USA Today Sports

Just Sayin' . . . Presidents Day Edition

Turns out you don't have to wait for spring football to get back into the swing of things. You just never know. Might even happen on a Sunday out of the -- excuse the expression -- "blue."

Sure, this USC program got its recruiting game going a little late this past year, the critics said, just like the season went but yeah, it did kinda', sorta' get there by Signing Day.

But could they get things going a little earlier this time around? And with some more stars-guys? Oh, and how about starting with a position of real need -- linebackers?

Done, done and done. Asked and answered. We're Just Sayin'.

*** As much fun as it was for USC fans to read what Bishop Gorman's Palaie Gaoteote had to say in his classy statement about why he picked the Trojans, how much his family had been USC fans themselves for how long and how "it just felt right in my heart" for the nation's best outside linebacker to become a Trojan, we'd say that equally encouraging is the list of schools that didn't get the nod -- Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU and UCLA to name just a few of them . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But not any more encouraging than the fact that with just its first six commitments -- two five-star and four four-star guys (including three linebackers), USC is No. 2 on Scout's early team recruiting rankings behind a Penn State program with 11 commits -- and with a star average of 4.33, way ahead of everybody . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Hmmm, Penn State and USC 1-2? Maybe that thrilling Rose Bowl game really is have some residual effects for both teams . . . Just Sayin'. 

*** Also encouraging is the way USC, with Bubba Bolden and now Palaie in back-to-back classes, may be turning Bishop Gorman's No. 1 program in the nation into a Serra/Mater Dei/Long Beach Poly-like pipeline school . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Welcome to the Pac-12, Nevada . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The other plus from Palaie's recruiting is the way it reinforces Clay Helton & Co's commitment to making every part of the territory west of the Rockies a "local" recruiting area. If Alabama can win multiple national titles with virtual all-star teams with players from every SEC state, plus a selection of national recruits, maybe USC can do the same by dominating the West -- from Hawai'i and the South Pacific through Colorado . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But it's not all about recruiting, it's also about rehabbing. Toa Lobendahn was at the USC-UCLA basketball game Saturday and should be fully cleared right after spring ball from his ACL surgery and will be doing snapping until then to get back in the swing of things. In the high 290's now, a larger-framed Toa looks like he'll be able to play any O-line position where USC needs him . . . Just Sayin'. 

*** But the thing that Toa seems most impressed with heading into 2017 is the talent level of the freshman D-linemen who may be able to play right away. Marlon Tuipulotu is already here and is showing what kind of athlete he is with the likes of Jay Tufele and Jacob Lichtenstein both with the talent to be a factor, and as freshmen . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But football isn't the only game in town. USC's women's lacrosse team, ranked No. 4 with a win over No. 9 Northwestern over the weekend after just a couple of years in existence, reminds us how quickly a USC softball team could become nationally dominant -- if only USC would take the plunge. Might be time for Lynn Swann to make his bones outside of football and figure out how to get this done . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Although when we all think of a sport outside of football around here, we look to a USC basketball program that seems to be making some progress here and there only to get slapped back into place when it plays somebody with talent and who's ready to play as happened in Saturday's 32-point UCLA laugher in Westwood ending USC's four-game win streak with a 31-9 dunk-a-thon exclamation point to finish . . . Just Sayin'

*** If that finish didn't remind you of the NBA All-Star Game, it should have although this was different. The USC players were supposed to be trying to play defense even if the results looked the same once the Trojans threw in the towel . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The good news is that there were very few Trojans fans in the 13,569 in sold-out Pauley Pavilion. Good thing not many took our advice to get there for this game. We apologize to those who did. Rooting for the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters isn't anyone's idea of Saturday night fun . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But if the game was bad, the post-game might have been worse. One after another, the Trojans we talked to said that they had "played hard." No they hadn't. Not even close. What's worse, they may actually believe that. Which tells us this team really doesn't get it, doesn't understand what "playing hard" really means . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And now the NBA watch is on for the likes of USC's Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright. Stay for their junior years and USC, no matter what, gets better next season while UCLA loses its top two at least. But a case will be made for the USC pair that even if they're nowhere near ready to play in the NBA, which of course they're not, wouldn't it be better for them to learn how to do that full-time while getting paid and not having to go to class? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So how do you keep them? You make the case that staying and improving at USC will be better for their NBA careers -- not to mention leaving a college legacy -- than riding the pine in the pros. Although those two will get drafted and make a roster unlike what happened last year with Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, who left anyway with only a prayer of getting drafted . . . Just Sayin'.    

*** USC lost a great one with the death Thursday of former running backs coach John Jackson, who tutored the likes of Heisman Trophy winners Charles White and Marcus Allen and fathered another USC great, his son John, a USC Academic All-American, baseball and football player, NFL player and now analyst on USC radio broadcasts and Fox Sports announcer. But what we'll most miss are those chances to talk to the former USC assistant to John Robinson about one of the most interesting careers ever -- from his native Brooklyn to Marine Corps captain, from coaching football at the famed Boys High in Brooklyn to the Ivy League at Dartmouth to the Big Ten at Illinois to USC for a 1978 national championship and then as director of USC alum Jerry Buss' California Sports and Forum Boxing program, developer of Prime Sports cable and the owner/manager of the Culver City Ice Arena. What a joy it was to get John to talk about all the things he'd done and people he'd gotten to know along the way. A special man who came USC's way and remains with us through his son and daughter, Tracie, who also works for USC . . . Just Sayin'.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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