense.

The Not So Obvious - For those that point out that this USC team had two loses, it should be noted that the 1967 national champions of O.J. Simpson went 10-1-0, the 1974 national champions of Anthony Davis, Pat Haden, and J.K. McKay was 10-1-1, the 1978 national champions featuring Charles White and Ronnie Lott finished 12-1, and Rodney Peete's 1988 team concluded 10-2.

The Obvious - The future of the USC football program appears brighter than at anytime in the past 25 years.

The Not So Obvious - After two four-win seasons, John McKay in his third year turned it around for a national championship in 1962, while it has taken Pete Carroll one less year to place the Trojan football program back in the national spotlight.

The Obvious - The essence of this year's return to glory was a team guided by a determined senior class and a precocious freshman group in which there were more feel-good stories than in recent Trojan memory.

The Not So Obvious - Besides the "Obvious" stories of the well chronicled Carson Palmer, Malaefou MacKenzie, Troy Polamalu, Justin Fargas, Mike Williams, and Matt Grootegoed, it was the team play of unsung contributers like Eric Torres, Derek Graf, Norm Katnik, Jason Leach, and DeShaun Hill that pushed this team into the elite status.

The Obvious - The big key to this year's success was that this team had two years under the Carroll and Chow system and was able to impliment into practice the various nuances of their defensive and offensive schemes - not to mention the coaching staff's full understanding of each players' abilities.

The Not So Obvious - Unlike previous Trojan teams of the past several years, this year's team did not lose its best players early to the NFL, as illustrated by the presence of 5th year Heisman quarterback Carson Palmer. In addition, add to the mix the leadership and maturity of Malaefou MacKenzie and Justin Fargas.

The Obvious - Through the "Trojan Dark Ages" and inconsistencies of the past coaching staffs and players, the Trojan football program could not keep up with the loss of early-entry NFLers and leaders such as Mark Carrier, Junior Seau, Curtis Conway, and Chris Claiborne.

The Not So Obvious - USC was one of the early superpowers of college football to be hit hard with early exit, and with unstable coaching situations, it was just too much to overcome. The program had too many R.J. Soward types and not nearly enough Troy Polamalus. Where once USC was a quiet monster of the college universe, there were too many "posers" dressed in Trojan uniforms. Call it a lack of institutional control by previous USC coaching staffs that were under intense pressure to quickly restore the Trojan fans' expectations.

The Obvious - Many opponents of USC, both on and off the field, wanted fans and high school recruits to accept the Bill Walsh montra of "Yesterday U.", a reference that Southern California would never rise again and wa living in the past.

The Not So Obvious - With Pete Carroll's leadership and willingness to embrace the Trojans' football heritage, this USC team destroyed the Walsh myth. For long suffering USC fans, it was validation that Troy could, should, and did return to both team and individual glory in the eyes of the nation.

The Obvious - The 38-17 Orange Bowl win over Iowa on national television was the final visual chapter of USC's return, which has transcended into a recruiting bonanza the likes of which brings back memories of the motherloads of the McKay era.

The Not So Obvious - San Diego Helix prep All-America tailback Reggie Bush, considered by many as one of the top two backs in the country, committed to the Trojan during the Orange Bowl game. Bush said, " I was already impressed by USC that night watching their running backs, who are track guys, too, run so much and so well, it just made my feelings stronger."

The Obvious - This year's Trojans featured football players that were also accomplished track standouts such as Sultan McCullough and Darrell Rideaux.

The Not So Obvious - It appears once again that USC track coach Ron Allice has helped the Trojans' football team by helping secure the explosive Reggie Bush. Bush told the San Diego Tribune, " I am a big track guy and I wanted to run track in college."

The Obvious - The afterglow of this season was never more apparent when the WeAreSC.com recruiting dinner drew a record turnout of 180 fans Saturday evening in Anaheim.

The Not So Obvious - WeAreSC.com publisher Garry Paskwietz and John Jackson, former star Trojan wide receiver and Fox analyst, treated fans to a fine dinner and even more impressive oral and visual recruiting presentation, which included highlights of Trojan commits and possible ones. Without question, tailback Reggie Bush drew the biggest reaction, whose style brought comparisons to O.J. Simpson in the U.S. Army All-American Game.

The Obvious - While Reggie Bush took out a Trojan cap and made his announcement to USC at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American game on ESPN, East quarterback Chris Leak announced in a prepared statement that he was heading for Florida.

The Not So Obvious - Had Leak committed to USC, he would have been the second star player out of North Carolina to be a Trojan. Former Trojan All-American tackle and NFL star Marvin Powell was from Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The Obvious - Many Trojan fans and even a columnist in the Charlotte Observer were disappointed in Leak's college choice. The writer, Florida grad, was quite critical of the young star's college choice.

