O/NSO - Countdown Edition

If the daily routine of August football practice is a cardinal and gold river, the top-ranked USC Trojan football team can hear the waterfall of the 2004 season not too far down the road with the BCA Football Classic against Virginia Tech less than two weeks away.

The Obvious – If the daily routine of August football practice is a cardinal and gold river, the top-ranked USC Trojan football team can hear the waterfall of the 2004 season not too far down the road with the BCA Football Classic against Virginia Tech less than two weeks away.

The Not So Obvious –With Sunday night's rehearsal in the Coliseum and Thursday's upcoming probable final scrimmage, position experiments, depth chart switches, injuries, and eligibility continue to keep Trojan fans occupied as practice days begin to dwindle.

The Obvious – Not long this past Saturday's scrimmage, The Associated Press poll named the Trojans number one.

The Not So Obvious – Before Sunday's announcement, there were indications earlier in the week that the Trojans would be ranked No. 1 by the wire service. In his national Associated Press preview of the 2004 season, the AP's Ralph Russo said, " After years of underachieving, the Trojans finished No. 1 in the Associated Press poll last year. Carroll's infectious enthusiasm has awakened the dormant giant and made USC the place to be for top college football players. The Trojans followed up their national title with the best recruiting class in the country and are being talked about as the new Miami." Russo added, " Despite losing four All-Americans, the Trojans start the season the top-ranked team in the country."

The Obvious – Two of the local voters in the AP national poll are Todd Harmonson of the Orange County Register and Scott Wolf of the Daily News.

The Not So Obvious – In "Todd's Take" in Sunday's Register, the scribe had Oklahoma No. 1 with the Trojans No. 2, and he is said to prefer the Sooners at this point based on the experience of their offensive line, the return of Heisman quarterback Jason White, and the Trojans' inexperienced wide receivers. Not bad logic at all, considering the inexperience at this point of the Trojans' offensive line and possible loss of Mike Williams. As for Wolf, sources say he voted for the Trojans No. 1, a mild shock considering the former St. Paul High and USC grad usually is very cautious when it comes to the hyping the Trojans.

The Obvious – The BCA Classic will be televised live nationally by ESPN (4:45 PST).

The Not So Obvious – You know we're getting close to the season opener when ESPN play-by-play Ron Franklin arrived for Friday's morning practice and was later joined for the afternoon session by color commentator and former Pitt coach Mike Gottfried. Both spent a great deal of time preparing for their BCA Classic telecast by watching the Trojan quarterbacks and later returned for Saturday's scrimmage assisted by Trojan SID Tim Tessalone and assistant Chris Huston.

The Obvious – Conversations between scrimmage action on Saturday centered on fans discussing their travel plans and ticket options for the opener in the District of Columbia.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans seem to have a handle on the plane reservations and tours, but a number were still looking for tickets. The O/NSO decided to make a quick run to the athletic ticket office and was told all tickets for the BCA Classic were gone and none were expected to go on sale. Ticket "agencies" such as Stubhub and Ebay had a wide range of prices from $60 in the Washington Monument section to $400 for prime FedEx Field club seats with FedEx Field restaurant privileges.

The Obvious – Saturday's scrimmage had a nice turnout for the now consensus No. 1 team in the land.

The Not So Obvious – If you were looking to have your "socks knocked off" by the Trojans' performance, it didn't turn out that way. If the scrimmage was a Baskin Robbins ice cream scoop, it would certainly be very plain vanilla. The stars that didn't participate due to various ailments equalized the participating scrimmage stars. For every Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Dwayne Jarrett moment, there was the non-participating presence of tight end Alex Holmes, strong safety Darnell Bing, and defensive tackle Shaun Cody among others.

The Obvious – The Trojans are definitely reaching the point, as the weekend's scrimmage provided evidence, that they have reached the dead days of practice.

The Not So Obvious – There is some first-game concern now that penalties, miscues, dropped passes, and perhaps quarterback Matt Leinart's tendinitis may make the Trojans a vulnerable club against Coach Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech Hokies. Before Trojan fans break into a full sweat, word from Blacksburg is that Va-Tech's scrimmage didn't exactly wow Hokie fans either.

The Obvious – The enthusiastic Trojan coaching staff tried to treat Saturday's scrimmage as close to a regular game as they could.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan coaches Norm Chow and Lane Kiffin among others had their headsets on high above Dedeaux Field to simulate a real game with Pete Carroll wearing his communication earphones down on the field.

The Obvious – One of the harder Saturday hits of the day belonged to redshirt freshman nose tackle Sedrick Ellis who slammed elusive tailback Desmond Reed to the turf.

The Not So Obvious – One who would know what that type of hit feels like, former Trojan All-America quarterback and radio analyst Paul McDonald cringed at Sir Sedrick's hit on Reed and said, "Ouch!"

The Obvious – With wide receiver Mike Williams awaiting the final verdict from the NCAA, Trojan eyes have turned to Chino redshirt sophomore Chris McFoy and William Buchanon, the redshirt junior from Oceanside, and Greig Carlson, the possession receiver from Pacific Palisades High.

