The NCAA has handed down the sanctions to the USC Trojans and folks, it ain't pretty. Lane Kiffin's program will lose twenty scholarships. That's a heck of a lot of premium athletes that he won't get to sign. My guess is, with conference re-alignment about happen, USC is headed to the bottom of the new BigPac-Whatever.
Now, perhaps of greater importance to the 2010 Trojans is the fact that the NCAA has imposed a 2-year ban on postseason play for the team. In the NCAA rules, players in a program that receives a ban covering their remaining eligibilty are free to leave the program and accept a scholarship anywhere, and NOT have to sit out a year.
That means that USC's Juniors and Seniors are essentially Free Agents. Let the cherry picking begin!
"But Dukes!" you say, "USC wasn't very good last year...are there any players WORTH poaching?"
Let's have a look, shall we?
Right off the bat, Allen Bradford jumps out at me. The Senior RB was a BEAST last season, running over people and bulling his way to first downs and TDs. He was 2nd on the team in rushing, and was recruited to USC to win championships - no chance at that now. I'm sure there are a number of schools looking to fill a slot at RB who could use someone like this. Houston Nutt may already have him on speed dial.
Then, of course, there's journeyman Mitch Mustain. Mitch has already proven that school allegiance is of no matter to him, after ditching the Razorbacks for the Trojans in hopes of leading a team to the promised land. Well, it's no secret that he feels a bit jilted by his chosen bedfellow. Mustain was a winner in all 8 of his collegiate starts....surely SOMEONE would like to have that kind of a signal caller - even as a backup. If he were to hold out for a "Start Right Now" opportunity, I don't know that he'd get it at a major institution. Not many coaches are apt to bring a kid in and hand over the keys after one summer, unless they REALLY think he can deliver a title. Even Favre couldn't do that...and he's been doing this for a looooong time.
Junior Ronald Johnson caught 34 passes and 3 touchdowns last season as the team's #2 receiver. What's more important is that he's set to be the #1 guy this year with the exit of Top Man Williams. If only there were a team out there who might be looking to add depth in its receiving corps...
Junior linebackers Malcolm Smith and Chris Gallipo are the team's top returning tacklers, and Gallipo was second in interceptions last season. Both are Los Angeles guys. With the way UCLA played defense last year, you can't tell me they couldn't use some more talent.
The interior defensive line could be particularly hard-hit, as four out of the five defensive tackles currently on the roster are in the "takeable" group. USC does benefit from having young defensive ends...but if they wanted to leave, they could still be part of a title team somewhere else long before they'll get that chance at USC.
All-told, there are 52 Juniors and Seniors on the USC Trojans football team. This isn't a team where these kids should hold a heck of a lot of loyalty to their coaching staff, either...as this staff is brand new. None of these Juniors and Seniors owe anything to Lane Kiffin and his gang. If other programs come calling, I suspect many will entertain the thought of leaving. Now, that's not to say there will be a mass-exodous. There are plenty of reasons why players wouldn't leave - the most major of which would be assimilating into a new school after spending so many years in LA. That kid is going to have to look at credits transferring; will he be set back in his major; will he want to leave his friends (possibly family).
I have to think that the grand majority will stay right where they are. But, with the right coaxing, I think some star-level players could be pulled away with the promise of New-Years bowls and championships, which are always good for getting the eyes of pro scouts and awards voters.
What the decision will most likely affect is the future of Trojan football. How badly do you want to go to USC when you know you don't get a shot at post-season play? Also, as players leave USC, and as new recruits opt to sign with schools who have championship possibilities, USC's swagger and win totals will diminish. How then will the USC powers-that-be get kids to come to the "once-great" (read: great when we were breaking rules) institution? It will certainly be interesting to see just how good of a salesman Lane Kiffin is, when he's not able to use the "We're in the BCS EVERY YEAR" ploy.
Can you see the living room pitch - Yes ma'am, I think your son has a chance to come in and really help us win all of our games - and he'll even be home for Christmas!
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