1 day to USC football: Palaie Gaoteote is the No. 1 linebacker prospect in years

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 the USC football season ends with the No. 1, a jersey with just one All-American, but plenty of promise thanks to Palaie Gaoteote.

BEST OF USC. Top 10 Trojan QBs

USC football is exactly one day away.

Trojan fans have reached the end of the long wait for the new campaign to begin. It’s time to cap it all with a look at the No. 1 jersey.

CHECK OUT: Which units have the edge in USC vs. Fresno State?

What talents have worn it in the past and will carry it into the future?

Who wore it best?

Here’s something that may surprise most USC fans. The No. 1 has been worn by just one All-American in history. And it came 78 years after the first ever All-American nod for the Trojans.

If a jersey had to wait that long for a place on the All-American Wall, at least it was waiting for one of the greatest ever.

RELATED: Ranking USC’s 15 best wide receivers of all-time

Not that Mike Williams was heralded as such coming out of high school. The three-star prospect wasn’t seriously recruited by any of the major programs in his home state of Florida, not to play wide receiver at least.

So, instead the 6-foot-5 athlete arrived at USC in 2002 and proved to everyone that wide receiver was where he belonged. He promptly grabbed 81 receptions, 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns setting the NCAA record for freshman receiving yards and touchdown catches while winning Freshman All-American and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year acclaim. His Pac-12 records in those categories still stand.

In 2003, Williams took it a step further and set USC’s single-season touchdown mark while leading the aerial attack to a national championship. He even threw a touchdown to Matt Leinart in the 2004 Rose Bowl.

MORE: Which Fresno State players would start at USC?

Unfortunately, that would be his last contribution in cardinal and gold. A misplayed attempt to enter the NFL Draft after just two years in college football made the gifted wide receiver ineligible to play for USC in 2004. Even though the Trojans still managed to win a national title that season, it’s one of the great individual “what ifs” in USC history: What would Mike Williams have accomplished with a junior year of production.

As it was, in 16 games of action, he had 12 100-yard receiving games and 10 eight-reception games. Today he ranks 10th on USC’s career pass catching chart.

The next great No. 1 at USC maybe should be wearing a different number.

RELATED: Don’t fear the No. 55, let someone wear it

Palaie Gaoteote is the most promising linebacker to join the Trojans in perhaps this century, making him a prime candidate to one day take on the No. 55. Of course, going into his second year wearing the No. 1, it might be time to begin a new linebacker legacy.

More from Reign of Troy

Gaoteote started five time as a true freshman, but his playing time was ramped down near the end of the season because of missed assignments. When he filled in at weakside linebacker in the season finale, it became clear his aggressive skill set could be better utilized there. It’s where he will lineup as a full-time starter in 2019.

At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Gaoteote has the strength, closing speed and instincts to become a household name by the end of the season.

On the other side of the ball, Velus Jones nearly left his No. 1 behind by entering the transfer portal in the spring. After sitting out camp, he opted to return to the Trojans and was named a starter in on of USC’s inside receiver spots.

During Fall Camp, his speed was on full display as he blew by defenders for several long touchdown passes. He’ll be looking to replicate those results on Saturdays.

Stats to know: 1

  • The first ever USC All-American was guard Brice Taylor in 1925.
  • The first ever USC victory was in 1888 against Alliance AC, 16-0.
  • In 1946, the Trojans completed just one touchdown pass.
  • USC has beaten the No. 1 team in the nation seven times, knowing off Notre Dame in 1938, Cal in 1951, Notre Dame in 1964, UCLA in 1967, Alabama in 1978, Ohio State in 1980 and Washington in 1984. The Trojans have fallen as the nation’s No. 1 team eight times.
  • In 1,151 AP poll appearances, USC has been ranked No. 1 91 times.
  • USC’s streak of 33 consecutive No. 1 appearances from December 8, 2003 to December 4, 2005 is the longest in history.
  • USC’s wire-to-wire No. 1 appearance in 2004 was only the second in history.

Next. 2 Days to Kickoff