Petros' Stanford review

Now is the time of the week that I enjoy extending my deepest apologies to the readers of this column for being late once again. Time management and cognitive strategies have never been my strength and, as I've always said, I'm not a linear thinker. So, please bear with me as I know this year has not been quite as entertaining but we're only halfway through the season so who knows.

Not too much to say about this one except to say that it was USC's most impressive performance to date both offensively and defensively. The Trojans seemed basically unstoppable with only two very large issues to deal with as we head into South Bend, Indiana; the quarterback situation, which took a real interesting turn on Saturday, and, of course, who is to fill the void at tight end left originally by Alex Holmes and now the ailing Dominique Byrd.

Quarterback. I'm going to save you people the inevitable Booty joke or pun. Like Booty call or I like Booty or Bootylicious or How bout some Booty or anything else involving Booty. All jokes aside, John David Booty looked comfortable, happy, commanding, smooth and all-around star like in his USC debut. Now, I know some of you are reading this and saying "My God, he was 1 for 4". Yes, he was 1 for 4 but it was a really good 1 for 4. It's the kind of 1 for 4 that makes me think "Wow, the future looks bright at USC". Now that the weight of a potential redshirt year has been lifted off John David's shoulders, he can look forward to playing a role in USC's offense now. Not next year, not in 2005, now. And that is important because with that revelation the play ends for Brandon Hance and Matt Cassel, at least for now. Both these guys have been down so long they didn't know which way was up. The coaching staff had not put the confidence in them necessary to navigate the team through the season or to fill in when Leinart was hurt. They never really had the chance other than in practice. Will we see them again? Who knows. Matt Leinart looked great against the Stanford Cardinal and he seems to really be the calming force the team needs out there game in and game out. I don't believe Leinart has had a delay of game penalty this year and he runs the offense well. I like that about him and I know the coaches do too. As has been said before and I'll say it again, Leinart gives USC its best chance to win right now at quarterback. The second best chance is Booty. However, if any of these three upperclassmen quarterbacks were that special do you think Booty's redshirt year would ever have been a question? I'm not sure but I would be remiss if I didn't point out what we all already now. Booty is the anointed starting quarterback at USC in 2004 and if he's going to compete for that position in the spring he needs to play now to get his feet wet. Maybe it was a little late in this season, maybe it was a little late in this game, but Booty needs his shot. He got it and looked graceful. I know that Carroll was happy with him after the game and now the Trojans can move forward with a clear cut #1 and #2 signal-caller. Football is not always fair and balanced (like Fox News), sometimes guys don't get a fair shot and sometimes a guys confidence can be an issue. I'm not sure what happened between Hance and Cassel and Leinart in the spring and fall but Leinart has certainly taken advantage of his opportunity and Booty is the new blood that everybody wants to see. That's how it is at a bit-time university like it or not.

