O/NSO - Pancake edition

The University of Southern California Trojans head into their second week of practice in preparation for their 2004 opener against Virginia Tech but not before completing a first week of anticipation and accomplishment, highlighted by a weekend of veteran dominance and freshmen baptisms.

The Obvious - The University of Southern California Trojans head into their second week of practice in preparation for their 2004 opener against Virginia Tech but not before completing a first week of anticipation and accomplishment, highlighted by a weekend of veteran dominance and freshmen baptisms.

The Not So Obvious – Nearly one year ago, Pete Carroll and his merry band of cardinal and gold gridiron teachers unleashed San Diego freshman tailback Reggie Bush, and that first "hitting" practice found players and spectators holding on for dear life as Bush displayed a dizzying array of cuts and slashes that had the veteran players playing Blind man's Bluff.

The Obvious – When you watch junior quarterback Matt Leinart, the super trio of returning young tailbacks, the stockpile of young receivers, the plethora of defensive linemen, and the impressive array of linebacking talent, you again understand justification of the highest of national ranking.

The Not So Obvious – However, when you look around practice this past week and see the integration of the veterans and the galaxy of freshmen talent, one truly understands that barring any unforeseen coaching changes, the USC Trojans are truly headed in the direction of the national dominance seen nearly a generation ago.

The Obvious – With the first week of practice under their belt, the Trojans remain the near consensus number one team in the nation.

The Not So Obvious – One thing is clear; this team has the "look" of a number one team and is currently practicing and being coached with that high level intensity. However, don't kid yourself. As good as the offensive looks, the return of Mike Williams, something we may find out some point this week, puts Norm Chow's offense under the overused term of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Williams displayed many times this weekend why he may very well be the best player in America. Troy will survive without him, but with him, well, bring out the "Katie, bar the door" cliches.

The Obvious – There was no more marked man by the "veteranos" than the Trojans' heralded freshman center Jeff Byers, who is being called "Gatorade" by his new teammates for his national award from that corporation.

The Not So Obvious – Byers set records for pancake blocks at Loveland High School in Colorado, but USC football is no prep IHOP. Byers raised eyebrows during the weekend by holding his own against All-American nose guard candidate Mike Patterson and highly charged redshirt freshman Sedrick Ellis.

The Obvious –Jeff Byers' only surprising challenge has been the now well publicized center snaps to quarterback Matt Leinart and company.

The Not So Obvious - After Sunday's first full pads practice, Byers received snapping lessons from none other than quarterback Matt Leinart. Byers snapping issues appeared to be caused by the increased speed to snap the ball and block his man. Trojan fans, don't lose sleep on this one. Each day Byers has gotten better and better. You try blocking Mike Patterson coming out of high school and you see if you can board the train as it's leaving the station.

The Obvious – While Byers has gotten much of the freshmen attention, Trojan fans will someday be hearing the name Lawrence Miles, the 6-3, 270-pounder from Indio, best known as the date capital of California.

The Not So Obvious – During one session of line confrontation between Coach Ed Orgeron's defense and Coach Tim Davis' offensive line, Lawrence Miles went up against the heralded Byers and drove the Colorado native ten yards backwards. Lawrence Miles, remember the name in the future.

The Obvious – One of the more interesting topics of discussion over the weekend was which Trojan coach, Oregeron or Davis, would lose his voice first.

The Not So Obvious – After a near full week of intense motivation, offensive line coach Tim Davis is starting to sound more like Marlon Brando's Godfather. Coach "O", he of the non-stop motor, has withstood all coaching vocal challengers and has the vocal cord strength of 10,000 lions.

The Obvious – Certainly the most visible of the freshmen performers over the weekend was Dwayne "Ocho" Jarrett, the 6-5 tower of power from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The Not So Obvious – In many way, watching Jarrett was like closing your eyes and watching Mike Williams as a freshman. Forget about the body extended catches and the route maturity as a receiver that drew applause from spectators. Equally impressive is the little known fact that Jarrett is the youngest player on the 2004 Trojans' roster. The New Jersey native will be just 17 years old when he walks into FedEx Field against the Hokies at the end of August.

