The 8 Best And 7 Worst USC Trojans Football Players Ever

The following list takes a look at both the success stories and the failure in USC football history.

The University of Southern California has one of the oldest college football programs in the country. It is also one of the most successful programs, historically. The team first started 1888. But in the last 95 seasons, the Trojans boast a record of 725 wins, 295 losses and 40 ties. It’s an incredible winning percentage that features 37 conference championships – in what was once called the Pacific Coast Conference and has slowly evolved into the Pacific-12 Conference.

They also have 35 total bowl wins in college football, which has solidified them as one of the most winningest programs overall. They lead all college football programs with 497 total players selected in the annual NFL Draft – Notre Dame is second with 493, followed by Ohio State with 430. The Trojans also boast having the most Pro Football Hall of Famers in their alumni list with 11 – Notre Dame is once again second with 10, followed by Ohio State with nine.

There have been a number of great players to have begun their football legacies at USC. Those names include great running backs like Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson, as well as defensive stars like Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu. However, no college football program is perfect. There are always going to be a few busts in each school’s history.

Even with the great legacy that the USC Trojans have built, there are still some players who came in with five-star recruiting grades and a lot of potential. While a few succeeded, many have fell short of expectations. The following list takes a look at both the success stories and the failure in USC football history.

15 BEST – Carson Palmer


Quarterback Carson Palmer has certainly endured a lot during his entire football career. He’s been injured a number of times during his career in the NFL through 13 seasons in Cincinnati, Oakland and now Arizona. Still, he currently has 44,269 passing yards. But he also had to preserver through tough seasons with the USC Trojans before all of that.

14 WORST – Max Browne

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While he still has a senior year left in his collegiate career in 2017, it’s highly unlikely he will have a chance to redeem himself. Sam Darnold took over as a true freshman in the middle of the 2016 season to save what could have been a disastrous year for USC. Browne had a rough go as in his first ever start against the Alabama Crimson Tide – completing 14 of 29 for 101 yards and one interception in the 52-6 loss.

13 BEST – Lynn Swann


Lynn Swann might not have the flashiest numbers among USC wide receivers. But Swann also played in a different era of the game. In the early 1970s, running was still a big part of the game and passing wasn’t the main priority at the time for the Trojans. They were certainly not the aerial assault team that dominated college football in the 1990s and 2000s. Still, Swann had made the most of his chances.

12 WORST – Reggie Perry


The 1990s featured a lot of ups and downs before the eventual arrival of Pete Carroll as the head coach of the USC Trojans. One season after their Sun Bowl Appearance, the 1991 Trojans went from eight wins to only three as one of the worst teams in the Pac-10 Conference. A big part of that was the subpar quarterback play of one Reggie Perry. He certainly wasn’t a Todd Marinovich from the previous season.

11 BEST – Junior Seau


Linebacker Junior Seau didn’t have a long run with the USC Trojans. In fact, his time was very brief. Part of that was because he was short of the the USC’s minimum SAT score and had to sit out the freshman season. Seau didn’t start as a sophomore, but still earned 35 tackles and four sacks. But he would be unleashed as the Trojans’ outside linebacker in the 1989 season. USC would showcase someone known for hitting with plenty of power and passion.

10 WORST – Antwine Perez


Antwine Perez is an example of a highly recruited player who many had big expectations for as he came out of high school. With several top programs going after him, Perez had a lot of attention as the 10th-ranked player in ESPN’s rankings for the Class of 2006. Perez would choose to play for USC over the Michigan Wolverines. However, he struggled to find playing time as a freshman at USC.

9 Best – Troy Polamalu


Troy Polamalu was likely one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in USC football history. He terrorized wide receivers and running backs alike with his ability to pursue whoever had the ball. And anyone who happened to be carrying that ball would certainly regret it with a sore body after the game. Polamalu would play three seasons with the Trojans from 2000 to 2002. In that time, he built a reputation of delivering hard hits.

8 WORST – Matt Cassel


Quarterback Matt Cassel is a very peculiar case in the world of football. He was recruited with a certain level of expectation coming out of high school and into the USC Trojan program in 2001. He was with the Trojans for four collegiate seasons and barely got on the field. In fact, he only threw the ball 33 times in those four years. In those attempts he had 20 completions, 192 yards and one interception.

7 BEST – Reggie Bush


Reggie Bush is an example of a collegiate football star who never quite had the same success when he came to the NFL. In an 11-year career with five different teams, he only has 5,490 yards and 36 touchdowns. But when he was playing for the USC Trojans, Bush looked like the next big thing coming out of the backfield. Even as a freshman in 2003 with only 90 carries, he made things happen for 521 yards.

6 WORST – Kyle Prater


The USC Trojans were usually a top choice among many of the five-star high school recruits during the 2000s. Kyle Prater was a highly touted wide receiver who gained a lot of attention as the best receiver in the state of Illinois. He earned All-American status with the USA Today and many other high school sports websites. There were some concerns when Pete Carroll left as head coach, with him unsure about fulfilling his obligation.

5 BEST – Ronnie Lott


There are some players who have graced the USC Trojans’ secondary over the years that seem like they are able to sneak into a quarterback’s throw. Defensive back Ronnie Lott certainly had good enough hands to make the most of the passes thrown in his direction. He first saw the field in 1978 and had three interceptions in 13 games. But Lott was just getting warmed up. He had another three in 1979; one was returned for a touchdown.

4 WORST – Wilbur Robertson


While most seasons in USC football history were winning seasons, 1950 was probably the worst in school history. The Trojans were ranked 101st in the country in points per game, averaging just 12.7 through the season. It was the main reason they finished with a record of two wins, five losses and two ties. Wilbur Robertson was the quarterback for the Trojans and had some of the worst numbers imaginable.

3 BEST – O.J. Simpson


When talking about some of the greatest running backs to wear the crimson and gold, O.J. Simpson deserves to be in the discussion. He was with the Trojans when the Athletic Association of Western Universities would become the Pac-8 (now Pac-12). He only played in two seasons with USC, but he had more rushing yards than a lot of running backs who play three or four seasons.

2 WORST – Whitney Lewis


When Whitney Lewis declared that he was going to play college football for the USC Trojans, there was a high level of excitement. He was an All-American and had plenty of impressive numbers at St. Bonaventure High School in Oxnard, Calif. – including 42 rushing touchdowns as a senior. Many people at the time in 2002 thought he was someone a program couldn’t miss out on. Unfortunately, he missed on his opportunity by first arriving to campus overweight.

1 BEST – Marcus Allen


Not only was he one of the best running backs in USC history, but Allen is arguably considered one of the best running backs in all of football. Before he rushed for more than 12,000 yards and 123 touchdowns with Oakland and Kansas City in the NFL, Allen was a star for the Trojans in the early 1980s. He had little bits of playing time as a freshman and sophomore in 1978 and 1979 – still rushing for more than five yards per carry.

But he had a big breakout in 1980 as a junior with 1,563 yards and 14 touchdowns. But it was during his senior season when Allen had his biggest rushing numbers; 2,427 yards and 22 touchdowns on 433 carries. Allen would win the 1981 Heiman Trophy in that senior year, which earned him a high draft spot, being selected 10th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders.

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The 8 Best And 7 Worst USC Trojans Football Players Ever