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The Trojans keep marching on

It wasn't long ago that the USC Trojans were the kings of the college football world. From 2002 to 2009, Southern California collected 91 victories, and played in three National Championship games, winning two of them.
Life was good in the Golden State for coach Pete Carroll and his troops. However, the sun would eventually fade behind a storm cloud of NCAA sanctions.

In a story that broke in 2006, it was alleged that superstar running back Reggie Bush and his family received improper benefits. Usually where there is smoke there is fire, and that was certainly the case at USC.

After a lengthy and meticulous probe, the Trojan football program was hit hard by the NCAA. However, Carroll was able to get out of Dodge before the NCAA sheriffs came into the City of Angels with guns-a-blazing. Surprisingly, Carroll took the head coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, and as for Bush, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and eventually won a Super Bowl.

As fast as Bush might be though, he was not able to fully elude the long arm of the NCAA. The former USC tailback was stripped of his Heisman Trophy, and all of his stats and accolades were erased from the school's history books.

When the dust settled from this colossal disaster, the Trojans had their 2004 national title vacated, received a two-year ban from postseason play, and lost a slew of scholarships.

However, Carroll and Bush got off light while the real victims of this catastrophe were the students that are currently on the roster for USC. What was once a giant in the college football world was severely hurt, and was left without a leader.

How would the Trojans return to glory and march back towards the top of the BCS rankings? The answer came quickly, as in stepped Lane Kiffin. Kiffin spent six years at USC under Pete Carroll before heading to the NFL to coach the Oakland Raiders. His short-lived stint at the professional level was followed by another brief run as head coach at the University of Tennessee.

When his supposed "dream job" opened, Kiffin jumped on it and bolted Rocky Top for the left coast. It was an odd choice for the once mighty Trojan program, as Kiffin had left nothing but rubble behind in both Oakland and Knoxville. Not to mention the fact that he was an assistant under Carroll during the time these issues occurred.

Nonetheless, Kiffin was the man chosen by USC, and somewhat surprisingly, it has worked out thus far.

In his first year back in Los Angeles, Kiffin led the weakened Trojans to an eight-win campaign, which included a win at 18th-ranked Arizona. The team was still dangerous offensively, but fell well short on the other side of the ball and the team's lack of defensive continuity was evident.

Maybe the reason Kiffin was brought back to town was because of his recruiting abilities and his ties with the California area. Carroll had a part in the 2010 recruiting class for USC, but Kiffin made sure the top players on USC's list came to Los Angeles after Carroll's abrupt departure. The fifth-ranked recruiting class had a ton of talent, including two huge pieces in defensive lineman George Uko and receiver Robert Woods.

Uko was red-shirted as a freshman, but will likely earn a starting role this season. As for Woods, he was electrifying in his rookie campaign, leading the team in receptions and receiving yards, while also showcasing his immense talent in the return game.

For this coming season, at least one source has ranked the Trojans' recruiting class as the fourth-best in the nation behind only Auburn, Florida State and Texas. It is unclear how these young men will help this year's squad, but it is likely there are a few stars waiting to shine in the bright lights of Hollywood.

There is little doubt that the sanctions bestowed upon USC will handcuff the program for a few years, but at the same time there is even less doubt that this once proud football team will again march towards the glory of its sport. Hopefully this time around USC does not take any short cuts, because the NCAA is always watching.

 

Read more at 13wham.com

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