Obvious/Not So Obvious - JR Day edition

The USC football program held its own spring football love-in on a beautiful Southern California Saturday morning by showcasing the Trojan football program and 2003 team in front of a massive array of prep talent on Junior Day.

The Obvious - While the world writes yet another spring chaotic chapter for future history books reminiscent of protest days gone by, the USC football program held its own spring football love-in on a beautiful Southern California Saturday morning by showcasing the Trojan football program and 2003 team in front of a massive array of prep talent on Junior Day.

The Not So Obvious - As the USC displayed its battle of quarterbacks to another spirited turnout of fans, it was a welcome distraction to look one moment at the action on the field, and the next moment read the white nametags of each Junior Day recruit, virtually a living magazine of high school talent.

The Obvious - With the recent announcement by Evangel Christian's quarterback John David Booty that he will be coming to Troy come next spring, it didn't stop local quarterbacks Rocky Hinds of Playa Del Rey's St. Bernards and Westlake's Rudy Carpenter from surveying the current Trojan quarterback landscape.

The Not So Obvious - The rumor around the field on Saturday was that the Trojans may take only Booty, and that Troy will take another prep quarterback only if one of the current Trojan throwers decide to transfer out or leave the program.

The Obvious - J.D. Booty's high school has also produced the quarterback likes of Miami's Brock Berlin, once the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year.

The Not So Obvious - Booty, however, is not the only celeb at his high school as Evangel Christian has also produced the current Miss Louisiana. Speaking of beauty, it should be a beauty of game game when Evangel Christian travels to Northern California in October to challenge Concord De La Salle in a game that will be televised on ESPN 2. Call it the LaBron James high school rating bonanza that brings this big prep game to the attention of the national television sports audience.

The Obvious - One of the fun things for Trojan fans on Saturday was to look at the guest talent and see if the young juniors were indeed the size and weight that they are proported to be.

The Not So Obvious - Three of the more impressive physical specimens were linemen Thomas Herring of LA Fremont, Bradis McGriff of Vallejo, and Chilo Rachal of Compton Dominguez. Each was manchild size, and Herring reminded this space of a Doug France clone, the former Ohio State and LA Rams star. The Fremont tight end/defensive end, who attended Monrovia High as a freshman and played basketball, has been a frequent visitor to spring practice.

The Obvious - Weather it was planned by Pete Carroll or not, there was a Coliseum atmosphere when members of the Trojan Marching Band stood on the sidelines and played the appropriate piece depending on the results of each play.

The Not So Obvious - It was certainly not missed by some of the guest juniors, who upon hearing Fight On after Hershel Dennis scored on a blast off the right side, pointed over to the band.

The Obvious - Pete Carroll will be doing a book signing on campus for the pictorial "Return to Glory" on April 2nd at the University Bookstore.

The Not So Obvious - There are some that believe the biggest signing by Carroll was a quiet, but healthy raise for himself and his assistants for their glorious 2002 season. If ever a Trojan coaching staff deserved a monetary improvement, it was this group. Carroll and staff proved, without a doubt, that USC was indeed a sleeping giant. More importantly, the USC Board of Trustees, Dr. Sample, and Mike Garrett had no desire to return to the nightmare Dark Ages of Trojan football. The money made on all that those jerseys, hats, and novelties being worn around by Southern California fans will help with those salary increases.

The Obvious - Just how many recruits were there on Saturday was difficult to count, but most were with their parents and had brochures and schedules in hand and were directed inside by some of USC's finest looking recruiting coeds.

The Not So Obvious - Perhaps the most impressive visitors without name tags were Vacaville linebacker signee Thomas Williams, who looked like he had a Marine Corp body and ready to hit on command, and Ventura JC corner Will Poole, who was as physical looking as any without a helmet or uniform. Poole looks like he has not missed a beat in the weight room. Kid has the Popeye arms.

The Obvious - The Los Angeles Times Gary Klein said in Sunday's paper that former LB Poly star defensive tacke Manuel Wright had passed his SAT and would enroll at USC in the summer.

The Not So Obvious - While Klein apparently got this information from Wright, it is also understood that the former Long Beach Poly All-America defensive tackle still has to pass a current class to be fully certified for admission. The class, according to those who would know, is one that Wright should have little trouble completing.

The Obvious - Former Trojan tailback Sultan McCullough was on the field helping play some cornerback as the Trojan offense went through some plays.

The Not So Obvious - A rather humorous episode occured when wide receiver Mike Williams lined up opposite McCullough and tried to put a move on the speedy tailback. After Williams tried to put a "move"on McCullough, Sultan comment with a grin, "You cut like a girl!"

The Obvious - Frosh sensation tackle Winston Justice has returned to action, but the layoff shows signs of rust as Justice was having difficulty adjusting to the speed of the Trojan defensive linemen during a rather intense drill.

