As the 2012 football season rapidly approaches, I can only think about what kind of USC team will exit the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tunnel Sept. 1.
Immense buzz is circulating the USC campus because of Heisman hopes and the possibility to play in a BCS bowl game.
It is undeniable that USC is one of the most talked about football programs heading into the 2012 season. Fresh off its two-year postseason ban, the Trojans would have the opportunity to return to their bowl dominance.
This return to glory is not something new to USC. Under coach John McKay, the USC football program thrived between 1960-1975. It wasn’t long before USC became known as “Tailback U,” after Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy in 1965 and 1968, respectively — in addition to the talent of Sam “Bam” Cunningham. Under McKay, USC won four national championships (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1974). McKay’s “Tailback U” moniker continued with other notable players, such as Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles White and Marcus Allen.
Decades later, players such as Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson revived the title once again. USC continues to use multiple players in its backfield; however that backfield now has a new nickname.
ESPN analyst Brock Huard recently named USC “Quarterback U” because of the school’s recent prodigies. Though USC has consistently had great talent at the quarterback position, most have been overshadowed by the players of the “Tailback U” era. This becomes clear when looking at the list of USC’s seven Heisman Trophy winners, only two of which are quarterbacks.
Huard cites the success of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez, the inaugural members of “Quarterback U.” Looking at the careers of these three athletes, the worthiness of this new nickname is hard to deny.
The accomplishments of each of the quarterbacks mentioned above alludes to the newfound dynasty at USC.
Carson Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner, completed 309 of 489 passes for 3,942 yards and threw 33 touchdowns during his senior season. At the time of his departure, Palmer led the then-Pac-10 conference in passing yards (11,818) and racked up 72 career touchdown passes. An All-American, Palmer was drafted first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. Palmer spent seven seasons (2003-2010) with the Bengals and is now the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.
Matt Leinart was the second quarterback to win the coveted Heisman Trophy and the first junior quarterback (2004). In Leinart’s career at USC, he finished with 807 completions of 1,245 attempts for 10,693 yards, and 99 touchdowns. Leinart surpassed Palmer for touchdown passes and completion percentage. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals 10th overall in the 2006 draft. Since then, Leinart has been plagued with injuries thus unable to generate his professional career.
Mark Sanchez emerged as the next top USC quarterback for the Trojans following the departure of Sanchez’s predecessor John David Booty. In his junior season, Sanchez finished the season with 3,207 yards, 34 touchdowns and was the 2009 Rose Bowl MVP. Sanchez chose to forgo his senior season and entered into the 2009 draft. He was selected by the New York Jets fifth overall. At New York, Sanchez has led the Jets to the AFC championship for two consecutive years.
Aside from Palmer, Leinart, and Sanchez, another USC quarterback has generated quite a stir in the NFL. Matt Cassel was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL draft, after not starting one game for the Trojans. After briefly starting for the Patriots, Cassel was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. Cassel led the Chiefs to its first division title in seven years.
With Barkley entering his senior season, fans can only imagine what lies ahead. In his career thus far, Barkley has broken the single-game touchdown record three times and has earned numerous other accolades.
Also, USC has many rising quarterbacks in the ranks. With freshmen Max Wittek and Cody Kessler in the Trojans’ arsenal, “Quarterback U” will remain intact for years to come.
“Tailback U” is a thing of the past. 2012 marks the year of the quarterback.
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