8 days to USC football: Amon-Ra St. Brown and Chris Steele have bright futures

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

Reign of Troy is counting down the days until USC football’s 2019 season, which now number just eight. Two No. 8’s have a bright future for the Trojans.

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USC football is only eight days away!

As the final week of waiting approaches, Reign of Troy is passing the time by looking at all of the Trojan jersey numbers in all their glory.

CHECK OUT: Projecting USC’s 2019 depth chart

The No. 8 has had its share of great moments and players:

Who wore it best?

Dwayne Jarrett wore No. 8 on fourth-and-nine.

It remains one of the most iconic plays in USC history, the kind of moment that embeds in your head with all the sights, sounds and emotions that surrounded it, replaying it over and over.

Even if you weren’t listening to the commentary from Pete Arbogast on the Trojans’ radio broadcast, chances are it’s his voice that captures the action in the memory of fans.

“It seems impossible….Need nine yards to keep that dream alive, at least for another minute and a half…Jarrett to the left…Smith and McFoy to the right…Bush is the tailback…Ryan Kalil the center waiting for the call from Matt Leinart..Lines are set…Leinart changes at the line…gets the snap…drops to pass…throws…looking for Jarrett…it’s CAUGHT BY JARRETT AT THE 40!..35! 30! 25! 20! Tackled from behind at the 15, maybe the 13 yard line!”

The catch set up what would be the Trojans’ game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game.

Jarrett’s road to that spot, on that night, in that jersey, was no guarantee.

A bout of extreme homesickness for the New Jersey product nearly had him packing his bags and leaving Los Angeles before his freshman season. Then the NCAA’s decision to declare Mike Williams ineligible for the 2004 season thrust Jarrett into the lineup. He led USC in receiving as a freshman before establishing himself as one of the most dominant receivers in the country.

In 2005 Jarrett was a unanimous All-American pick and in 2006 he became the first two-time All-American wide receiver in USC history. He set USC’s career record for receptions and still ranks third in that category. He also set the Pac-12 career touchdown receptions record.

Jarrett’s biggest catch was one that didn’t actually score a touchdown. All flanker Kevin Williams seemed to do in the No. 8 was score touchdowns.

In 1978, Williams caught just 17 passes, but 10 of them put points on the board for the eventual national champions. That’s still an NCAA record.

The next year, it was Williams who caught the Paul McDonald’s eight-yard pass in the final minute to best LSU. He had eight touchdowns on 25 caches that year.

That’s not to say the No. 8 is all about touchdowns. A handful of greats devoted themselves to keeping players out of the endzone. Those include All-American safety Cleveland Colter, who led USC in interceptions and deflections in 1987, All-Pac-10 safety Rashard Cook, who led USC in interceptions and tackles in 1997 and cornerback Iman Marshall, who was a four-year starter and led USC in interceptions and deflections in 2015, repeating in the latter category in 2018.

Who wears it now?

The No. 8 may be the most exciting number on USC’s 2019 roster in terms of pure potential.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was an honorable mention for the Pac-12’s Freshman Offensive Player of the Year after leading USC with 60 receptions, totaling 750 yards and three touchdowns in his debut.

The implementation of Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense should only result in more production for the receiver, who can lineup in the slot or outside.

St. Brown’s connection with JT Daniels was undeniable and that chemistry should only get better as each gets more experience under their belt. It’s also reasonable to expect St. Brown to cut out the freshman mistakes, including a couple of costly red zone fumbles.

Over at cornerback, Chris Steele has already established himself with first team reps in his first month in cardinal and gold.

Steele’s Odyssey landing him at USC was unexpected. He had been committed to the Trojans before backing off his pledge and signing with Florida. He enrolled early in Gainsville but jumped into the transfer portal after a promising Spring Camp. His reasons had nothing to do with football. He had a dispute with coaches over the handling of his roommate, who was ultimately accused of sexual assault. Due to the nature of Steele’s departure, the NCAA granted him immediate eligibility for the Trojans in 2019.

All of that means Steele is now available to instantly strengthen USC’s rebuilding secondary. He has a battle on his hands with Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart, as only two of the three can start, but the true freshman is certain to be involved in the rotation at worse.

Stats to know: 8

  • End Francis Tappaan was USC’s eighth ever All-American in 1929.
  • Three schools have beaten Notre Dame eight consecutive times: USC, Michigan and Michigan State.
  • Ronnie Lott had eight interceptions during his unanimous All-American season in 1980.
  • In the 1995 Cotton Bowl, Keyshawn Johnson had eight catches for a record 222 yards.
  • In 1997, Marc Matock got a hand on Oregon’s 36-yard field goal attempt in the final eight seconds to keep USC on top.
  • USC’s 2003 national championship defense scored eight touchdowns.
  • In the 2004 Rose Bowl, Mike Williams led USC with eight catches for 88 yards.
  • USC’s 2004 national championship offense beat eight of their 13 opponents by a margin of 30 or more points.
  • Tight end Fred Davis won the Mackey Award in 2007 with 62 catches for 881 yards and eight touchdowns.
  • Robert Woods and Marqise Lee share the record for most games with at least eight receptions in a career with 15 each.
  • Nelson Agholor had eight career 100-yard receiving games from 2012 to 2014.
  • When Hayes Pullard collected a eight tackles in the 2014 Holiday Bowl, he became the first Trojans since Dennis Johnson in 1979 to lead USC in tackles for three seasons.
  • Ronald Jones II set a new USC freshman rushing record with 987 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015.
  • The Defensive MVP of the 2017 Rose Bowl, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu led USC with eight tackles.

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