The Not So Obvious - Justice more than had his hands full trying to stop Kenechi Udeze and had to hold a couple of times to stop the powerful defensive end.

The Obvious - The Trojans look to be leading for junior LB Poly wide receiver Derrick Jones, who was apparently not in attendance on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious - At a recent track meet that involved Jones, an Orange County coach said, "This guy is so fast he sounds like the whistling seams of a major league fastball when he runs by you!" Word is that one of J.D. Booty's first phone calls after making his Trojan verbal was to Derrick Jones.

The Obvious - Guard Lenny Vandermade was expected to be brought along slowly, but on Saturday the former Mater Dei star showed no sign of rust as he more than held his own during the intense offense versus defense drills.

The Not So Obvious - While Vandermade was getting some reps, a real battle was going on between redshirt offensive linemen Kyle Williams and Fred Matua, who had a promising beginning last year until the injury bug reappeared. Almost as entertaining as the drills was the competitiveness of offensive line coach Tim Davis and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, both waged a war of human football chess.

The Obvious - Another frequent visitor on Saturday was Mater Dei offensive lineman Brandon Nichols, a Midwest transplant, who the Trojans hope will continue keep in SoCal along with the highly-touted All-CIF Shannon Tevaga of La Mirada, who did look 6-2, 290.

The Not So Obvious - Speaking of the offensive line, former Trojan offensive line coach Mike Barry recently left his Tennessee position to take the same spot under Chuck Amato at North Carolina State. Barry and Amato worked together at Arizona in 1980-81.

The Obvious - New UCLA head football coach Karl Dorrell took a big hit this week when Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist and ESPN radio voice Doug Krikorian wrote and said on the air that Dorrell had lost big points in the public relations department by not returning phone calls and appointments and had angered high-powered Bruin boosters, some of whom helped Dorrell secure his job.

The Not So Obvious - If Dorrell does become a public relations nightmare for UCLA, it feeds into the public relations genius of Pete Carroll, whom Trojan coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron says is a better recruiter than his former Miami mentors Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. If you're gonna recruit against Pete, you might want to take a public relations course from William Morris.

The Obvious - Wide receiver Justin Wyatt is looking like the top newcomer as the former Compton Dominguez flash reminds many of R.J. Soward but with a good attitude.

The Not So Obvious - While Wyatt is a waterbug with the ball, the greater concern is his consistency of catching the ball. Somewhat like Soward, there sometimes is as much excitement waiting to see if he can hold on to the ball as there is after he catches the ball. Of course the same was said of Mike Williams, at times, during the early parts of his freshman deput.

The Obvious - Tailback Hershel Dennis continues to place his stamp on the tailback position, and he seems to glide and cut almost perfectly with each carry.

The Not So Obvious - While Dennis has been the spotlight player at tailback, kudos should also be awarded to walk-on Agoura tailback Andre Woodert, who has displayed a fine contribution in practice while the Trojans await the entrance of frosh stars Bush, White, and Washington.

The Obvious - The Trojan battle at quarterback seems to be drawing to a conclusion as Matt Cassel is giving every indication that he will be calling the signals at Auburn.

The Not So Obvious - While Matt Leinart was not really considered a serious threat for the starting quarterbacking job, the kid did a fine job on Saturday and led the Trojan down the field culminating with a touchdown strike to Mike Williams. Leinert might very well be a factor at some point, especially with Brandon Hance's shoulder repair still looking a long way from being a major factor. In fact, some swear that Leinart in a game would showcase the skills that made him such a coveted recruit out of Mater Dei.

The Obvious - Tight end Gregg Guenther made an appearance during the scrimmage after having spent time with Henry Bibby's basketball team.

The Not So Obvious - Sophomore tight end Dominique Byrd made a couple of impressive catches over the middle and withstood the punishment without coughing up the ball. The highly touted receiver from Minneapolis Breck only needs to improve his blocking to help take the load off of starter Alex Holmes.

The Obvious - One area the Trojans recruiting efforts will focus will be at the tight end position. As mentioned, one candidate is Fremont's massive Thomas Herring.

The Not So Obvious - Speaking of tight ends, Santiago junior tight end Dale Thompson was attendance and received the typical come-to-Troy USC fans treatment as the scrimmage progessed. Thompson will be receiving star treatment of a number of schools across the country.

The Obvious - While it is always fun to see all the potential future stars who may come to Troy in the future, it would be even better to see them perform.

The Not So Obvious - Football fans can have that chance when hundreds of schoolboy hopefuls will come to USC on Sunday, April 6th, for the annual Nike Camp, the prep's version of the NFL combines.

The Obvious - The recruiting saga of Marvin Simmons may have come to an end, but the Kansas State-bound linebacker was in attendance to see his brother "Champ" perform.

The Not So Obvious - To help celebrate his 20th birthday, Simmons got a big hug from Trojan coach Pete Carroll following the day's action. Those close to the Trojan program say that Simmons' body may be headed to Manhattan, Kansas, but his heart is still a Trojan. Of course, remember USC gave the kid every opportunity and Simmons just couldn't get it done.

The Obvious - Late Trojan tailback legend Ricky Bell has been elected into the College Football Hall of Fame and will be enshrined in South Bend, Indiana.

The Not So Obvious - A converted linebacker out of LA Fremont, Bell was USC's version of Texas' back Earl Campbell. Of course leave it to The Times to mention Bell's honor on the last page of the Sports Section and "buried" in the very lower right. In fact, if the story was buried any lower, it would have appeared in the Business Section.

The Obvious - Ricky Bell (6-2, 218) the typical bull in a China closet, was a continuation of great McKay tailbacks which included the likes of Heisman winners Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson.

The Not So Obvious - Of all the McKay's tailbacks, the true forgotten USC All-America star is East Los Angeles College's Clarence Davis, who had the tough honor of replacing O.J. Simpson. Davis (5-11, 195), who also had a swiveling, churning style of his own, was once a nose guard at Washington High. USC went 16-4-2 during the Davis tailback era. Clarence, who now lives with restrictions due to a stroke, went on to a fine career with the Raiders and appeared in Super Bowl Xl. Davis also had 9 100-yard games in his Trojan career and averaged 6.9 yards per carry his senior year in 1969.

The Obvious - Renewel for USC season tickets is fast approaching an April deadline, and word is ticket sales are doing very well as the Trojans continue their return to prominance.

The Not So Obvious - In keeping all Trojan fans informed of season ticket prices around the country, Michigan tickets are up $2 to $42 dollars for end zone seats in "The Big House". Seats from the goal line to the 22-yard lines and those in between the 22-yard lines will cost a dollar more, at $46 and $50, respectively. It should be noted that for those costs, Michigan will open Aug. 31st at home against Central Michigan while the Trojans will have their home opener Sept. 6th against BYU, which figures to be a large gathering at the Coliseum.

The Obvious - During the Trojans' vaunted running reign during the McKay era, the signature play was called 28-pitch, which is better known to today's youth as "Student body Sweep".

The Not So Obvious - It was with great excitement for all the greyhairs when Hershel Dennis lined up at at tailback and the ball was pitched back, the linemen where all pulling right, and for one shining moment it was Back to the Future. That Chow, he really knows how to work the AARP crowd.

The Obvious - Word is that Tustin recruit Sam Baker is slowly turning his body back into football shape, and there are those that say the incoming offensive guard could be a factor much like Fred Matua was until the leg injury.

The Not So Obvious - An interested spectator to Saturday's fun was junior Tustin High offensive lineman John Ioane, who some say is on par with Baker at the same point of development. Ioane is indeed around 6-4 and is very impressive. He attended with his parents and siblings.

The Obvious - Word is out that J.D. Booty's fullback teammate Jacob Hester has verbaled to Texas.

The Not So Obvious - Although the Trojans were interested in Hester but had not offered, there were plenty of potential fullback candidates in attendance Saturday, with the most physical looking being Matt Parent of St. Paul who was sitting right below St. Francis fullback Will Taufoou. While not a Brandon Hancock looking body (who is?), St. Paul's Parent was a large body for a fullback.

The Obvious - Along with Rocky Hinds and Rudy Carpenter, another quarterback in attendance was Dan Ingle from Bakersfield Foothill High.

The Not So Obvious - So who was that "Freshman" quarterback from the state of Kentucky who seemed to get the attention of Trojan coaches during the week? Freshman as freshman in high school who came on campus. Our lips are sealed, but could the initials be W.F.? Hey, somebody has to replace Booty in four years.

The Obvious - There are many who have come down hard on Trojan coach Kennedy Pola for what has been perceived as erratic special teams play last season.

The Not So Obvious - After practice on Saturday when most had left the field, Pola had some choice words for one of his "boys" when the youngster, who shall be remained nameless, seemed to doubt the importance of maintaining a block on extra points and field goal attempts. Pola didn't like the response of the Trojan player and unloaded, as he should, and reminded the sitting Trojan that it was a blown special teams' play at Washington State that may have cost Troy a possible national championship. Pola, in no uncertain terms, told the player that each and every play is important. For those who only look to the special teams results during the season, it was another reminder that coaches do tell players during practice, but sometimes the fans blame the coaches too often and the players not enough.

The Obvious - So now comes the final piece of the spring as the Trojans ready for "The Huddle", the spring game, this Saturday morning at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious - Who will be the starting USC quarterback? Just how long will those lines be for those In and Out burgers? Just what recruits will fly in from out of the area for The Huddle? One thing for sure, if you're "hungry" for your last chance to see Trojan football until September, you'll get your "buns" down to the Coliseum because to a Trojan football fan, five months until a home game at the Coliseum is too much to digest.

 


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