The Obvious – There was no more heralded freshman in the country last year before camp started than quarterback John David Booty, the Louisiana throwing legend.

The Not So Obvious – While he continues to get better and will eventually make his mark, the John David Booty lesson to all incoming freshmen is that no position is a given and patience is the order of the day. However on Sunday, Booty served noticed that he is a future force by tossing a couple of nice touchdown passes to Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. It seems like year's ago that Booty was the rage of high school football.

The Obvious – The Trojans are looking for back-to-back national championships.
The Not So Obvious – Respected Orange County columnist Steve Bisheff calls the Trojans' quest a possible "Re-Pete." Nobody is working harder than "Re-Pete" Carroll and his staff, and Carroll took matters into his own hands by playing some quarterback Sunday morning and tossing a perfect Z-Corner to freshman Jarrett. Was it Carroll that made Jarrett look good or vice-versa?

The Obvious – There is a general feeling that given the fact that John David Booty appears headed to the Redshirt Highway, senior citizen Matt Cassel will become number two bypassing incumbent Brandon Hance.

The Not So Obvious – If ever a player epitomized the "Fight On" spirit, it has to be Cassel. Given up for dead on the depth charts, the former Chatsworth hummer is looking more and more like the second coming of John Fox, the Trojans' comeback kid of yesteryear. Ask Bruin fans about John Fox, who like Cassel, was once switched to tight end only to return his senior year to lead Troy over the Westwooders.

The Obvious – Speaking of tight ends, the Trojans are hopeful that Greg Guenther has a change of mind and comes out of retirement.

The Not So Obvious – Got to give the boys in the Sports Information Department some credit. They still have Guenther in the media guide along with an action photo. Old No. 44 would sure look attractive at this point in practice.

The Obvious – With his parents looking on in their traditional front sideline lawnchairs, Shaun Cody threw a scare into everybody on Sunday when he went down with an apparent injury.

The Not So Obvious – Although Cody returned to action later, veteran Trojan supporter Brian Kennedy, he of the practice field named after, said, "The only thing that scares me about this year's team is injury." During last year's national championship run, the Trojans managed to avoid any real deep debilitating injuries to hinder their assult.

The Obvious – One of the great USC running backs of the past was griddy Clarence Davis, who was the forgotten Trojans' tailback of lore because he followed O.J. Simpson and preceded Anthony Davis.

The Not So Obvious – It ‘s worth reminding Trojan fans that while Reggie Bush and LenDale White bring special talents to the cardinal and gold backfield, Hershel Dennis may be the Clarence Davis of this trio. Dennis continues to be the "Jack of all Trades" type of back and is as dangerous in his own way as the other two younger prodigies.

The Obvious – For those that had major indigestion over quarterback Matt Leinart's throwing arm, let's say you will be relieved to know that the former Mater Dei product was radar over the weekend and there were smiles all around.

The Not So Obvious – Not to worry. So accurate and strong was the throwing of www.MattLeinart.com this weekend that observers were actually stunned when "Lefty" overthrew a wide-open Steve Smith on Sunday.

The Obvious – For those who attended the WeAreSC recruiting dinner last spring, the video of safety Scott Ware and his lethal hitting left an indelible mark on one's Trojan brain.

The Not So Obvious – Over the weekend, Ware experienced the best and worst of his Trojan football indoctrination. Prior to one particular play during Saturday's session, our own Garry P. commented he was hoping to see the recruiting dinner video come to life. On cue, Ware came up on the next play and really ‘greeted" a Trojan ballcarrier, but on Sunday, Ware learned that trying to tackle Reggie Bush is like trying to tackle with double vision. The truth, however, is that Bush simply knocked Ware backwards after exploding off left tackle. Mr. Ware, welcome to Trojan football.

The Obvious – One of the greatest offensive linemen in Trojan history is former offensive guard Brad Budde, 1979 Lombardi Award winner.

The Not So Obvious – There were more than a few double takes when Budde was spotted on Saturday afternoon observing the evolving Trojan offensive line. Budde, still looking like he could "pull" on 28-Pitch, came ready to "complete" wearing his red headband with the USC logo.

