SCPlaybook Expert Opinion

Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush are just a few of the talented players that Pete Carroll has coached at USC. In this week's installment of SCPlaybook Expert Opinion we take a look at the top five players in the Pete Carroll era.

Kevin Carden, Editorial Director, SCPlaybook.com

Matt Leinart - Simply put, Matt Leinart is one of the best players to ever play the game of college football. The 2004 Heisman Trophy Winner led the Trojans to back-to-back national championships while compiling an amazing 37-2 record as a starter. USC fans will always remember his spectacular performances in the 2004 Rose Bowl, 2005 Orange Bowl and his famous final drive at South Bend.

Reggie Bush – Arguably the most exciting player to ever wear Cardinal and Gold, Reggie Bush was a true game changer, breaking off 99 plays of 20-plus yards in his career. The 2005 Heisman Trophy Winner teamed up with Lendale White to give the Trojans a dominant 1-2 punch. Bush averaged 8.7 yards per rush in his final season as a Trojan.

Mike Williams – It took Mike Williams just two seasons to become one of the most dominant offensive weapons in college football. The Florida native's arrival in Los Angeles helped spark the Trojans' offensive explosion under Carroll and Chow.

Carson Palmer – Palmer became the first USC quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy with a stellar senior season in which he tossed 33 touchdown passes. Palmer had all the tools and really blossomed into an elite passer under the guidance of Carroll and Chow.

Lofa Tatupu – When thinking of all the great linebackers that have come out of USC under Pete Carroll, none have been as good or as underrated as Lofa Tatupu. He doesn't have the measurables of Cushing, Maualuga or Matthews but was always in the right spot at the right time.

Just missed the list: Troy Polamalu, Sedrick Ellis, Taylor Mays, Shaun Cody, Ryan Kalil

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Paul "SColdtimer" Hoffman, Special Contributor, SCPlaybook.com

QB Matt Leinart: The best college football quarterback I've ever seen. His greatest strength was what he didn't do. He didn't fumble or force the ball into coverage. He didn't throw interceptions and he didn't panic when the play called broke down.

DT Shaun Cody: Cody was Orgeron and Carroll's first big recruit. He disrupted offenses by constantly pushing the line back at the QB. Defensive tackle Shaun Cody and nose tackle Mike Patterson are the two top reasons USC won back-to-back national championships. Shaun Cody was the catalyst to all the great recruiting classes that have followed.

S Troy Polamalu: The best defensive player of the Pete Carroll era.

QB Carson Palmer: Palmer was brilliant in his last eight games at USC. "All's well that ends well," and nobody finished their career at USC better than Carson Palmer.

RB Reggie Bush: Reggie filled the Coliseum with his brilliant runs from scrimmage, his excellence as a receiver, and his exciting long returns. His performance against Fresno State in 2005 was one of the greatest in the history of college football.

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Scott Schrader, Senior Recruiting Editor, SCPlaybook.com

My choices aren't in any specific order of significance. Here we go.

Carson Palmer: It took Carson five years, a new coaching staff and an addition of some key players for him to show the country and NFL scouts just how great he was, but his senior season (2002) was a magical one for USC and it fans. The Trojans finished last in the Pac-10 in 2000 and it took Pete Carroll only two seasons to reach a BCS bowl game and win his first. And Palmer was USC's first Heisman winner in more than 20 years when he won it in 2002.

Palmer is still the best high school quarterback I have ever seen and I believe he's the best quarterback USC has ever had. The combination of is arm strength, accuracy and athleticism is unrivaled by any other quarterback the Trojans have ever had. The 2002 season is still my favorite of the Pete Carroll era. USC, which had fallen on hard times, was back. The seasons to follow have been wildly successful for the Trojans, but there's just something about what Palmer, Justin Fargas, Mike Williams, Shaun Cody, Kenechi Udeze, the USC staff et al accomplished in 2002.

Matt Leinart: You can't have a top-five list that doesn't include Matt Leinart, who accomplished more on the field than any quarterback in USC's storied history. A Heisman Trophy, a chance to win a second and two National Championships speaks for itself.

Leinart had some huge shoes to fill when he succeeded Carson Palmer in 2003, but he did as well as anyone could have winning a National Championship in his first season in 2003. The beginning of his career at the helm of the USC offense was a bit rocky, but midseason 2003 on, Leinart was spectacular. No quarterback during Pete Carroll's tenure threw a more catchable ball or a better deep ball. Leinart didn't have exceptional arm strength, but his accuracy and leadership qualities stood out. USC always had a chance to win any game as long as Leinart was on the field, much like Florida does now with Tim Tebow leading the Gator offense. Leinart was 37-2 during his time at USC.

Reggie Bush: USC's third Heisman Trophy winner during Carroll's tenure is also an obvious choice. USC hasn't had a playmaker of Bush's ability the past eight years. Bush bailed out the USC offense on numerous occasions and single handedly won football games running the ball, catching the ball or scoring on punt returns. Bush was a threat to score from anywhere on the field and was a huge reason for USC's success in his three years at USC.

Lendale White: White is 18th on USC's prestigious career rushing list (with 1,857 yards). He had 28 rushing TDs in 26 career games (he had 31 TDs overall, the most by a Trojan by the end of their sophomore year), along with 8 games with 100 rushing yards. White was a scoring machine and was the thunder to Bush's lightening, and would have been a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2006 if he had returned for a fourth year at USC. White's finest game as a Trojan may have been his last and a game USC lost to Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Ryan Kalil: My head tells me to pick Troy Polamalu, Dwyane Jarrett, Lofa Tatupu, Matt Grootegoed, Shaun Cody, Kenechi Udeze and a host of others, but my fifth pick is Ryan Kalil. Ryan wasn't supposed to be the starting center in 2003, that spot was reserved for incoming freshman Jeff Byers, remember?

There are some things fans have a tendency to take for granted and two of those items are efficiency, and execution. I don't recall one time when there was an issue at center during Kalil's time at USC (same holds true for Will Collins). The coaching staff could always count on Kalil being on the field every Saturday and performing at a high level. He was a leader of the offensive line and one of the most beloved teammates to ever wear cardinal and gold. He earned All-American honors in 2006 and was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. In the coming years, USC fans will have the pleasure of watching another Kalil, Matt, block for the Trojans and help win championships.


Troy Polamalu was a dominant force at USC. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


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