Student Body Left and Student Body Right have not quite gone the way of the leather helmet and the panty raid at USC, but the simple tailback pitches that swept the Trojans into countless Rose Bowls are no longer their most productive plays. Coach Ted Tollner says a simple off-tackle play called 25-Power is now USC's No. 1 ground-gainer. "My favorite play ever since I got here has been the 25-Power," says senior tailback Freddie Crutcher, who ran for 1,155 yards on 307 carries in '84 and was named All-Pac-10. "All I have to do is key off [tackle] James FitzPatrick. Whichever way he takes his man, I just go the opposite."
FitzPatrick, a senior, stands 6'8" and weighs 270 pounds. Next to him is junior guard Jeff Bregel, another third-year starter. Bregel is 6'4", 270 and can bench-press 465 pounds. And this is the "weak" side of the line, i.e., the side without the tight end.
The legacy of Trojan he-men dates back to at least 1926, when USC had a reserve tackle named Marion Morrison, who later became John Wayne. Since 1964, the year Bregel and FitzPatrick were born, USC has had 20 first-team All-America offensive linemen. Since 1968, 14 Trojan interior linemen have been chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Bregel and FitzPatrick are now being touted for such distinctions. Another candidate for postseason honors is strongside guard Tom Hallock, a 6'6", 260-pound senior and three-year starter.
Offensive line coach Pat Morris says Bregel is "a little crazy," a trait apparently left over from his redshirt year as a noseguard. On an athletic department questionnaire Bregel listed Michelob as his favorite pastime. A guy this big should drink stout. FitzPatrick and Morris both describe Bregel as "a big puppy dog." Yeah, and King Kong was just an organ-grinder's monkey.
"I'm more mellow," FitzPatrick says, "more of the offensive lineman type. Jeff fires me up when I need it, and I calm him down when he needs it."
USC won nine games in '84, mainly because of its defense. But seven starters from that unit are gone, including All-America linebackers Duane Bickett and Jack Del Rio. The Trojans also have to replace both cornerbacks. Two who will see action are Junior Thurman and Lou Brock Jr. Thurman is the brother of Dennis Thurman, a former USC All-America safety. Brock is the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock.
Last year only two Pac-10 teams scored fewer points than the Trojans, who averaged 18.3 a game. Senior Sean Salisbury has the edge at quarterback, having started in 1983 and again last fall, until a knee injury sidelined him two games into the season. But Tollner may give Kevin McLean and Rodney Peete a chance at the job.
If quarterback looks like Tollner's version of I've Got a Secret, tailback looks like something from Busby Berkeley. The cast of stars includes Crutcher, Zeph Lee, Ryan Knight, Steve Webster and freshman Aaron Emanuel, the most highly touted schoolboy running back in the nation this year. "It's almost impossible to do it all by yourself," Crutcher says. "But if we have five pieces of pie for five guys, I'd like three pieces."
Two years ago the Trojans suffered their first losing season since 1961. After that debacle someone at USC (no one will say who) dubbed the young offensive line "the Piglets," after the Washington Redskins' Hogs. Well, the Piglets have emerged from the slop and are ready to go full-boar this fall.
If the tailback pie has to be cut five ways, Crutcher would like three of the pieces.