Mail call 

April, 7, 2006
From Nicole in Los Angeles: When I read your article the other day about Hershel Dennis and saw the word "devastating," I thought you were being a little too dramatic. It didn't sound that bad, but now it turns out it is, and my heart goes out to Hershel. How much do you think this will affect the Trojans chances to play for the national title this year and do you see him coming back for a sixth season?

I think it will have a huge effect especially if Chauncey Washington can't get eligible. He's supposedly on track, but I feel like we've heard that before. Otherwise USC's left with bruiser Michael Coleman, who is very unproven and inexperienced, and a handful of talented but also unproven newcomers, led by Stafon Johnson. Pete Carroll said this week that another speedy incoming freshman C.J. Gable, who had been expected to play CB, will come in as a tailback, too. But that is a lot to put on some very green runners, especially since USC already is breaking in a new QB. I realize the Trojans won it all in '03 with a new backfield, but expectations were much different then, and I'm not sure you can expect to catch lightning in a bottle twice like that.

As for Dennis' situation, I cringed when I heard that he went down again the other day, knowing just how much he has been through to get back on the field and what it all meant to him. When I visited with him earlier this offseason it was for an ESPN Mag feature on he and the other members of the old Long Beach Poly's fabled Fab Five. It was a follow-up to something I had written when they were in high school for the magazine, and it seems pretty relevant now since three of those five (Marcedes Lewis, Winston Justice and Darnell Bing) might become first-round picks this month. DT Manny Wright already is in the NFL and Dennis, the lone Fab 5er remaining in college, was set to regain the starting TB job at USC.