The Obvious – One player missing this season is walk-on defender Kyle Mathews, son of former Trojan linebacker great Clay Mathews.

The Not So Obvious – For the friends of the Mathews' fan club, Clay's son, Clay Jr., is a new walk-on and wears No. 47. For those that have followed Junior Mathews, they are impressed on how this late bloomer has gained weight and continues to develop. Knowing the current success of walk-ons like linebacker Collin Ashton, this story is one we should continue to follow.

The Obvious – One of the neat things about viewing practice, is the competition between the veterans and freshmen on the offensive and defensive lines.

The Not So Obvious – One of the more impressive physical specimens is Compton Dominquez offensive lineman Chilo Rachal (6-6, 310). For Rachal, who was a contributing member of the famed Dominquez basketball team under Coach Russell Otis, it was a weekend of learning, especially Saturday when he was completely "pancaked" by gregarious by sophomore offensive guard Fred Matua. To his credit, Rachal came right back later with some punishment of his own during some pass blocking drills.

The Obvious – One of the touching stories as fall practice began was the awarding of a scholarship to walk-on linebacker Collin Ashton from Mission Viejo.

The Not So Obvious – It would have made Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson and staff smile around noon on Sunday when the Trojans' inside linebackers on one series were Ashton and Saddleback College transfer Ryan Powdrell, another former Mission Viejo player of note.

The Obvious – Speaking of teammates, there has been quite a battle of former Tustin Tillers as defensive end Chris Barrett and offensive tackle Sam Baker have done some physical re-introductions.

The Not So Obvious – During an early one-on-one line competition this past weekend, Baker turned Barrett right on his numbers, but the former tight end returned the favor by overwhelming Baker around the edge.

The Obvious – The Trojans continue to look for ways to fill the void to injured tight end Dominique Bryd.

The Not So Obvious – Keep any eye, my friends, on freshman Dale Thompson. The kid seems to catch everything in his area. Not flashy, Thompson doesn't need to be to help. Some have even said he could make any excellent offensive lineman with time. Don't count on it at this point.

The Obvious – The Sporting News has again published its high school magazine devoted to this year's national and regional blue chippers.

The Not So Obvious – In past issues, the Sporting News had teamed with Student Sports, but this year's edition is with a company called School Sports. Those connected with Student Sports say they will have their own high school and blue chip preview out possibly this week.

The Obvious – In the Sporting News high school edition, there is a fine article about Pete Carroll and staff's relentless recruiting success.

The Not So Obvious – In the article, Trojan defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron believes the recruitment of defensive lineman Shaun Cody was the biggest signing of the class of 2001. While there's no denying Cody was a major part of the Trojans' return to glory, many Trojan insiders believe the real beginning took place earlier with the signing of Los Alamitos defensive tackle Bernard Riley, who now helps run a fitness center in his hometown and was considered a Bruin "lock" at the time.

The Obvious – The Sporting News lists eight Californians in their Hot 100.

The Not So Obvious – Lakewood linebacker Luther Brown (6-2, 230) is the highest Californian ranked at No. 4 behind top-ranked Derrick Williams (6-1, 194), a Trojan recruit and athlete coverboy from Greenbelt, Md. Other Golden Staters include Long Beach Poly WR DeSean Jackson (#46), Mission Viejo and Trojan verbal QB Mark Sanchez (#51), Sacramento Grant DB Syd'Quan Thompson (#56), North Hollywood RB Marlon Lucky (#58), Mission Viejo OT Kevin Bemoll (#64), Rancho Cucamonga DL Averell Spicer (#65), and Dorsey WR David Gettis (#100).

The Obvious – A number of national Trojan recruits received high praise in the Hot 100.

The Not So Obvious – Arizona's Ekom Udofia was listed as the top defensive lineman in the country, Florida receiver Fred Rouse was top receiver, and Lakewood's Luther Brown at No. 4 was obviously the nation's top linebacker. Of the Top 25 juniors, the only California representative to crack the list was Norco RB Toby Gerhart

The Obvious – This year's Trojans are ranked number one in the country and are led by a number of stars from powerhouse national programs such as Santa Ana Mater Dei (Matt Leinart and Matt Grootegoed), Long Beach Poly (Hershel Dennis, Darnell Bing, and Manuel Wright), and Los Alamitos (Mike Patterson).