Tight end. The tight end situation is very unfortunate for Dominique Byrd in particular who just seemed to be hitting his stride. The guy was fast, the guy was cutting up and down the field, the guy has confidence, he has a winning smile and sort of a cool touchdown celebration. Dominique is not the kind of guy that seems to be able to lose weight very quickly. It will be important throughout this injury and surgery and whatever he has to go through coming up. He needs to keep the weight down to stay as light as possible on that ligament in his knee and we hope to see him next year. To fill the void right now the Trojans have Gregg Guenther, leaper and basketball star, it doesn't exactly speak volumes for the speed factor at tight end but Guenther does have experience after rotating every third play this year. Behind Guenther there is Nick Vanderboom, a back-up quarterback from last year. Now, I remember when John Fox tried his luck at tight end after moving from the back-up quarterback position. He was not very physical and not a very good blocker and he wasn't very fast either. Now I love John Fox, especially for what he did in the late part of 1999, but he wasn't that good of a tight end. I'm not sure Vanderboom is either, we'll have to wait and see. Kurt Katnik, Norm's little brother and a member of the prestigious Katnik family, is a tight end the Trojans could call on. Because he's Norm's brother and an ex-offensive lineman himself I would expect Kurt to be very adept at handling the blocking duties of tight end. That could help, especially in double tight end situations but can he catch the rock? That remains to be seen. A few suggestions out of my own small bank of knowledge to come in and help rescue the Trojans. Matt Cassel played the position last year and caught a ball and received a handoff on an end around. He's physical, fast and can catch the rock. He might have the same problem Fox and Vanderboom have with the blocking duties but it's not like Cassel is doing anything else right now and he's a great competitor who would love to contribute to the team's success. Maybe he deserves a look. Besides, the pride of the San Fernando Valley Matt Cassel does not belong on the bench. I'd love to see him doing something. Dallas Sartz had received some looks at tight end during camp but has recently been at linebacker and has shown a lot of promise at safety. Now I know Dallas is a defender primarily but what would be wrong with him creeping over to the offensive side of the ball and taking a few plays over there? I know it's a big workload but here's a guy who brings the mentality you need to block and who is tough enough to catch the ball up the seam. He's young enough and smart enough to get it going on both sides of the ball right now. The Trojans don't depend on him to start defensively, maybe he can help them out in a few situations. Those are just a few suggestions, I'm not saying anything.

A few things the Trojans must look out for are Matt Grootegoeds back ankle. This has become a concern for Trojan fans and why not. Matt Grootegoed is USC's best football player pound for pound. I think it's going to take a lot more than a popping ankle to keep Matt off the field in South Bend. Winston Justice should be back this week but in his absence John Drake has been nothing short of dominant, at least from what I've seen of him. He carries 350 pounds better than I've seen most 350 pounders carry anything. He's burying people at the line of scrimmage and has been a big surprise for the Trojans. Next year when Jacob Rogers leaves Drake could fill nicely into that left tackle spot and that's pretty cool. Chauncey Washington is supposed to be 100% but did not see action against Stanford, maybe it's time to give Chauncey a little bit of separation between Reggie and LenDale by redshirting him. That way you don't have all these guys clustered together and Chauncey can come back next year ready to go with some game experience under his belt. Just a suggestion, I'm not saying anything. It was yet another 100 yard performance from my favorite USC tailback LenDale White. I know he's the popular choice right now but I don't mind patting myself on the back a little bit by saying I knew LenDale was going to be a good one. It's very hard for me to believe that he's only a freshman with the patience he shows at the line of scrimmage and his natural ability to pick holes and the aggressiveness he shows once he does pick a hole is something you just don't see in young backs.

There's not too much to say about the Trojans going to play in South Bend other than this is the most exciting week for a USC football player and it only comes once every two years. The tradition involved in this game, the excitement of playing in the church of college football in South Bend is sometimes overwhelming for these players and it's something they will remember forever. I know that I do. I remember playing there in 1997 and just taking the trip as an injured player in 1999. Pete Carroll has yet to win at South Bend and we all know it would be a great thing for him and the USC program to go out there and get a win with USC enjoying the national success they are right now. Notre Dame looks a little bit better coming off a win on the road against a ranked team in Pittsburgh but the Trojans have all the tools to win this one. They can stop the Irish run game and they can pound the Irish defense. It should be a great physical match-up in a great stadium against a great football program and I can't wait to be there to see it. My suggestion for Irish music to listen to during the week goes as follow; Drop kick Murphy's, a contemporary and angry Irish band, the Pogues, possibly the greatest Irish band of all time from the 80's, Shane McGowan, a drunken shining light as far as Irish singing goes, Van Morrison, who can deny the greatness of one of the 20th centuries greatest singer songwriter, the Chieftains, if tradition is your thing then the Chieftains are right up your alley (I suggest the Long Black Veil). Now that you know where your inspiration should come from, strap it up because there's nothing like going to Notre Dame. Fight On and peace out.


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