The Obvious – As the Song of the South grows louder after each passing practice day, the No. 8 University of Southern California Trojan football team continues to rehearse for their 2003 seasonal Dixieland debut against No. 6 Auburn University on August 30th, and the only variables that coach Pete Carroll has been unable to consistently implement into his practice plan is injury prevention and some debilitating Alabama humidity, which figures to welcome the Trojans gladly when their Delta charter lands in Montgomery, Alabama.
Not So Obvious – While the Los Angeles temperature this last week was climbing
higher and higher, fifth-year Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was also concerned
about the weather in Alabama, This past week Tuberville said, "I don't know if
it's the cool weather, but the team is having fun out here practicing. It's kind
of scary. I've never seen a team have fun practicing, especially two-a-days. We
just need some hot weather."
The Obvious - Although there have been some
inconsistent hot, humid days here in the City of Angels, the Trojan staff would
appreciate if media weathermen Fritz Coleman and Johnny Mountain could maintain
a consecutive series of Alabama summer days.
The Not So Obvious -It was
nearly a year ago that the Southern California locale was involved in the midst
of some intense humidity that appeared to spell doom and disaster for the
Trojans and hometown cooking and confidence for the arriving Auburn Tigers.
Little did the visitors from the Southeast Conference anticipate that THEY would
wilt in the second half as the wonderfully conditioned Trojans outlasted Auburn,
24-17, in a sauna of a Coliseum.
The Obvious – It was another hot 90's
day in Los Angeles on Saturday as the Trojans completed a 75-play scrimmage and
quarterback Matt Leinart 16 of 22 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns, two
which went to senior standout Keary Colbert, who had 8 receptions for108
The Not So Obvious – Meanwhile, Saturday morning in Auburn over
8,500 fans braved warmth and humidity at Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch a 90-play
scrimmage as the Tigers were dialing into the Trojans. Running back Ronnie Brown
led the way with 99 yards rushing and two scores, including a 67-yard bolt. Up
to the Brown run, it was a defensive day that completely annoyed first-year
offensive coordinator Hugh Nall, who called it "by far the worst (offensive)
performance" of his players this summer.
The Obvious – Both USC and
Auburn turned it up a notch in the scrimmages on Saturday, despite holding back
some of their complete arsenal.
The Not So Obvious – After making life
generally miserable for the Auburn offensive unit, hard-hitting defensive back
Junior Rosegreen spoke for the entire spirited defensive unit when he said,
"It's USC out there. You don't have friends. After the scrimmage you can be
The Obvious – While USC fans have been transfixed on the Trojans'
backfield competition, Pete Carroll, with Auburn on his mind, has not forgotten
his neurosis over last year's placekicking adventures, which included a missed
extra point that cost the Trojans at least a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Not So Obvious – So while the rest of the Trojan world seems to be obsessed with
the maturation and performances of ballyhooed freshmen John David Booty and
Whitney Lewis, without fanfare, the annual placekicking competition, until
Saturday, was emerging as a big ticket item between incumbent junior Ryan
Killeen and walk-on freshman Mario Danelo (5-10, 200).
The Obvious – Last
season, kicker Ryan Killeen made 16 of 23 field goal attempts and 57 of 49 extra
points, including big kicks against UCLA, Notre Dame, and Iowa.
So Obvious -However, Killeen was facing some stiff competition this summer from
Danelo, whose father, Joe, kicked for a decade in the NFL and before that at
Washington State. The walk-on made his name last season as a Los Angeles
All-City first team for the San Pedro Pirates. His selection, however, was not
for kicking, but as a linebacker.
The Obvious – After Saturday's
scrimmage, Pete Carroll announced that experienced kicker Ryan Killeen will
start in the nationally televised game at a soldout Jordan-Hare Stadium
The Not So Obvious –As far as a kicker for the Big Game opener,
Auburn appears to be in the same vessel as the Trojans. With two weeks remaining
until the Trojans, the Tigers haven't determined who will be their kicker,
although four are in competition. The word out of Auburn is true freshman John
Vaughn may start against the Trojans, but don't count out the experienced junior
Philip Yost. Auburn special teams coach Eddie Gran says, "I don't think anybody
is ahead of anybody." Recently, freshman Vaughn was 6 for 6 in field goal
The Obvious –After last week's impressive scrimmages and
practice production, sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart has been named the USC
starting quarterback by Pete Carroll. It became obvious this week when coaches
Pete Carroll and Norm Chow gave the "lefty" the majority of recent practice
snaps, a Norm Chow signature for a starter.
