The Trojans are like Notre Dame, or the New York Yankees. Maybe they are like the Dallas Cowboys of college football in that you either love them or you hate them.
I am still claiming neutrality on this issue. I like them because of their history and their tradition. I like them because of their rivalries with Notre Dame and with UCLA.
But, I am talking about the 2015 season and the reason why I do like them this particular football season.
I like them because they are talented.
On Saturday, September 19th, they take on conference rival, Stanford. This has been an interesting game lately since the arrival of Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and it has continued with David Shaw as the head coach in Palo Alto.
The excitement for the men of Troy starts at Quarterback with Cody Kessler.
In two games, and of course these were not quality opponents, Kessler has thrown for 650 yards and 7 Touchdowns. As a senior, Kessler is the unquestioned leader of a talented Trojan team.
Yet, this team is still really young across the board. Next season could even be better for the Trojans, but they will be without excellent Quarterback Kessler who just makes things work. Back up Quarterback Max Browne is a former 5 star recruit from the state of Washington who at 6-5, 220 may actually have more long term potential than the 6-1, 215 Kessler. Browne hasn’t played a great deal but he has that big time arm that so many coaches covet.
The USC Trojans took a hit from last year’s team with the loss of Buck Allen. 2015 has been what people love to call ‘by committee’, with senior Tre Madden and true freshman Ronald Jones II have split carries. Throw in junior Justin Davis and another freshman Aca’Cedric Ware and there is some talent back there.
Wide Receiver lost outstanding Nelson Agholer, but this group is exciting. JuJu Smith-Schuster was one of the top recruits in the country last year and was an instant star. He is their leading receiver this year so far, and is explosive and one of the more dangerous threats in the country.
Junior College transfer Isaac Whitney is big time.
But, outside of Smith-Schuster who went by only Smith last year, the Trojans have Adoree Jackson at Wide Receiver and he is one of the most exciting players in the country on both sides of the ball.
The Trojans have always been known for their Offensive Line and this year is no different. Last year, with all of the top talent coming in and with injuries, the Trojans had three true freshmen starting up front for most of the season. Damian Mama, Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao are some of the top young Offensive Linemen in the country. They have a year of experience under their belts and team up with Center Max Tuerk and Tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner and it is one of the better Offensive Lines in the nation.
Banner, at Right Tackle, is 6-9, 360.
All of the talent is not limited to the offense, with the already mentioned two-way star Adoree Jackson, Su’a Cravens and Anthony Sarao. But, the problem could be for the Trojans later on is that a lot of the talent on defense is really young such as leading tackler and true freshman Cameron Smith. They also have freshmen stars Osa Masina, Iman Marshall, Marvel Tell, Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin. These guys are good, but they are still teenagers and were playing high school football a year ago.
The jury is still out on USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian. However, he did take a Washington
Husky team that didn’t win a game the year before he was hired and turned them around. This past year’s NFL Draft had 3 Huskies taken in the first round. He definitely improved the talent level there and is doing the same at USC.
This past year’s recruiting class by USC was not named the best by any of the recruiting services, but it’s right up there. Combine that with last year’s excellent recruiting class and the Trojans are back at least as far as talent is concerned.
Will that transfer over onto the football field and will they win the Pac 12 in 2015? That, of course, remains to be seen.
The best possible scenario for myself as a long time football fan is for the Trojans and the UCLA Bruins to both be undefeated when they play at the end of the season.
My first year following football as a youngster was the year of their greatest game back in 1967. People always talk about history repeating itself and a top 5 USC versus a top 5 UCLA could be a fun game.
USC has the same quality of talent that they had in the Pete Carroll years, but whether their time will come this season, or the next, or even beyond, or not at all remains to be seen.
People were underwhelmed with the hiring of Steve Sarkisian, but I think we need to wait and see on that. In his second season now, he has definitely upgraded the talent at USC.
USC needs to take that first step and beat Stanford on September 19th.