USC is no stranger to replacing its stars


A big problem at any university is finding a way to maintain stability when it comes to marketing the faces of an athletic program.

USC is no exception.

Over the next 18 months, some of the finest athletes to ever don the cardinal and gold will walk up on a stage, receive their degrees and move on to the next phase in their lives.

USC’s current Mount Rushmore of athletic excellence will undergo a much-needed facelift once the likes of Matt Barkley, Briana Gilbreath, Joel Dennerley, Alex Jupiter, Steve Johnson, Tony Ciarelli and Andrew Triggs say their final farewells.

Fortunately, the search party won’t take long in finding their replacements.

Discovering the next university-based poster children can be arduous, because marketability isn’t just a matter of selling success on the field; it’s about showcasing the whole package.

Though their collective absence from this university will most certainly be felt in the coming years, the next potential crop of names to know are by no means second-rate fill-ins.

Although sophomore Nickell Robey, sophomore Robert Woods and freshman Marqise Lee have solidified their places as the next distinguished torchbearers for the USC football program, they are just a few of the athletes itching to take over the mantle in their respective sports.

The USC women’s tennis team is off to its best start since 1999, thanks in large part to a “Fab Four” of freshmen Zoë Scandalis, Sabrina Santamaria, Gabriella DeSimone and Giuliana Olmos, who have embraced and adapted to the collegiate ranks.

Despite their lack of previous experience at USC, these four have begun the season with a rare dose of confidence and sense of the moment. Because of their efforts, the Women of Troy reached the semifinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships earlier this month for the first time since 2003.

Bill Ferguson’s men’s volleyball team might have lost one of the best players last season in Murphy Troy, but they have not lost a step when it comes to on-court production. Ferguson will also have to replace Tony Ciarelli, who has helped guide the 2012 squad to a No. 6, when the current season concludes. But that replacement will likely come internally. Freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers might not play the same position, but he has the skill — he leads the nation in blocks per set — engaging personality and temperament to take over as the program’s future go-to guy.

If you didn’t have a chance to stop by Dedeaux Field last weekend, you missed out on a chance to see what could very well be the beginning of a revival of the USC baseball team.

Though only three games in, two of the gems that made up coach Cruz’s nationally lauded 2011 recruiting class already look to be pivotal figures for years to come. Catcher Garrett Stubbs is an instant spark plug at the plate, possessing the mindset and talent to be a key cog at the top of Cruz’s lineup.

And though freshman left-hander Stephen Tarpley only has one start under his belt, if Sunday’s nine-strikeout performance is any indication, this student-athlete has the makeup to be the next great USC hurler.

His poise on the mound and general enthusiasm for the game are apparent the minute you watch him take the field. It’s the kind of energy that rubs off on teammates in ways a third-strike fastball or timely out cannot.

Freshman Yannick Hanfmann played the role of the hero this weekend as the USC men’s tennis team captured the ITA Indoor Championship.

Freshman Cristian Quintero gave but a glimpse of what he’s capable of achieving in the pool this past week, as his two freestyle wins aided the Trojans’ swim and dive squad in its win over Utah.

Sophomore Sophia Popov fired a season-best round of 67 last week and has the No. 4 Women of Troy golf team firing on all cylinders.

These are just a few names that come to mind when evaluating the athletic program’s upcoming succession plans, but they are certainly not the only ones.

The named and unnamed all possess signs of athletic excellence, high moral character and an uncharacteristic ability to thrive despite what their age or experience may normally dictate.

But the true test will likely be found in the coming months and years. If they are to be the next faces to adorn the Coliseum or the Galen Center or Heritage Hall, they must also dedicate themselves outside the white lines to embody the five traits of a Trojan: faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious.

It’s a test that if conquered goes well beyond some columnist’s fictional Mount Rushmore.

If conquered, these future faces will have a lifetime spot in the annals of USC history.

 

 

“For the Love of the Game” runs Wednesdays. If you would like to comment on this story visit DailyTrojan.com or email Dave at dulberg@usc.edu.