The end is in sight for the USC football program. Effective Tuesday, June 10, USC will officially be taken off probation.
The probation was put in place following a lengthy 2006 NCAA investigation looking into alleged extra benefits being received by former USC running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo. As a result, in June 2010, the Trojans were slapped with the “lack of institutional control” label, stripped of a BCS national championship and Bush’s Heisman Trophy was vacated. The football program was handed a two-year postseason ban and forced to lose 30 scholarships over a three-year period.
The Trojans are still rebuilding from the impact of the loss of scholarships, and as the Los Angeles Times profiles, it will take some time before the program is back to full working order with a full scholarship limit. The Class of 2015 will be the first full recruiting class USC will be able to put together for the first time in four years. In that time the Trojans have been passed by programs like Oregon and Stanford for Pac-12 bragging rights and UCLA has come on strong under the new leadership of head coach Jim Mora. The Bruins look like a playoff contender in 2014 with a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Brett Hundley and one of the top defensive household names in Myles Jack.
Meanwhile, the Trojans will be opening the new season with its third head coach since the NCAA investigation got underway. Pete Carroll returned to the NFL to lead the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl championship and Lane Kiffin was left at the airport after a bad loss against Arizona State last season. Now the task for new head coach Steve Sarkisian will be to restore the pride in the once might USC program.
The good news is, the job should start to get a little easier now.
Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.
Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.
“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”
Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.
You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season? Watch lists are being whittled.
The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior. The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.
The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).
The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten. The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).
Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah