70 days to USC football: Jalen McKenzie still waiting to prove chops

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

USC football’s greatest No. 70 was a guard named Blackjack, but Jalen McKenzie will be looking to follow the example of Tyron Smith’s career in the jersey.

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The countdown to USC football’s 2019 season has completed another decade, with 70 days until the Trojans return to the Coliseum floor.

To mark the occasion, Reign of Troy is examining the jersey behind each number.

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Today, the No. 70 gets some love:

Who wore it best?

Harry Smith may have the most generic name in USC history, next to John Smith. But like the Trojan wide receiver who now goes by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Harry Smith had an exceptional nickname to help him stand out.

Known as “Blackjack,” Smith had an illustrious football career.

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He came to USC as an all-Southern California prep player and was voted the captain of the Trojan freshman team in 1936.

When he joined the varsity squad in 1937, he moved immediately into the starting lineup at right guard. At the time, his 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame gave him a considerable size advantage on both sides of the ball.

Smith was also known for his special teams play. Not only was he an accomplished kicker, but he made a habit of chasing down the ball carrier on kickoffs himself.

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Ahead of the 1938 season, Howard Jones decided to put Smith’s size and surprising speed to a more important use. Rather than working on the right as a “standing guard,” he swapped over to the left side as a “running guard,” responsible for pulling on running plays.

“Putting Harry (Blackjack) Smith at running guard on the Trojan football team is one of the smartest moves Howard Jones ever made,” wrote Braven Dyer of the Los Angeles Times in 1938. “The Blackjack, if accorded decent support, is just the man to pull the Trojans up from the rank of also-rans to a commanding position in the national football race.”

Indeed, as a “deadly blocker and tackler,” Smith powered the Trojans to a 9-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory as a junior, turning around a four-year period of four-win mediocrity. He was selected as an All-American in recognition of his exceptional play.

In 1939, The Blackjack did more than put USC in the title race, he helped win it all. Smith was voted a unanimous All-American, the Trojans went 8-0-2 and were dubbed national champions in the Dickenson system.

SEE ALSO: How a win over Texas launched USC’s 1967 title team

Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955.

Who wears it now?

Smith was a stud at guard, but the current Trojan No. 70 may be more interested in recreating the career of Morris Trophy-winning tackle Tyron Smith.

More from Reign of Troy

Redshirt sophomore Jalen McKenzie took over the number from the graduated Chuma Edoga this spring. He had worn No. 54 the previous two years.

McKenzie was the understudy to Edoga at right tackle in 2018, filling in for the veteran when injury took him out of the lineup.

He came into Spring Camp as the obvious replacement for Edoga and he took first team reps throughout. Unfortunately, the expected camp battle between McKenzie, Clayton Bradley and Bernard Shermer never materialized because of injury, so it’s hard to say what those first team reps really signified. For what it’s worth, he held his own.

There should be more competition for McKenzie to prove himself against in Fall Camp as the Trojans have added Tennessee transfer Drew Richmond to the mix.

Stats to know: 70

  • Tailback Anthony Davis was USC’s 70th All-American in 1974.
  • Wide receiver Dwyane Jarrett caught 70 passes for 1,1015 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2006. Damien Williams led USC with 70 catches for 1,1010 yards and six touchdowns in 2009. JuJu Smith-Schuster followed that up in 2016 with 70 catches for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those three seasons are tied for the 15th most receptions in USC history.
  • USC’s 2012 matchup with Syracuse, the inaugural New York’s College Classic, was delayed at half time for 70 minutes because of lightning and thunder.

Next. 71 Days to Kickoff