For a variety of reasons, most of them probably related to their abundance of youth and energy, college athletes tend to often overlook the forest and focus on the trees when it comes to their teams, ignoring the big-picture stuff right in front of them.
Not Chris Galippo.
Galippo, a senior-to-be linebacker and a good bet to be one of USC's captains in 2011, is a bit different from the rest, at least in terms of his perspective. It's evident he's thought long and hard about what's happened to the Trojans in recent years and, to him, there are a few reasons why USC's success has vanished of late.
And it's not the NCAA sanctions, necessarily, or anything else entirely out of their control. It's how they've been playing at the end of games.
"We just gotta learn how to finish. That's what our program has to do," Galippo, 22, said last week after a players-only workout at USC, recalling a heartbreaking October 2010 loss at Stanford that has clearly stuck with him. "We have to learn how to finish, how to not even get in a situation where it's two minutes left. We gotta finish way earlier in the game. When we have a chance to close people out, we gotta close 'em out -- that's what the great 'SC teams have always done.
"I think it's just a matter of being consistent."
It's especially important to be consistent in the approach to adversity, something USC's getting familiar with after another offseason of dealing with backlash from NCAA sanctions.
In 2010, a number of Trojans were surprised, week in and week out, at the overwhelmingly negative reaction they received from opposing fans on road trips. It stretched far past what any of them had seen in previous years.
That can't be a factor this season, Galippo said.
"We know what we're getting ourselves into as far as the mentality that we have to have," Galippo said. "I think last year -- not that it affected us at all -- but, going into some of those away games, just being so ridiculed by the fans might have caught a lot of younger guys by surprise.
"Now, we understand -- we understand that people are going to hate on us, and we're going to have our backs up against the wall with really the only people we can count on as each other. We gotta be tough."
USC was tough in that Stanford loss -- almost tough enough, in fact, to go up to Palo Alto and steal away a win in the final seconds. But Galippo was called for a crucial personal foul on Stanford's game-winning drive. He won't say it in as many words -- and he maintained after that game he was innocent, having not heard a whistle -- but that's exactly the kind of play he's talking about.
The kind of play he felt never used to happen to USC five or six years ago, when he was watching the Trojans and being recruited out of Anaheim Servite High. And the kind of play that can't happen to them in 2011 if they hope to get close to a double-digit-win type of season.
"I think it just fell off," Galippo said of the Trojans' recent lack of progress. "A lot of the younger guys, we always knew that we had this great attitude and this great swag, but we just thought that we just had it because were 'SC. What a lot of guys didn't know was that it was the great players like [Lawrence Jackson] and [Brian Cushing] and all those guys that brought that out. Those were the guys that made it that way, and I think it fell off because guys got complacent and sort of settled down a little bit.
"We have a group of guys now, that, we're not gonna take [anything] from anyone."