89 days to USC football: Christian Rector looking to finish with a bang

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Christian Rector has been the king of almost. In 2019, he’s looking to become finish strong and become the next great No. 89 for USC football.

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There are now only 89 days until USC football begins the 2019 season. To mark the occasion, Reign of Troy turns attention towards the No. 89.

Two All-American tight ends and a defensive back have donned the jersey with distinction.

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Is Christian Rector on the path to greatness as well?

Who wore it best?

The No. 89 jersey at USC has had it’s share of legends, few bigger than Charles Young, the outstanding tight end who led the Trojans in receptions during the Trojans’ title run in 1972.

Those 29 caches for 470 yards and three touchdowns were enough to warrant unanimous All-American acclaim for Young. The full force of his career put him in the Pac-12’s All-Century team.

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Nicknamed “Tree” at 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, Young was a dangerous weapon for USC from the moment he took the field in 1970. He put up 322 yards and a score in 1970 and followed that up with 298 yards and six touchdowns in 1971.

When it came time for Young’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005, his USC quarterback Mike Rae told the Los Angeles Times: “His hands were as big as my car. He was always the guy to go to—they just couldn’t cover him. I could throw the ball anywhere and he could catch it.”

While Young caught passes in the No. 89, Nate Shaw defended them to great acclaim. Twice the cornerback led USC in interceptions, in 1964 and 1965, before he was voted a consensus All-American in 1966.

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The All-American flurry for the No. 89 ended in 1974 with tight end Jim Obradovich. He followed in Young’s footsteps by playing a role in a USC national title run. He didn’t have great stats to speak of, but he had a knack for making the important catches. One such reception resulted in a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 1975 Rose Bowl, an 18-17 victory over Ohio State which clinched the championship.

Who wears it now?

Christian Rector may very well be the best player on USC’s defense in 2019. At least the Trojans hope he can get to that level.

For the past two seasons, it has felt like Rector was on the verge of becoming an All-American level defensive end. In fact, he was an AP Midseason All-American second teamer in 2017, having produced 6.5 sacks in five games while filling in for the injured Porter Gustin.

Unfortunately for USC and Rector, a broken hand essentially wrecked the remainder of that campaign. Though he returned to action after missing two games, he never found the same level.

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His 2018 campaign could be summed up simply enough: almost.

While he had nine tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks, he was inconsistent and regularly just shy of bringing down quarterbacks and ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage.

As a result, finishing has become the mantra for the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder.

To help him in that pursuit, USC has given him a more defined role this time around. He is the Trojans starting defensive end and won’t be shifting one way or another to fill gaps up front.

Bright moments during Spring Camp, when he was quite literally unblockable, proved just how potent a weapon he might become. Some inconsistency in throughout practice highlighted why questions still remain.

Stats to know: 89

  • Legendary safety Ronnie Lott, a College Football and Pro Football Hall of Famer, was USC’s 89th All-American.
  • Linebacker Richard Wood had 89 tackles during his final campaign in 1974, when he was named an All-American for the third time.
  • All-American safety Cleveland Colter had 89 tackles in 1989. All-American safety T.J. McDonald led USC with 89 tackles in 2010. Sammy Knight also did it in 1995.
  • Despite playing through a broken hand, JuJu Smith-Schuster led USC with 89 receptions and 1,454 yards. He was not named an All-American.
  • Kicker Mario Danelo was “living the dream” when he led USC in scoring in 2006 with 89 points.
  • Cornerback Dominic Davis has a career-high of 89 yards rushing in a game, which he achieved against Arizona in 2016 thanks to an 85-yard run.
  • The longest punt against USC was 89 yards by Scott Tabor of Cal in 1987. It’s still a Pac-12 record.

90 Days to Kickoff. Next