USC Football: Power Ranking the Trojans' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era
As new Trojan head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff prepare to say hello to February 5—the day high school players can sign their letters of intent—they will also be saying goodbye to an important era in Trojan football.
With the end of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS)—the grand experiment which officially terminated after last season—the book was closed on a sometimes glorious, sometimes frustrating chapter of USC football.
While Trojan fans will remember the great moments fondly, the aforementioned Sarkisian and his recruiting brain trust will only be focusing on the future and plotting the path that USC will take as it moves forward with the historic program.
That won't be the case with this slideshow, though.
Instead, I will look back at USC's recruiting during the BCS era and in doing so, offer the best of those bygone classes by ranking them in the order of their quality.
Between 1998, when the BCS era started, and last season, when it ended, the Trojans signed some incredible athletes, all of whom left their mark on the program.
Without further delay, here are the best of those classes...
Note: Criteria for ranking these classes are based primarily on the individual's contribution to the team's success, individual performance while in college, and to a lesser extent, their career as a professional.
No. 5: 2008 Class
Although the 2008 class did not accomplish as much as a team as other Trojan classes of this era, it was still chock full of great players, many of whom are accomplishing big things in the professional ranks.
Led by defensive linemen Nick Perry and Jurrell Casey, the 2008 class featured several players that made significant contributions to USC in their careers.
However, it was on the offensive line where this class made its hay.
Guard Khaled Holmes and offensive tackles Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil were all part of this class, and all of them are now plying their trade at the next level.
Other contributors in this class were running back Curtis McNeal and defensive end Wes Horton.
Still, misses such as tight end Blake Ayles, receiver/running back D.J. Shoemate, and offensive linemen Daniel Campbell and Matt Meyer were all highly decorated players who didn't pan out.
No. 4: 2001 Class
The No. 4 class of the BCS era for the Trojans certainly doesn't qualify based on its numbers—the school only signed 14 players—nor does it qualify based solely on the quality of the individual players.
The reason that the 2001 Trojan class makes this list is that it was Pete Carroll's first recruiting effort at USC and would set a precedent for attracting quality players—a trend that has continued to this very day.
Specifically, it was Shaun Cody—a highly coveted defensive lineman—who came on board with the Trojans and in doing so cleared the path for dozens to follow.
Joining Cody in the 2001 class were future Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart and defensive tackle Mike Patterson.
Those three players would be fixtures on some great Trojan teams, and their contributions were a large part of that success.
Were there some misses in that recruiting class? Sure. Does anyone remember defensive linemen Jason Wardlow or Raymond Tago?
I don't either, but nonetheless, this class gets the No. 4 spot for getting the ball rolling on some great recruiting classes to follow.
No. 3: 2004 Class
The 2004 class had very few superstars but did have a bevy of players who played important roles for the men of Troy.
On the defensive side of the ball, this class offered linebacker Keith Rivers and safety Josh Pinkard.
However, on offense, this class produced a ton of big-time players who played important roles for the Trojans.
Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and tight ends Fred Davis and Jimmy Miller all contributed at the skill positions for USC, but once again, offensive linemen stole the show with Chilo Rachal, Deuce Lutui and Jeff Byers anchoring many spots in the trenches over the years.
On the flip side, guys like wide receiver Derrick Jones and quarterback Rocky Hinds had forgettable Trojan careers.
No. 2: 2002 Class
With the momentum of the 2001 class acting as an impetus, Pete Carroll delivered a solid class in 2002 and in doing so made sure that everyone knew USC wouldn't be a one-year wonder in the world of recruiting.
Receiver Mike Williams highlighted a 22-player class, and his play for the Trojans attracted many great pass-catchers to follow.
Other solid contributors include offensive linemen Kyle Williams and Winston Justice, and defensive linemen Manuel Wright and the late Fred Matua.
Safety Darnell Bing, running back Hershel Dennis, tight end Dominique Byrd and punter Tom Malone also will be remembered fondly by those who follow the men of Troy.
Misses? How about offensive lineman Chris Doyle and defensive end Van Brown?
Still, this was a very good class and one that is worthy of making this list.
No 1: 2003 Class
In the top slot of this slideshow resides a recruiting class that is not only the best Trojan class in BCS history but one that may very well be one of the finest of any team in any era.
The 2003 Trojan recruiting class reads like a who's who of premier college players, and great players on both sides of the ball can be found sprinkled liberally throughout this class.
Want star power? How does the running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Lendale White grab you?
Other studs on the offensive side of the ball include quarterback John David Booty, offensive linemen Sam Baker and Ryan Kalil, wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Chauncey Washington.
Whew...but we are just getting started.
On defense, this class featured Trojan legends such as defensive backs Terrell Thomas, Will Poole and Eric Wright, and defensive linemen Sedrick Ellis, Fili Moala and Lawrence Jackson.
An amazing class to be sure, but one not without faults of its own. Anyone remember defensive lineman Ryan Watson or linebacker Salo Faraimo?
Neither do I, and while we are at it, let's not leave out the completely forgettable career of 5-star-bust wide receiver Whitney Lewis.
Still, this was an amazing class and certainly the best of the BCS era for USC.
Note: recruit star ranking provided by 247Sports.
As is the case with any list, some may agree with it and others may not.
Certainly, an argument could be made for the 2005 class, which featured Trojan legends such as linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga and quarterback Mark Sanchez, all of whom were part of that group, as were several other major players for USC.
Also, recent classes were not scrutinized for inclusion in this list as their legacy remains to be written.
Of course, some may find fault with the order of this list and perhaps some might even argue that certain classes should not have been included at all.
Those arguments might indeed have merit, and although I don't claim to be the maven of all Trojan recruiting classes, I think most Trojan fans can agree that USC had some great players come through the program since the BCS started some 16 years ago.
In fact, if Steve Sarkisian and his staff can replicate the success of the classes highlighted in this sideshow, fans of the program will be very pleased to be sure.
But that is another slideshow to be written many years in the future.
Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan
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