7 days to USC football: Can No. 7 get some injury luck in 2019?

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

Reign of Troy’s countdown to USC football’s 2019 season continues with exactly a week until the Trojans take on Fresno State, with Stephen Carr and Chase Williams ready to go.

Top 10 Trojan QBs. BEST OF USC

At long last, the college football season is here. But while Miami, Florida, Hawaii and Arizona kicked off the season in Week 0 on Saturday, the 2019 USC football campaign still has a week of waiting.

We dive into those seven days with a look at the great No. 7s in school history: Mark Carrier and Matt Barkley, plus an update on current Trojans Stephen Carr and Chase Williams.

Who wore it best?

USC football history is full of stories about players who only became Trojans by chance, as well as those born to wear cardinal and gold. Such is the dichotomy in the No. 7 jersey, between Mark Carrier and Matt Barkley.

Carrier went to local power Long Beach Poly, but he originally intended to go to Notre Dame, charmed as he was by head coach Lou Holtz. However, his father had been paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair when Carrier was just 10 years old.

Going to South Bend would mean leaving his family and his father. He ultimately decided to stay in Los Angeles so his dad could watch him play, as detailed by Mal Florence in the Los Angeles Times.

A broken foot before his first year had him redshirt, but he proved very quickly that a broken foot was the only thing capable of keeping him on the sideline. As a redshirt freshman in 1987, Carrier won a starting job at free safety. The next year he gained All-American acclaim. The following year, 1989, he was a unanimous pick and was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.

Barkley, on the other hand, seemed born to lead USC. He was a Mater Dei quarterback for one, but also blonde-haired, blue-eyed with a Hollywood smile. He was also the nation’s No. 1 player in the class of 2009, who committed to the Trojans at the height of their powers under head coach Pete Carroll.

That he won the starting job straight away as a freshman only reinforced the inevitability of his rise in cardinal and gold.

Going to USC might have been a obvious choice for Barkley, but staying with the Trojans was no breeze. After his first season at the helm, with highs like a win over Ohio State at the Horseshoe and lows like the Stanford drubbing, the rug was pulled out from underneath him.

Carroll left. Then the NCAA smacked USC with devastating sanctions, which opened the door for players to find greener pastures.

To his credit, Barkley stuck around. His high school coach Bruce Rollinson told Gary Klein of the LA Times, “I truly believe that Matt Barkley saved USC football.”

And maybe he did. Had the quarterback jumped ship, it’s easy to imagine the wheels falling off at USC much quicker than they did.

Regardless of the what ifs, Barkley gave Trojan fans an eventful four years. After a largely forgettable sophomore campaign, the quarterback came into his own in 2011.

He propelled himself into Heisman conversation with one of the best seasons in USC history. Barkley broke Matt Leinart’s scoring record with 39 passing touchdowns, a mark which still stands as the most in Trojan history. In terms of results, the 2012 season was a step back, but statistically, he still lit the field up.

Barkley left USC as the Pac-12’s career record holder in total offense, passing yards, completions, and touchdowns.

Who wears it now?

The No. 7 belongs to two potential starters in 2019, but two who face serious competition.

The first is running back Stephen Carr. When he arrived at USC, he was a five-star stud who fans and coaches hoped could follow in the footsteps of Ronald Jones II. Unfortunately, injuries have limited his production from his Pac-12 honorable mention-earning bright start in 2017.

A sprained ankle sidelined Carr for a time to end that season, before back surgery slowed him in 2018 before another ankle sprain took him out completely.

On the plus side, he looks tailor-made for Graham Harrell’s Air Raid attack, with above average skills catching the ball out of the backfield. If fully healthy, Carr should be a potent weapon for the Trojans. It’s just a big IF at this point.

Defensive back Chase Williams floated around from cornerback to nickelback to safety while redshirting in 2018. He started as a stand in free safety against Notre Dame, acquitting himself rather well in that spot.

During Spring Camp and most of Fall Camp, Williams worked as the top nickelback on the roster, but shuffling in the lineup near the tail end of August has his role once again up in the air. The Trojans have him cross-training at nickelback and safety, while prepping cornerback Greg Johnson to also work at nickelback. The two could form a solid rotation in that spot.

Stats to know: 7

  • Lineman Nate Barragar was USC’s seventh ever All-American in 1929.
  • All-American quarterback “Dynamite” Don Williams scored seven rushing touchdowns each in 1926 and 1928.
  • Another All-American QB from the era, completed seven passes each in 1930 and 1930. He attempted 34 and 26 passes in each of those years respectively.
  • In the 1939 Rose Bowl, USC bested Duke by scoring one touchdown in the final two minutes of play. It was the first touchdown the Blue Devils had given up all season, having been unbeaten, untied and unscored upon, until the Trojans toppled them 7-3.
  • Mark Carrier led USC with seven interceptions in 1989.
  • In 2002, Carson Palmer had 300 or more yards in seven games, which was a USC record.
  • USC’s 2003 national title team scored 40 points in seven straight games, setting a Pac-10 record.
  • Marqise Lee had seven games with 10 or more receptions in 2012. That’s a school record.

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