Gerard Martinez |

Starting off on the same page

The word is clearly out. The Rose Bowl is so over. Forget it. It's like it almost never happened. This is a new team, Clay Helton and his four Trojans who talked for the team Tuesday all agreed after the first spring practice. Above, that's Isiah Langley in his new No. 24 checking receiver Tyler Vaughns.

Here's a suggestion for those folks at the USC Bookstore who just put that new Rose Bowl DVD on sale Tuesday. Don't hold your breath for a run on the premises from football players getting the word at Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields.

At least not for the rest of spring practice.

Star Rose Bowl game receiver Deontay Burnett has yet to watch the game. Coach Clay Helton has watched it once.

"I've watched it," Clay says. "Won't watch it again," admitting "the discipline of that is hard," of course. "Who doesn't want to see and hear people patting you on the back?"

"I've seen it once," Tay, as his teammates call him, admits of that sensational game-tying TD catch in the final minute, "when I was scrolling through twitter." That's it.

He says they'll listen to Sam just not to replays of the Rose Bowl. Even that catch that had Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler singing the USC duo's praises.

Although when he runs into people, Deontay says he knows they know who he is and what he did in that Rose Bowl with his 13 catches for 164 yards and a Rose-Bowl-record-tying three touchdowns. "But I have a lot more to prove."

"We gotta' put that behind us," Sam Darnold says of his own record-breaking Rose Bowl performance and the hype machine now in hyper-speed for the leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

"Focus on this camp, focus on this practice," is Clay's counsel for Sam, who was named the Archie Griffin MVP Award winner for his redshirt freshman season with a trip to the Columbus Touchdown Club.

Not that Sam seems to be much taken with all of this. When asked what was the most special moment after the Rose Bowl, he thought hard, couldn't think of one right away, then said it was "meeting Marcus Allen and Mark Sanchez on the field after the game" when they came up to him and said how proud they were of him.

But now it's amnesia time. "I'm not going to change," Sam says. "I'm going to continue being the same person." Although maybe a tad more vocal.

"I'm working on it," he says, But one thing that caught him by surprise, he admits. When the talk out of the NFL Combine from the GM's coaches and scouts there last week was all about him, the guy who wasn't there.

"It did kind of catch me off-guard," Sam said after saying it was both "awesome" and "cool." After all, he said, he's not even eligible this year. "Yeah, a little bit," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you. It is hard to believe."

So he's not basking in the light of all that talk. He's working on getting quieter in one way -- "My feet can be really chattery," he says, at times in the pocket. "You want to keep them quiet."

But he doesn't plan to be. Now that he's clearly this team's leader in every way, he has to increase his vocal volume.

"People are going to listen to him," Deontay says. "He's Sam Darnold."

One thing Deontay is not trying to prove: At a program where there has been an almost unbroken wide receiver succession of go-to guys from Mike Williams, Keary Colbert and Steve Smith to Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and JuJu-Smith-Schuster including Nelson Agholor who was at practice Tuesday, Tay doesn't plan to be next.

"I'm not a go-to-guy yet," he says, and may never be. "It's not my turn, it's everybody's turn. We're going to need everybody if we plan to win a national championship."

And that's clearly the plan. It's why Clay asked his team this question about 2016, despite the nine straight wins and the thrilling Rose Bowl comeback: "Was it satisfying?"

Clay answered his own question with an emphatic "No." It was not.

"Because we're here to win championships," he continued. "That's what USC is all about."

And after the slow start and losing the first two Pac-12 games, there would be no championship for that USC team.

Then he ticked off all the more than a dozen names, from Adoree' to Zach, who will not be back. What did they take with them, Clay asks. Again, he answers in a single word: "leadership."

Who will step up?   

Sam for starters. And quiet as he is, Deontay already has with his words to the other wide receivers, talented but young, that this is about them stepping up. "They're very eager."

And for Sam to step up as the vocal leader. "He's developing it pretty well," Deontay said. "He's correcting guys in the huddle."

You have to, Sam says. "Or they'll keep making the same mistake."

"Sam is great the way he does it," Clay says. "He'll pull a guy aside and communicate with him. He picks his time. That's one of the best things about Sam."

But there's one message Clay says he's been communicating to this team: "We have accomplished nothing with this team."

That Rose Bowl team and game is long gone. It's history.

It's all about now, Clay says. And it started Tuesday.

*** FOOTNOTED: Asked about the missing-from-the-roster players Matt Boermeester and Osa Masina, Clay had the same answer. First was Masina, who the LAPD decided not to press charges against along with and another ex-Trojan teammate, Don Hill, for alleged sexual assault because of insufficient evidence, Although that was not known until after practice about Masina, Clay answered for each: "There has been no change in their status," Clay said. Masina is still set to go on trial in Salt Lake City for similar charges involving the same woman. Of E.J. Price, still in school but off the team, Clay repeated: "His status is unchanged," and he promised that if any of those did change, he would be sure to let us know . . . Here is the injury situation: Totally out for spring: Toa Lobendahn (ACL), no team stuff, just snapping in non-contact work: Jonathan Lockett (hip surgery), Trevon Sidney (hip surgery), Nathan Smith (ACL) and Steven Mitchell (ACL) . . . Limited: Kenny Bigelow (knee surgery but may be out the entire spring), Porter Gustin (hand surgery, shooting for a return after Spring Break), Nico Falah (back issue, limited this week with a return after Spring Break), VIane Talamaivao (hamstring not serious) and Jacob Daniel (also a hamstring, expected back) . . . Question of the day for Sam: Did he think his position was safe this year? Well, OK now. Seemed like it was asked seriously . . . For more-play-by-play on practice, check out Tuesday's Spring Ball Day 1 Ghost Notes:

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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