April 27, 2009

Weekly Whispers: Trojans short on wins, not talent

Ask any coach which team usually wins the game, and he'll almost always tell you: The one with the better players. Or as Illinois coach Ron Zook once succinctly put it, "It's not about the Xs and Os; it's about the Jimmys and the Joes."

USC's Jimmys and Joes have been more desirable than any other school's in the past five NFL drafts. Over the weekend, the Trojans paced all schools with 11 players selected in the NFL draft. Since the 2005 draft, the Trojans lead the nation with 43 players selected.

While that's an amazing amount of talent, realize that over that five-season span, USC has won just one national championship - in 2004.

The Trojans played for the BCS title after the 2005 season but lost to Texas, and monumental upsets in the regular season have killed USC each of the past three seasons.

In 2006, losses at Oregon State and UCLA were USC's undoing. In 2007, USC was dumped at home by 41-point underdog Stanford in the greatest upset in college football history; the Trojans also lost at Oregon. Last year, the Trojans were stunned at Oregon State when Beavers true freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 186 yards and two TDs against a USC defense that had eight players drafted over the weekend.

USC has dominated the Pac-10, winning a league-record seven consecutive conference crowns. But the Trojans could have won so much more, and have missed out on stamping themselves as the premier program in the nation this decade. Instead, that honor belongs to either Florida or Oklahoma.

Most draft picks since 2005
USC: 43
Ohio State: 30
Oklahoma: 29
LSU: 28
Georgia: 28
Florida State: 26
Texas: 25
Virginia Tech: 24
Miami: 23
Virginia: 22
Auburn: 22
California: 21
Wisconsin: 21
Michigan: 21
Louisville: 21
Florida: 20

Many of the schools on this list have turned an abundance of talent into conference titles and/or national championships. But Auburn, Miami, Virginia and Wisconsin have failed to win league titles over the past five seasons despite having rosters jammed with NFL talent.

Fewest draft picks since 2005

(NOTE: "Big Six" league schools only)
Duke: 0
USF: 4
Mississippi State: 4
Indiana: 5
Washington: 5
Iowa State: 5
Baylor: 5
Kansas: 5
Kentucky: 6
Northwestern: 6
Illinois: 7
Minnesota: 7
Oklahoma State: 7
Vanderbilt: 7

Hands down, the schools that have done the most with the least NFL talent over the past five years have been Kansas and USF.

Mark Mangino has led the Jayhawks to a 37-24 record and three bowls, highlighted by an Orange Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech after the 2007 campaign. USF's Jim Leavitt has compiled a 36-26 record with four bowls since 2004.

And how about Northwestern? Between Randy Walker (2004-05) and Pat Fitzgerald (2006-08), the Wildcats have gone 32-29 overall and 20-20 in the Big Ten, with two bowls.

Finally, don't overlook what Mike Gundy has done since taking over Oklahoma State in 2005, building a 27-23 record with three bowls.

The NFL doesn't come calling

Ten "Big Six" conference schools got shut out in the draft: Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Stanford, UCLA and Washington. The only schools from that group that played in a bowl last season were Kansas, Minnesota and Northwestern.

It's the fifth year in a row Duke had no draftees; the Blue Devils have had just two players drafted this decade. It's the third year in a row Northwestern hasn't had a player drafted. It's the second year in a row for Mississippi State, Stanford and Washington. It's the first time UCLA hasn't had a player selected since the 1997 draft.

The Big East was the only "Big Six" conference that had at least one player picked from each league member.

Streaks snapped, extended

For the first time since the 1994 draft, Miami didn't have a first-round selection. The Hurricanes' run of 14 years in a row with a top pick ended with a thud, as Miami had just one player picked: linebacker Spencer Adkins in the sixth round. Thank you, Larry Coker.

LSU now has the longest run of consecutive seasons with a first-round selection (six). Defensive end Tyson Jackson was picked third overall by Kansas City. The others were defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (2008, Kansas City); quarterback JaMarcus Russell (2007, Oakland); running back Joseph Addai (2006, Indianapolis); defensive end Marcus Spears (2005, Dallas); and wide receiver Michael Clayton (2004, Tampa Bay).

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


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