The Not So Obvious –In
Auburn's Saturday scrimmage, junior quarterback Jason Campbell finished 9 of 14
for 63 yards, no interceptions, and two scores.
The Obvious – Sophomore
Mike Williams was held out of Saturday's scrimmage, which allowed the Trojans to
take another look at some of the younger receivers.
The Not So Obvious –
With freshman Steve Smith hauling in 6 receptions for 61 yards, the first-year
catcher has moved to the No. 3 receiver passing spring sensation Justin Wyatt .
The amazing thing about Smith is that there are some that swear he would make a
much better defensive back.
The Obvious – With the Leinart issue decided,
all Trojan eyes will turn to the backup quarterback competition from a host of
The Not So Obvious - Herein lies the real quarterback
intrigue. More effective out of the shotgun and on the rollout, transfer Brandon
Hance has been slowly regaining production and strength after a series of health
issues, and despite his frustrations over the process, junior Matt Cassel
continues to battle with John Fox resiliency and determination. This one could
go down to the wire. John David Booty and Billy Hart will need to make up
The Obvious – Heralded freshman quarterback John David Booty, who
was held out earlier last week and missed Tuesday's scrimmage after concerns
over lower back discomfort, threw briefly (2 of 3 for 11 yards) in Saturday's
The Not So Obvious – Perhaps a silver lining, the fact Booty
had been on the sidelines during the week helped all concerned to take a step
back and bring some sanity to the Booty campaign. The kid needs time to grow,
and the veteran signal-callers in camp needed some breathing room to build
confidence and trust, crucial for early season games. While John David has
thrown some gorgeous touchdown strikes during practice, he has also thrown some
freshman interceptions, which are simply indications that he is not yet ready
for immediate action.
The Obvious –What a difference two recruiting
classes can make as the USC tailback position is now a cupboard that runneth
over and gives every impression that this freshmen group of backs has the
potential to be the best collection of the past generation.
The Not So
Obvious – While Reggie Bush (6-0, 190) of San Diego Helix has more than lived up
to his reputation as the nation's premier running back recruit, the less
heralded Chauncy Washington (6-0, 205) of South Torrance is giving as good an
impression of Emmitt Smith as you'd want to see. Showing Sam Cunningham power,
Colorado's LenDale White (6-2, 225) has shown power and speed, especially during
a recent scrimmage when he Sam "Bam-ed" Trojan defenders into the end zone.
The Obvious – Running back coach Kennedy Pola and offensive coordinator
Norm Chow have a coach's dream of just how to insert each of these running back
prodigies into future game plans.
The Not So Obvious - Simply put,
however, of all the young stallions itching to carry on the USC tailback legacy,
Parade All-America Reggie "The Roadrunner" Bush, with a style all his own, may
be the most explosive Trojan running back since O.J. Simpson. With a style all
his own and the ability to catch, the kid is more than shake, bake, and speed.
He is a unique combination of paralyzing fakes, whirling horizontal movement,
and the grandmaster of how and when to use his blistering 10.42 in the 100
speed, the fastest prep time in California last track season.
– Yes, the cat is out of the bag as tailback Reggie Bush's sizzling display was
reported last week by a Sports Illustrated columnist, who witnessed Bush's first
day in pads explosion and called him the most exciting player to enter college
football since Michael Vick.
The Not So Obvious – The Bush campaign is
understandable, but folks better not under estimate the talent and desire of
sophomore tailback Hershel Dennis, who has done nothing in practice to diminish
his value. What isn't known about young Bush is his long-term poise, durability
and potential fumblitis, which was illustrated on Saturday when the frosh phenom
had two fumbles and an unsportsmanlike penalty.
The Obvious – The three
freshmen Trojan tailbacks have done a good job of adjusting to college defenses
in recent scrimmages.
The Not So Obvious – Speaking of scrimmages, Auburn
held a 50-play scrimmage last Wednesday highlighted by a Carnell "Cadillac"
Williams 64-yard run. Williams had an impressive 23-yard touchdown run last year
in the Coliseum.
The Obvious – With the growing uncertainly on the
physical status of starting tight end Alex Holmes, Trojan fans will likely see
sophomore Dominique Byrd, the former Minnesota prodigy, start when the Trojans
break the huddle at Auburn.
The Not So Obvious – Byrd, who as a senior
tight end at Breck School in Minnesota where he caught 62 passes for 1,236 yards
(19.9 avg.) and 25 touchdowns, has done more than impress during summer camp.
Looking more confident and certainly more comfortable, Byrd, (6-3, 255) is not
much smaller than Alex Holmes (6-3, 270) and is a dangerous receiver with some
wiggle. He is a rare combination of size and speed not seen on the Trojan campus
for some time.
The Obvious – The tallest of the Trojans this year is
tight end Gregg Guenther, who stretches 6-8, and again looked good in Saturday's
The Not So Obvious – On the receiving end of some spectacular
practice receptions, Guenther appears to be even taller than his listed 6-8 and
may be bigger than his listed 245 pounds. To the delight of the Trojan coaches,
the Trojan basketball player appears to be finally healthy and fully recovered
from his surgery on a herniated disk in his lower back.
The Obvious –
The anchor of the offensive line is senior center Norm Katnik, who is a
technician extraodinarie, both mentally and physically.
The Not So
Obvious – While Norm Katnik continues his steady value on the line, it is his
younger brother, Kurt, who turned heads after being moved from center to tight
end and back to center due to depth and injury problems. As a tight end, Kurt
finds ways to get open and has shown reliable hands if the ball is in his
The Obvious – When graduated defensive tackle Bernard Riley
left for the NFL, he told a gathering at a WeAreSC.com dinner that sophomore
tackle LaJuan Ramsey would be a definite factor in this year's defensive line
The Not So Obvious – You won't get a debate from freshman
offensive guard Sam Baker from Tustin. On the first day in full gear and matched
up against the touted freshman offensive guard, Ramsey blew by Baker with a swim
technique and stuffed running back Hershel Dennis. Such is the life of a
learning freshman and the guile of a veteran whom Coach "O" has been very
The Obvious – Sophomore receiver Mike Williams is called by many
one of the top receivers in the country and is a non-stop coverboy on most of a
the West regional college football magazines.
The Not So Obvious – After
practices, long after everybody has left Howard Jones Field, Williams can be
seen staying up to a half hour by himself running pass patterns and working on
moves designed to avoid defensive bump-and-run techniques.
The Obvious -
As a Parade All-American receiver at St. Bonaventure, Whitney Lewis scored every
4.5 times he touched the ball and has been under intense scrutiny by Trojan
coaches and followers since the start of fall practice.
The Not So
Obvious –While going through some unusual freshman growing pains and now out
with a leg injury, Lewis recently impressed coaches with a tremendous block that
helped spring Reggie Bush for a big gainer. The crushing block led Trojans
coaches immediately to rush to Lewis and give him a much-needed dose of
appreciation, support, and encouragement.
The Obvious – There is an
expression in football that when a defensive player collides with an offensive
player and the defensive player gets the best of it, the term used is "blew
The Not So Obvious – Well, in a recent practice, senior linebacker
Melvin "Champ" Simmons "blew up" muscular sophomore fullback Mike Hancock (6-1,
235), which brought a loud response from onlookers. Give Hancock credit, he held
on to the ball even after the physical demolition by Simmons.
Obvious - One of the great competition battles on offense is the fullback
position, which could turn out to be a continuous battle throughout the season
with Lee Webb, Brandon Hancock, and perhaps Whitney Lewis when he returns from
The Not So Obvious – Lee Webb (6-0, 240) from Crenshaw seems to
be the down and dirty fullback who is very tailbacks best friend. In Brandon
Hancock, who had a fine day in a recent scrimmage with 97 yards in pass
receptions out of the backfield, the Trojans have a true running/receiving
threat, who by his own admission, needs improve his blocking. For Lewis, who
recently was placed in Malaefou MacKenzie's position, it will be a golden
opportunity upon his return to showcase his vast skills.
The Obvious –
After two recent interceptions in practice, an impressed fan at practice looked
at strong safety Darnell Bing (6-2, 220) and commented, "That guy looks like a
The Not So Obvious – The scary part is that Bing DOES
looks like a middle linebacker…. on a jet ski!
The Obvious – Thanks to
last season's breakout performance, the Trojans are more than just "in" on a
number of national recruits outside of California, although the Trojan staff
will only go outside the state if the quality is lacking here at
The Not So Obvious – Although this year's roster includes 88
players from California, 12 other states are represented with Florida,
Louisiana, Minnesota, and Washington each having contributed two players. Of
course, let's not forget American Samoa, home of redshirt freshman defensive
tackle Travis Tofi.
The Obvious – When healthy, can there be a pair of
more attacking offensive guards in the Pac-10 than Trojan senior Lenny
Vandermade (6-3, 275) and redshirt freshman Fred Matua (6-2, 300)?
Not So Obvious – If these two can somehow shake their constant injury bugaboos,
watching them block will be a joy for the folks who like to tape Trojan games
and dissect each offensive play. As physical as Matua can be, however, he may
have his hands full holding on to his position as JC transfer John "Big Man"
Drake (6-3, 330) has made a favorable impression on the Trojan coaching staff.
The Obvious -When Carroll came in as coach, he wanted leaner linemen
that could move. The coach apparently made John Drake the exception to the rule
thanks to the former Long Beach City star's unusually quick feet.
Not So Obvious – One of the constant complaints of knowledgeable Trojan football
fans is that their guards rarely pull and trap. Drake has really opened some
eyes with his ability to pull considering his girth.
The Obvious – The
Trojans have a daily friendly, but spirited practice rivalry between the offense
and defense, especially since they face each other day after day after
The Not So Obvious – Each unit likes to talk "smack" to the other
after a big play. Recently after a big offensive run by Reggie Bush , stellar
senior wide receiver Keary Colbert yelled at gregarious defensive end Omar Nazel
and All-American candidate Kenechi Udeze, "We forfeit our remaining reps!"
The Obvious – With the three starting offensive linemen in injury limbo
and the versatile Eric Torres (6-5, 300) still on the mend, Pete Carroll and
line coach Tim Davis are paying particular attention to the freshman class that
features three tough Orange County offensive linemen in Mission Viejo tackle
Drew Radovich (6-5, 280), Tustin guard Sam Baker (6-5, 315), and Servite center
Ryan Kilil (6-4, 270).
The Not So Obvious – Radovich's father, Mark,
played linebacker for Arizona State (1974-76), Baker's father, Dave, is the
Arena League commissioner, and Kilil's father, Frank, was a center at Arizona
(1980-82) and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
The Obvious – Radovich
and Kalil have performed well in camp and Kalil is now backing up Norm Katnik at
The Not So Obvious - Parade Magazine All-American tackle freshman
Drew Radovich (6-5, 280) of Mission Viejo has worked at times with the first
unit and has impressed Pete Carroll. Carroll commented, "It looks like he has a
chance to compete." Kalil, who has worked with the first unit during Katnik's
injury, told the Orange County Register, "I think I can definitely hang with
everyone. I just have to learn my stuff." Kalil is a classic example of
Carroll's staff uncovering a nugget who was probably way underrated by other
The Obvious - When Pete Carroll and staff recruit, they
leave open the option of changing a player's position when he arrives on campus,
not uncommon during the McKay glory years.
The Not So Obvious –Freshman
defensive end Matt Spanos (6-5, 285) of Corona was moved to right guard
immediately and defensive tackle Fili Moala (6-5, 300) of Anaheim Western has
filled in at times at offensive tackle, where numbers continue to grown thin due
The Obvious – A number of visitors to practice have spent part
of the time watching the players and the spending time on their cell
The Not So Obvious – A number of conversations concern the
excitement of travel arrangements and accommodations for the Auburn game.
