Trojans must try to build up again

first_imgAfter the 2005 USC football team lost the national championship to Texas in a stunning fashion, I was heartbroken. Then after a few days, I was fine. I had convinced myself that since it seemed USC contended for the national title every year under former head coach Pete Carroll, they would just win next year.My young naiveté and limited sample size of Trojan fandom contributed to this incredible misguided assumption. More than 10 years later, USC still hasn’t been back to a national title. That loss to Texas led to the slow decline of the Trojan football program.At first it was gradual, shifting from national championships to Rose Bowls. Under quarterbacks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez, USC was still the team no one wanted to play at the end of the year. Each season had the same narrative. If only one or two plays had gone just a little bit differently, USC would be playing for it all. That was the first step down.Then Sanchez left a year earlier than expected, and Matt Barkley was thrust into the starting role as a true freshman. That was the next step down. The team went from being one or two plays away from reaching a national championship appearance to being eight or nine plays away from winning 10 games. They went from beating Oregon and Stanford to getting dominated.Then the sanctions hit, Carroll left, and Lane Kiffin came, and the slide toward mediocrity and eight and nine-win seasons continued. With the exception of Barkley’s ridiculously impressive second half of his junior season and the magic of Eddy O’s brief tenure as interim coach, USC has been stuck in a slog of above-average but not phenomenal performances for six years.The play can be ascribed to the toll sanctions took on the roster’s depth, to questionable coaching hires, or to an array of other reasons. Whatever the case may be, it is clear 10 years later that greatness isn’t just sustained. It takes elite performers at every level from the coaching staff down.In 2006, I would have been shocked if I had been told in my three years on campus, USC would have had four head coaches in the football program and not played in one Rose Bowl. Now it seems commonplace, but it shouldn’t.I’m not holding out hope that USC somehow wins a national title next year. If they can get through the beast that is their first four games relatively unscathed, I think they could play for the Pac-12 title, but not the four team playoff. I’ve held out such optimism every year, but for some reason this season seems different.Sure, there are question marks on the defensive line and possibly the secondary, but this coaching staff seems to know what they are doing. They are experienced, and led by a head coach in Clay Helton who connects with the players on a level the last two coaches did not.Three years down at USC, and the football team hasn’t yet approached the woefully misguided expectations I held out 10 years ago. However, with a new staff in place and two incredible quarterback options to choose from, I am hoping that next year is the start of the next run of sustained greatness.The team has a plan for recruiting, developing and executing. That is markedly different than what seemed to be a haphazard approach for portions of the last three seasons.Helton doesn’t need to be Carroll. Redshirt junior Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold don’t have to be as spectacular as former quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Sophomore running back Ronald Jones II doesn’t have to be Reggie Bush and so on down the line. This can be a new era of Trojan football, breaking away from the past and charting a new path.Hopefully, Helton will do it the way he sees fit and yield results similar to that of the Carroll era, where Rose Bowls and national titles are legitimate discussions every season. The process doesn’t have to be the same. It can be more workman-like and less Hollywood. It’s all about the results, and that the next 10 years are way better than the last 10. This summer will be the first indicator of that change taking place.Jake Davidson is a junior majoring in accounting. His column “Davidson’s Direction” ran Mondays.last_img

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