by Garry Paskwietz
Here are some thoughts on the release of the Pac-12 All-Century team, a project that is certain to cause questions on which picks were made since there were so many great players to choose from. Naturally, the selections tended to be from recent years, and I’m sure there are many worthy players from the early days of the conference who deserve more consideration but simply weren’t seen by the majority of people who served as voters.
It’s no surprise that the team was dominated by Trojans since USC has been the dominant team in the conference over the course of the first 100 years.
Of the big three honors (top offensive, defensive and coach) the Trojans took two of the three with Ronnie Lott being named the top defensive player and John McKay the top coach.
That’s quite an honor for Ronnie, who is also considered among the elite defensive players at the NFL level, and one who is talked about in reverential tones by his peers for the intensity he brought to the game. Ronnie was voted as one of the starters at safety, even though he played his share of corner at USC as well. And, of course, Ronnie was a part-time member of the USC basketball team at one point too.
As for McKay, the silver fox was no surprise to be the choice as top coach. No other coach in the conference had as much success, or as much of an impact on establishing the conference as a viable football power, as McKay. Several other coaches were mentioned, and the USC ones were Pete Carroll, Howard Jones and John Robinson.
The offensive choice was John Elway, who also got the nod as the top quarterback. This is one of those areas that is easy to question, and there are no wrong choices. I’m not going to argue against Elway, he’s certainly a deserving player, but I can sit here and make every case for Matt Leinart being the choice ahead of him, and I think you can argue Carson Palmer too. Elway was a stud, but he didn’t win a Heisman, and he didn’t have the team success the others did, I would feel comfortable making a case on those merits.
At running back, let there be no debate that the Trojans are Tailback U. There were 10 tailbacks chosen, seven of them were from USC. The best debate comes from who is named the starter, although there simply isn’t too much wrong with either Marcus Allen or O.J. Simpson as the two starters. In fact, you could make a case for either guy as the top offensive player if you want, and both are solid RB selections. But any thought of Charles White as a starting tailback? If you’re talking sheer numbers, Charles is still sitting atop most of the career lists. And that’s not to mention Reggie Bush, Anthony Davis, Mike Garrett and Ricky Bell. Wow, what a group.
One of the pleasant surprises to me was the receiver spot when Keyshawn Johnson and Lynn Swann were named the two starters. Both deserving players with differing styles. And the two USC reserves were Marqise Lee and Mike Williams. No arguments here.
At tight end, Charles Young and Fred Davis were named as reserves, behind the logical choice of Tony Gonzalez.
The offensive line was another Trojan-fest with three of the five starters in Ron Yary, Tony Boselli and Anthony Munoz. What’s interesting is that all five starters were tackles. That meant Brad Budde and Bruce Matthews were relegated to reserve roles, which is quibbling a bit, but both could have earned starting guard spots. And we have to mention that Munoz is probably being recognized more for his career body of work rather than strictly what he did in college, where he was somewhat limited due to injuries. Others who got reserve mention included Sam Baker, Marvin Powell, Ron Mix and Roy Foster. I would have liked to have seen Ryan Kalil on the list as well.
Flipping over to defense, Willie McGinest, Marlin McKeever and Jimmy Gunn got reserve mention at defensive end. I’m not going to argue too much here, you probably could have considered Willie ahead of either Teddy Bruschi or Terrell Suggs but neither guy is a bad choice.
I thought perhaps the biggest USC omission came at defensive tackle. The starters were Steve Entman and Haloti Ngata, I’m good with those choices, and the USC reserves were Leonard Williams (of course) along with Sedrick Ellis and Gary Jeter. I’m finding it hard not to see Shaun Cody anywhere on the list, and as much as I’m happy with a couple fine Trojans in Ellis and Jeter, I would have put Shaun ahead of either of them.
The linebacker spot had a worthy Junior Seau as one of the starters, along with Chris Claiborne, Richard Wood, Jack Del Rio and Rey Maualuga as the reserves. Solid choices.
The biggest surprise to me was seeing Joey Browner listed as a starter at corner. Joey was a fine player, no doubt, but he was known as a safety in the NFL and played just as much safety as he did corner at USC. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to list him as a corner for these purposes but, as mentioned earlier with Ronnie, the Trojans did play a few of their DB’s in multiple spots so he did play the position.
Ronnie got one of the starting spots at safety, obviously, along with another good one in Kenny Easley. But check out this group of USC reserve safeties – Troy Polamalu, Mark Carrier, Tim McDonald and Dennis Thurman. You could do pretty well with that foursome.
There were no USC placekickers listed but Tom Malone did make the list as a reserve punter, and deservedly so.
The return group really stood out to me. Reggie Bush got the starting spot and it’s hard to go against that, and the USC reserves were Anthony Davis, Curtis Conway and Jon Arnett.