When compiling an all-time list, one of the harsh realities of such a project is that some names will be left off the list, unless it is especially long and can accommodate everyone. In this edition of the all-time USC football roster, there are a few notes worth making about inclusions and exclusions.
First, an inclusion: Reggie Bush was able to make this roster even though — with only two running backs allowed on the roster — he got excluded from his primary position. We had to put Charles White and O.J. Simpson on the two-deep at running back. It doesn’t mean Reggie Bush wasn’t great — of course he was! — but that White and O.J. were even greater.
Bush on special teams gives him a rightful place on this Trojans Wire roster while honoring the distribution of recognition to various positions on a football team.
Next, the exclusions: Hudson Houck is a legendary offensive line coach, one of the greatest to ever teach offensive line play. The member of John Robinson’s elite USC coaching staffs in the late 1970s (which also had Norv Turner and Paul Hackett, among others) is an all-time-great USC assistant coach. However, the two on this list were even greater and contain more importance in the larger story of USC athletics.
Finally, with only two head coaches making the cut, we obviously had to leave two iconic USC head coaches off the list. If only two can make the cut, that means two of these four legends — Howard Jones, John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll — have to be excluded.
These are the tough decisions we had to make. Enjoy this list of elite USC coaches (two head coaches, two assistants) and special-teams stars (three punters and kickers apiece, two punt returners, two kickoff returners).
Check out our other College Wire all-time lineups: Alabama / Arkansas / Auburn / Clemson / Colorado / Florida / Georgia / Iowa / LSU / Michigan / Nebraska / North Carolina / Ohio State / Oklahoma / Oregon / Penn State / Rutgers / Tennessee / Texas / Texas A&M / Wisconsin
PUNTER NO. 3: MARTY KING
— Reign of Troy (@ReignofTroy) January 23, 2017
Younger football fans live in an era when field position, while obviously important, does not contain nearly the same level of centrality it owned in the 1970s, when quick-strike offenses did not exist on the scope and scale they possess today. King was instrumental in aiding the USC defense and giving John Robinson a national championship in his third season as the Trojans’ head coach.
PUNTER NO. 2: JOHN STONEHOUSE
4 Sep 1993: John Stonehouse of the USC Trojans punts during a game against the Houston Cougars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC won the game 49-7. Simon Barnett /Allsport
On otherwise-forgettable USC teams in the early 1990s, Stonehouse stood out as a genuinely brilliant player who never fell short of the highest standards.
PUNTER NO. 1: TOM MALONE
LOS ANGELES – NOVEMBER 16: Punter Tom Malone #3 of the USC Trojans punts out of his own end zone during the Pac-10 Conference Game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 16, 2002 in Los Angeles, California. The Trojans won 34-13. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
An elite and memorably impactful punter for elite and memorably imposing USC teams.
PLACEKICKER NO. 3: DAVID BUEHLER
Aug. 30, 2008; Charlottesville, VA, USA; USC kicker David Buehler (18) during USC’s 52-7 win over Virginia at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Buehler had to be at his best for USC, given the struggles of Mark Sanchez and the fact that the Trojans’ offense would bog down in the red zone. On days when the USC offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders, Buehler was there to ride to the rescue.
PLACEKICKER NO. 2: FRANK JORDAN
University of Southern California place kicker Frank Jordan (3) gets off a 37-yard field goal with just two seconds left to give USC a 27-25 victory over Notre Dame at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 25, 1978. Dave Waymer (34) of the Irish cannot block the kick. Marty King (4) holds. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
He might not lead the list in terms of his overall stat line and percentages of made kicks, but there has never been a better clutch kicker for the Trojans. Jordan beat UCLA and Notre Dame on last-second kicks during his career. When a kick really mattered, Frank Jordan made it for USC. That puts him on this short list, even though other kickers might have better overall numbers over the course of a full Trojan career.
PLACEKICKER NO. 1: CHRIS LIMUHELU
Jan 1, 1975; Pasadena, CA, Southern California Trojans quarterback (10) Pat Haden in action against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 1975 Rose Bowl. Chris Limuhelu was the kicker for John McKay’s last national title team at USC. Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
It’s a shame our photo library couldn’t find a photo for Chris Limuhelu, because he was easily the best kicker in the Pac-8 in the first half of the 1970s, playing for multiple all-time-great USC teams.
USC PUNT RETURNER NO. 2: MIKE BATTLE
Oct 28, 1967; Los Angeles, CA. Southern California Trojans quarterback Steve Sogge (12) talks to head coach John McKay (left) on the sidelines against the Oregon Ducks at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Trojans defeated the Ducks 28-6. Mike Battle was part of this championship team. Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports
USC diehards would never overlook him, but non-Trojan college football fans might not be aware of the extent to which Mike Battle helped the Men of Troy win the national championship in 1967.
USC PUNT RETURNER NO. 1: REGGIE BUSH
Dec 4, 2004; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC running back #5 Reggie Bush outraces the UCLA defense on his way to an 81-yard touchdown run during the Trojans’ 29-24 win over the Bruins on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Joe Robbins-USA TODAY Sports (c) 2004 by Joe Robbins
We couldn’t put Reggie Bush over Charles White or O.J. Simpson as a running back, but we could put him on USC’s all-time team as a punt returner. The easy choice is also a just and satisfying one to make.
KICKOFF RETURNER NO. 2: CURTIS CONWAY
Stephen Dunn /Allsport
Before there was Reggie Bush as an electric USC kick returner, there was Curtis Conway.
KICKOFF RETURNER NO. 1: ANTHONY DAVIS
Southern California’s Anthony Davis breaks into the clear and races 102 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame to start off a 49-point second half that brought USC a 55-24 victory, in Los Angeles. Coliseum, Nov. 30, 1974. Making a dive for Davis is defensive end Ernie Hughes (95), while trailing the play is end Tony Zappala, (39). At left is USC’s Clay Matthews, (60). (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins, File)
1974. Notre Dame. Nothing more needs to be said.
ALL-TIME ASSISTANT COACH NO. 2: SAM BARRY
A general view of the statue of former Kansas Jayhawks head coach Phog Allen at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Phog Allen’s 1940 KU team beat USC and Sam Barry in a razor-close Final Four national semifinal. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
How important was Sam Barry to the University of Southern California? We tried to capture that importance in a lengthy series of articles from 2020. Start here and then search our archives for many more editions of The Sam Barry Chronicles at Trojans Wire.
ALL-TIME ASSISTANT COACH NO. 1: MARV GOUX
Rose Bowl Hall of Fame inductee Marv Goux gives his acceptance speech at a Rose Bowl event Sunday, Dec. 31, 2000, in Pasadena, Calif. Goux particiapted in two Rose Bowls as a player with Southern California and 11 as a coach. Purdue and Washington face off in the Rose Bowl on Monday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
The most beloved, loyal, passionate — and just plain excellent — USC football assistant coach who has ever lived. No hyperbole. That’s the absolute truth.
ALL-TIME HEAD COACH NO. 2: HOWARD JONES
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) December 26, 2019
Better than Pete Carroll or John Robinson? You bet … because if there’s no Howard Jones, USC football doesn’t land on the national map and establish an identity for future coaches to build upon. Jones has to be one of the top two coaches in school history.
ALL-TIME HEAD COACH NO. 1: JOHN MCKAY
Southern California Trojans head coach John McKay on the sideline. Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Pete Carroll and John Robinson were undeniably great. Howard Jones was the architect and godfather of the program. John McKay, however, took USC to its absolute height and kept it there. His longevity — a decade and a half at the helm — and his success against an iconic Notre Dame coach, Ara Parseghian, clearly vault him to No. 1.