Interestingly enough, there has hardly been any discussion about Auburn tickets.
Most of the ticket conversations have been centered around the Notre Dame game
in South Bend.
The Obvious – Former fullback Lynn Cain, who played in
the late 70's, recently visited practice.
The Not So Obvious – Talk about
Reggie Bush with the change of direction moves, Troy has rarely had a running
fullback with moves like Lynn Cain, who came to USC after being a sensational
tailback at East Los Angeles Community College. Cain is one of many Trojans,
like current freshman fullback Jody Adewale, who is a graduate of Roosevelt
The Obvious – The Trojans Insider Radio Show on KMPC (1540) airs
every Tuesday night from 7-8 p.m. with Pete "Pom Pom" Arbogast and Petros
The Not So Obvious – The first show was an
improvement in content from last year by having wide receiver Mike Williams and
Coach Ed Orgeron as guests. If you're a Trojan football fan, you'll enjoy it.
Unfortunately, there were a few glitches on opening night. For starters, Norm
Chow was promoted as a guest and didn't make it on the air.
The Obvious –
One of the complaints by Trojan fans is that they can't get 1540 in Orange
County, but they have the option of tuning in 830.
The Not So Obvious -
Throughout the Trojans Insiders Show, both Arbogast and Papadakis kept saying
that the show was also being heard on 830 in Orange County. Somebody at the
studio should have been aware that the Orange County conservative talk station
was not broadcasting the "feed" and had alternative call-in programming the
The Obvious – During the broadcast, Coach Ed Orgeron was
asked if Wild Bunch ll was the best line he had ever coached.
The Not So
Obvious – While Orgeron said this was by far his most talented defensive line at
USC, he never made a comparison between the Wild Bunch ll and his old lines at
Miami. Orgeron went on to say that this year's freshmen class was a very special
group of athletes and talked how bleak the depth of talent was when he first
came to USC in 1998.
The Obvious – One of the bright, young coaches on
Pete Carroll's staff is wide receiver coach Lane Kiffin, who at 28 years old is
one of the younger coaches on Carroll's staff.
The Not So Obvious – On
the Trojan radio show, receiver Mike Williams said of his coach, "Kifs not too
much older than the guys on the team. We give him a hard time. He's so educated
in the game because of his father (Tampa Bay's Monte Kiffin). We also know how
the O-line works because of Coach "Kif"."
The Obvious – The USC football
media guide is over 385 pages of information, photos, history, and facts about
the Trojans and sells for $20.00.
The Not So Obvious – If you think the
Trojan guide, once a small publication that used to fit into a writer's back
pocket, is bulging, check out the University of Texas. According to the Sporting
News, "The University of Texas football media guide weighs 4 pounds, 12.5
ounces. The awfully thick Ohio State guide, by comparison, weighs 2 pounds, 9.6
ounces. Texas had a 25,000-copy press run."
The Obvious – Friends, for
the past year, The Obvious and The Not So Obvious has greatly appreciated your
support, enthusiasm, and comments. Beginning with Auburn, we will again offer
both a game preview (Thursday) and game analysis (Sunday).
The Not So
Obvious – In order to accommodate both premium and non-premium members, it has
been fairly decided, we think, that Thursday's O/NSO game previews will remain
over the counter, and Sunday's O/NSO game analysis, beginning with Auburn, will
now appear on the premium level. Speaking of premium members , there may be
another blockbuster premium story next week that all Trojan fans will want to
read. Our lips are sealed, but pulsating.
The Obvious – With two weeks
remaining till the season opener and the annual Salute to Troy coming this
Friday, the 2003 USC football season is clearly right around the cardinal and
The Not So Obvious – What is not as clear is whether the
renaissance 2002 season is the real Return to Glory, or was it an indication
that Pete Carroll's program is still a work in progress. In a couple of weeks,
Trojan fans and a national television audience will begin to find the answer.
O/NSO - Goux Gate edition
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