Sam Darnold led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory and then a Pac-12 championship in his two seasons as the starting quarterback
The USC Trojans are one of the nation’s premier college football programs. Whether it’s first-round NFL draft choices, Hall of Fame inductees, Heisman Trophy winners, or just overall wins, USC is in the top 10 in these categories and many others. While there is no disputing that the decade of 2001-09 brought more success and high points than the most recent decade, the 2010-19 seasons had their share of highlights as well.
With the close of another decade, 2020 brings new promise in the sports world. The promise of more thrills. The promise of more wins. The promise of a new era. But before we completely close the book on the 2010s, Athlon Sports thought it would be fun to put together some all-decade teams for some of college football's most recognized programs.
So, without further ado, let's get to USC's All-Decade Team.
QB: Sam Darnold (2016-17)
RB: Ronald Jones II (2015-17)
RB: Javorius "Buck" Allen (2012-14)
AP: Adoree' Jackson (2014-16)
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster (2014-16)
WR: Marqise Lee (2011-13)
WR: Robert Woods (2010-12)
TE: Rhett Ellison (2007-11)
C: Khaled Holmes (2009-12)
OL: Tyron Smith (2008-10)
OL: Matt Khalil (2008-11)
OL: Zach Banner (2013-16)
OL: Chris Brown (2014-18)
DL: Leonard Williams (2012-14)
DL: Antwaun Woods (2011-15)
DL: Devon Kennard (2010-13)
DL: Rasheem Green (2015-17)
LB: Uchenna Nwosu (2014-17)
LB: Cameron Smith (2015-18)
LB: Malcolm Smith (2007-10)
CB: Kevon Seymour (2012-15)
CB: Nickell Robey-Coleman (2010-12)
S: Leon McQuay III (2013-16)
S: T.J. McDonald (2010-12)
K: Matt Boermeester (2014-16)
P: Kris Albarado (2011-15)
RS: Marqise Lee (2011-13)
Toughest Position/Choice: Quarterback
The toughest choice here was whether to go with Matt Barkley or Sam Darnold as the quarterback. Barkley arguably had a greater impact on USC as a whole, but Darnold was the better quarterback and achieved more success. Ultimately Darnold won out because of the Rose Bowl victory and his top-five NFL draft status.
Deepest Position: Wide receiver
With names like Adoree' Jackson, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown, and more, this group was extremely packed and extremely difficult to choose from.
Weakest Position: Tight end
USC got away from using their tight ends for a decade to the point where it almost felt like picking a tight end was work rather than fun. If it wasn’t lack of play calls involving the tight end, it was injuries to the best tight ends USC had during the decade. One could write a lot about the tight end position, but few of the players would be good.
Where's Matt Barkley?
Ultimately, the list could only include one quarterback. Sam Darnold’s success and high draft status got him the nod, but it could have just as easily been Barkley. He stuck with the program through the sanctions and even came back for an ill-advised senior year, which ultimately ruined his draft status and possibly sent his career trajectory for the worse. But what Barkley should be most remembered for is the 10-2 2011 campaign during which USC could not go to a bowl. It featured a triple-overtime loss to Stanford, a win in Eugene against the Ducks, and a Trojan team that could have competed with the best of them.
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.