The Not So Obvious – Veteran national prep writer Dave Krider return to edit and write the team rankings for the Sporting News High School Football magazine. Krider, who was the original ranker of teams for USA Today, lists Concord De La Salle No. 2 in the country behind surprise leader Southlake Carroll, Texas. Southland teams listed by Krider in his national Top 50 include Los Alamitos (#12), Mission Viejo (#13), and Long Beach Poly (#21),

The Obvious – One Trojan trying to find a spot is redshirt junior defensive back John Walker.

The Not So Obvious – Walker certainly caught the attention of freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett on Saturday when Walker whacked Jarrett with a "de-cleater" that sent up the player volume a notch.

The Obvious – Look for a late rush of Trojan ticket requests for the opener with Virginia Tech.

The Not So Obvious – There are a couple of price ranges for tickets, but the BCA folks drew the attention of the O/NSO for including a $5 charge for parking. Parking is included in your ticket. Beautiful, this will really make sense for all those Trojan fans paying for bus and DC Metro transportation. By the time all the additional charges are applied to each ticket besides parking, it's almost as ridiculous as hotel taxes and rental taxes in Orlando.

The Obvious – In this new age of words, hospitals no longer refer to pain as pain, but they speak of "discomfort." In business, you are no longer fired; the company went in another "direction."

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans came up with a new one that should take hold. Trojan players are not academically ineligible; they take a "leave of absence."

The Obvious – Much of Sunday's attention was again focused on monster offensive tackle Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui.

The Not So Obvious - As if his physical presence isn't awesome enough, the "youngster" lets out a loud primal scream when the mood fits him. Trojan fans are going to love this kid. He could become college football's version of Shaq. However, as imposing as this mighty Tongan warrior has been, he found that fellow Pacific Islander Travis Tofi, the rapidly improving defensive lineman from Aoa, American Samoa, was a tough coconut to block during Sunday's 11-on-11 action. Tofi showcased his speed and quickness to Lutui in no uncertain terms.

The Obvious – When legendary offensive coordinator Norm Chow joined Pete Carroll's staff, he cautioned the media that the only reason he was at SC was the fact that "the other guys" were unsuccessful and if his heralded offensive attack sputtered, the same fate would await him.

The Not So Obvious - Two Pac-10 championships and one national title and Heisman Trophy winner later, Chow could be seen Sunday happy as a lark. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a Heisman quarterback candidate Leinart in front of him, a fabled Louisiana sophomore Booty bomber to his right, California freshman athletic mystique Rocky Hinds to the left, and probable Mission Viejo prep All-America and Trojan verbal Mark Sanchez behind him. For Norm Chow, Trojan life is good.

The Obvious – The have begun the media blitz to promote quarterback Matt Leinart for quarterback by giving him his own web blog.

The Not So Obvious – In last week's Sporting News, the spicy Caught on the Fly column made reference to Leinart's Internet diary. With a headline that read " Go to www.BruinsBogDown.com," TSN said, "USC Heisman candidate Matt Leinart is writing a web log that gives Trojan followers a peek into his thoughts, on and off the field. The site, which can be found at www.MattLeinartBlog.com, carries the title, "First and 11." Oh, and if these kinds of college football musings on the Internet are your thing, coming soon is an online journal written by UCLA's offensive players, tentatively called, "Second and 16."

The Obvious – So now the pads are part of the practice equation and the Trojans now begin the "normal" two-a-days under the new NCAA rules. Baring any injury or off-the-field encounter, Trojan fans can best monitor their team by watching the depth chart on a daily basis as the freshmen make their bid for playing time and the veterans try to teach the young bucks a thing or two while still preparing for Virginia Tech.

The Not So Obvious – The goal for the vets is to get ready for Hokies and for the newcomers try to make sure they've got a seat on the team's Delta charter bound for Baltimore on August 26th. For veterans, freshmen, or walk-ons, watching the game on ESPN just doesn't cut it, especially if you've already tasted the fruits of cardinal and gold victory in the big stadium.

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