It's no secret that USC football's biggest problem over the past few years was its inability to let go of the past. Since the day Pete Carroll walked out the door, USC has tried to recreate the "magic" of the Carroll era by hiring his former assistants Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian to replace him. It's been much the same in the athletic director's office as well, where former Trojans stars have been given the job because of their USC roots, much more than any obvious qualifications.
Finally, however, it seems like the Trojans are ready to jump into 2016. It started last fall when USC tabbed Clay Helton as its new head coach, a man who appears on the surface to be the exact opposite of the two men who preceded him. Helton appears to have gotten the job the old-fashioned way, by slowly climbing up the coaching ladder. Simply put, there is nothing flashy about Helton, and in turn, nothing flashy about USC with him as the head coach.
Understand, that's not just our opinion, but the opinion of players in the program. Here is what offensive lineman Zach Banner said in an interview with ESPN, when asked about the attitude shift since Helton has taken over:
"I think the issue in the past that we have had, in between Coach [Pete] Carroll and Coach Helton, everything in between, every single coach, every single player because the coach allowed it, everyone wanted to be Hollywood," Banner said. "Everyone saw the type of star power Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart had when they were winning games -- video game covers, Heisman Trophies, commercials. Some people came to SC just to be a part of that power."
"Guys were so Hollywood, coaches were so Hollywood. Coach Helton is not Hollywood. He's like our hashtag that is going around -- #allaboutball. This man is a 6-foot-1, bald-headed white dude. He is not going to be on the next GQ cover, and he knows it. But he wants to win football games. To win football games, you have to have a really solid leader, a great commander [in] chief in your head coach. That's Coach Helton."
It's a fascinating take by Banner, especially when you consider that the exact sentiment he's talking about --- USC's 'Hollywood' flash --- is what many in the media have claimed held the Trojans back for years. After all, you can't step into the future until you let go of the past.
And it's also an attitude readjustment that might be exactly what the Trojans need.
For all the talk about the glitz and glamour that surrounded the program when Bush and Leinart were there, what's easy to forget is their success wasn't based on skill alone. They were also --- by their own accord --- the hardest-working team in college football.
Either way, it's good to see USC getting back to its blue-collar, workman-like roots.
The Trojans will need it as they prepare for next season's opener.
It happens to be against some team named "Alabama."