As usual, Sam Farmer takes a great angle in today’s Times. I wish I could have the accompanying graphic, but the folks at the Times didn’t convert the file into pdf to scan in. I mean, it’s only 2009 so who needs technology, right? Either way, see below for Farmers picks of the best players in the NFL from USC & UCLA at their respective positions.
Backfield: There are four USC quarterbacks in the NFL, and Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer (first in 2003), Arizona’s Matt Leinart (10th in 2006) and the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez (fifth in 2009) were top-10 draft picks. UCLA’s Maurice Jones-Drew was overshadowed by USC’s Reggie Bush in college, but he now leads the league with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Line: There are two tackles, two guards and a center in the league — all Trojans.
Receivers: The tight ends include something old (USC’s Billy Miller of Houston, a 10-year veteran), something new (USC’s Fred Davis, in his second year with Washington), something borrowed (UCLA’s Spencer Havner of Green Bay, a converted linebacker) and something blue (Bruins blue — Marcedes Lewis of Jacksonville). Out wide the choices are fewer. USC’s Steve Smith is Eli Manning’s favorite target, with 65 catches and five touchdowns for the New York Giants. USC’s Dwayne Jarrett (Carolina) is in his third pro season and hasn’t scored a touchdown.
Kicker: Last season, Dallas didn’t have a touchback. With USC’s David Buehler handling kickoffs, it has 17.
Line: Four USC products anchor the interior of NFL defenses as starters — Sedrick Ellis (New Orleans), Mike Patterson (Philadelphia), LaJuan Ramsey (St. Louis) and Shaun Cody (Houston). UCLA’s Kenyon Coleman (Cleveland) gets the nod at end, opposite USC’s Lawrence Jackson, who has four sacks for Seattle.
Linebacker: Brian Cushing (Houston), Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati) and Clay Matthews (Green Bay) were starters at USC a year ago, as was Kaluka Maiava, who is playing a major role in Cleveland. USC’s Lofa Tatupu is Seattle’s best defensive player, but he is injured. Former Trojans star Junior Seau is back with New England.
Secondary: USC’s Troy Polamalu is having an injury-plagued season, but he will wind up in Canton. Terrell Thomas, another former Trojan, has three interceptions for the Giants. UCLA’s Chris Horton has 37 tackles and a forced fumble for the Redskins, and former Bruin Matt Ware has an interception and a forced fumble for Arizona.
Punter: UCLA’s Chris Kluwe (Minnesota) has punted for a net average of 38.4 yards.
In addition, Farmer has another excellent piece on Bruin & Trojan Hall of Famers. . .and those who will be.
There are 11 former USC players and four former UCLA players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are:
USC: Marcus Allen, Morris (Red) Badgro, Frank Gifford, Ronnie Lott, Ron Mix, Anthony Munoz, O.J. Simpson, Lynn Swann, Willie Wood, Ron Yary, Bruce Matthews.
UCLA: Troy Aikman, Tom Fears, Jim Johnson, Bob Waterfield.
Nine of note
Nine outstanding players from each school who are not in the Hall of Fame:
Junior Seau: Prototype for modern linebacker, member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for 1990s.
Carson Palmer: Heisman Trophy winner is the centerpiece for turnaround of Cincinnati Bengals.
Willie McGinest: A defensive cornerstone of New England’s three Super Bowl champions.
Troy Polamalu: Pittsburgh’s mane man is widely regarded among the NFL’s best defenders.
Tony Boselli: First-ever pick of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and the expansion Houston Texans.
Keyshawn Johnson: One of two receivers taken with the No. 1 pick in the NFL’s modern era.
Don Mosebar: All-Pro anchor of the Raiders offensive line was just the third center in franchise history.
Jack Del Rio: Spent 11 years as an NFL linebacker for five teams and now is coach at Jacksonville.
Joey Browner: Minnesota Vikings safety was selected to six Pro Bowls.
Jonathan Ogden: Baltimore left tackle was a nine-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler.
Carnell Lake: Star safety finished his career with 25 sacks, 33 takeaways and five touchdowns.
Ken Norton Jr.: Linebacker won three consecutive Super Bowls — two with Dallas, one with San Francisco.
Kenny Easley: Seattle safety was 1983 defensive player of the year and is on NFL’s All-Decade team for 1980s.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Jacksonville’s bowling-ball back currently leads NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Donnie Edwards: Fourth-round pick of Kansas City intercepted 28 passes, four shy of NFL record for linebackers.
Don Rogers: 1984 defensive rookie of the year showed spectacular promise before his untimely death.
Freeman McNeil: Remarkably consistent tailback averaged at least 4.0 yards a carry in each of his 12 seasons.
Max Montoya: Four-time Pro Bowl guard for Cincinnati and Raiders played in both Bengals’ Super Bowls.