The Not So Obvious - The key to Leak's rejection of USC was distance. The Trojans simply lost out on a player whose mother had indicated she wanted him to stay local and go to Florida, and there is nothing wrong with that. With turnaround as fair play, tailback Reggie Bush of San Diego said one of his other factors for selecting USC was that it was close to home.

The Obvious - The Trojans received a commitment from Colorado's Lendale White, a powerful tailback who chose the Trojans over Michigan.

The Not So Obvious - In watching film of White at the recruiting dinner, he looked a lot like former Trojan running back Shawn Walters, but with more speed, power, and body lean.

The Obvious - Sunday afternoon proved to be another recruiting celebration for USC as heralded defensive tackle Sedric Ellis from Chino and talented defensive back Terrell Thomas of Rancho Cucamonga made their commitments during a visit to the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious - The biggest unanswered rumor at the WeAreSC.com dinner on Saturday night was the question of had Sedric Ellis made an unexpected Friday night USC commit. Garry Paskwietz said there was no confirmation, but the throng still wanted to hear something, anything. One thing they did hear was the Trojan staff would not be recruiting any quarterbacks this recruiting season, so San Leandro's Dennis Dixon is no longer an issue.

The Obvious - Trojan observers are surprised that the USC staff has not as yet made an offer to a placekicker.

The Not So Obvious - Fox analyst John Jackson was hopeful that the coaching staff would re-evaluate some of the available kicking talent. Jackson said he was very impressed with Mission Viejo's Jeff Ferrier, an All-Orange County selection.

The Obvious -Trojan linebacker recruit LaMarr Woodley of Saginaw, Michigan spent the weekend at Michigan State, a favorite spot of Saginaw athletes.

The Not So Obvious - Woodley returned without making a commitment to the new coach at Michigan State and that keeps the Trojans right in the middle of things. This biggie and Tampa receiver Andre Caldwell may go right down to the wire, which means the Trojans are right there.

The Obvious - The colorful 128-page Orange Bowl program and collector's piece contained a number articles and color photos of individual Trojan stars.

The Not So Obvious - However, on close inspection, color photographs in the program of Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Kenechi Udeze, and Matt Grootoged were from the "previous" season's "old" uniforms. In fact, the USC program photos were a mix of the new "retro" uniforms and the "old" uniforms, probably confusing the Iowa fans. In fact, Carson Palmer was shown in the same picture twice in the game program in a photo from his "junior" year.

The Obvious - USC recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, having secured a commitment from high-profile Sedric Ellis of Chino, is also extremely high on defensive tackle Ryan Watson of River Ridge John Curtis in Louisiana, who visited the Trojans this past weekend with his family.

The Not So Obvious - Orgeron and Watson have common Louisiana roots, since Orgeron played at South Lafourche High in Galliano and Northwestern State. It has been passed on that Watson gave his Trojan visit the highest of marks and will now visit LSU and Miami.

The Obvious - One former Trojan Florida resident who was happy to see USC come to Miami was three-time All-America linebacker Richard "Batman" Wood, who has been a successful high school coach at Tampa Wharton.

The Not So Obvious - Wood, who is also a security officer for Hillsbough County Alternative Education Center, has been the head football coach at Tampa Wharton, where he took his team (13-2) to the class 5A state title game in Tallahassee. Wood, who took over Wharton in 1998 where they went 1-9 in his first season, recently accepted a job with NFL Europe as a defensive line coach for the Frankford Galaxy.

The Obvious - Washington Redskin and former USC offensive coordinator Hugh Jackson came to the Orange Bowl to scout Carson Palmer.

The Not So Obvious - So which is the lesser of the two evils for Palmer? Drafted by lowly Cincinnati or to be reunited with Hue Jackson after two years under Norm Chow?

The Obvious - USC will get a visit from Concord De La Salle super running back Maurice Drew, Cal Hi Back of the Year, this coming weekend.

The Not So Obvious - At the recruiting dinner, John Jackson expressed concern that Drew had formed a tight bond with new UCLA running back coach Eric Bieniemy, who had Drew leaning strongly to Colorado before Bieniemy's departure as the Buff's running backs coach. Jackson, who was a Bishop Amat High teammate of Bieniemy, has great respect for Bieniemy and feels the Trojan will be in a dogfight to get the DLS star to SC. However, Jackson believes that Drew will not stay away from the Trojans' heralded incoming running backs, because he says Drew fears no one when it comes to competition.

The Obvious - With this season a resounding success, the Trojans now look to February and Letter of Intent Day as their current recruiting standing is number one in most respected polls.

The Not So Obvious - So with the expected announcement this week of another All-American commitment from Tustin offensive guard Sam Baker, the Trojans will turn their attention to the names Smith, Lewis, Woodley, Crable, Caldwell, Reed, Bradford, and perhaps a surprise or two. Having gained some "computer votes" for national champions on the field, the Trojans will now look to be recruiting national champions off the field.

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