The Not So Obvious – As you watched McFoy, you see a kid that could become an important element should Big Mike not return. As for Buchanon, during the scrimmage you came to the conclusion that the son of former Green Bay Packer and San Diego Charger William Sr. could also be a key member of the receiving corp. There are times when Buchanon looks like a real factor and other times when he has a hard time convincing the ball to stay in his clutches. The sleeper of the group is Carlson, who gets the vote here for a possession receiver who rarely drops the ball.

The Obvious – During Saturday's scrimmage, Trojan tailback Reggie Bush showcased again why it's almost impossible to tackle No. 5 one-on-one.

The Not So Obvious – On one particular Bush run, Roadrunner Reggie put the start-stop-start slick on defensive back Justin Wyatt. One of the defensive coaches up top on Dedeaux Field showed no mercy and screamed, "Make a tackle, Wyatt!" Not so easy, Coach. Speed, speed, speed. Later in the scrimmage, Wyatt had a nice interception of a Matt Leinart pass.

The Obvious – Tailback Hershel Dennis had a short second half touchdown run as the first unit line caved in the defensive front.

The Not So Obvious – The hole was created by soon-to-be Trojan legend Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui, who completely pancaked defensive tackle Manuel Wright. By the time Lutui had "finished" his block, the powerful Wright was on his back looking straight up into the noontime sun.

The Obvious – One offensive star that did not play was tight end Alex Holmes, who looks to be recovering nicely from his calf injury.

The Not So Obvious – Of course, Holmes was still helping and teaching the other healthy young tight ends on various nuances of the position. With the tight end spot turning dangerously thin with experience, walk-on Nick Vanderboom gets the vote here as candidate for action in Landover. Vanderboom, the former Minnesota Breck School quarterback, has shown fine hands for Norm Chow's passing attack. For the record, freshmen Dale Thompson had his moments as did converted linebacker Eugene Germany.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart and freshman wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett are roommates.

The Not So Obvious – Even during standard warm-ups, Jarrett stands next to Leinart and receives passes from the other quarterback and hands the ball to Leinart. One never knows what will happen once Jarrett is on national television and in front of 80,000 fans at FedEx Field, but he is certainly a player whose hype is well warranted through acrobatic catches in August practices. The big intrigue is will he be one of the starters on the night of August 28th.

The Obvious – One few blue chippers attending practice this week to perhaps watch his future college was Mission Viejo quarterback Mark Sanchez, who verbaled not long ago to the Trojans but has been the focus of Internet rumors.

The Not So Obvious – Yes, Sanchez was there roaming the Trojan sidelines during Saturday's scrimmage and, yes, he was wearing a cardinal T-shirt and smiling . Sweet dreams Internet recruiting rumors.

The Obvious – The man with perhaps the toughest job in summer camp is clipboard-in-hand Greg Bukowski who stands at the entrance at Goux Gate and gives approval or rejection for those media, fans, and coaches who wish to enter the normally closed Trojan practices.

The Not So Obvious –Officially listed as the Trojans' recruiting and operations assistant, Bukowski should have public relations added to his title, for he is generally extremely polite and courteous despite the pleas of more than a few to gain entrance into the enchanted world of Trojan football.

The Obvious – The Trojans held a scrimmage last Tuesday before some important Trojan supporters.

The Not So Obvious – That closed scrimmage was one of the milder scrimmages in recent memory. For many lucky observers, the scrimmage was very antiseptic and appeared to lack the pop and fire of the first day in pads.

The Obvious – The late Marv Goux, the ultimate defensive line coach and recruiter, had a number of coaching phrases that have become Trojan lore, and no one appreciated the late USC legend more than current defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.

The Not So Obvious – Before last Tuesday's scrimmage, Orgeron had his group testing Coach Tim Davis' offensive stalwarts. As the intensity increased as it usually does when these two groups bring their macho together, using one of Goux's favorite lines, Orgeron screamed, "Let's go baby, big man on big man." It was no coincidence.

The Obvious – There is nothing better to get your Trojan blood pumping than hearing Art Bartner's band playing Fanfare and Fight On on Dedeaux Field.

The Not So Obvious – As the Trojans were getting ready for Tuesday's scrimmage, a small group of Bartner's brigade serenaded the VIP supporters viewing from the top of Dedeaux Field with Fanfare and Fight On. Needless to say, the pre-game drills of Carroll's boys increased somewhat noticeably.

The Obvious – All-America defensive line candidate Shaun Cody has recently returned to more reps at defensive tackle.

The Not So Obvious - Moved to end in the spring, part of Cody's move was due to the surging presence of sophomore Manuel Wright, who had some big moments in the Rose Bowl against Michigan. However, the recent return to tackle by Cody and the apparent demotion by Wright leaves an unanswered question. Is this double switch a result of inconsistent play on Wright's part or is redshirt freshman defensive end Lawrence Jackson of Inglewood playing himself into a starting role? Perhaps it is a little of both.

The Obvious - The Trojans continue to have junior Greig Carlson returning punts.

The Not So Obvious – While Carlson reminds nobody of Curtis Conway on his returns, he has the hands of Lynn Swann and Carroll's "All about the Ball" philosophy. In other words, the kid rarely drops a punt and he eliminates potential turnovers.

The Obvious – All-America punter Tom "The Leg" Malone, considered by most experts the nation's best, is the type of weapon that most top-ranked teams possess.

The Not So Obvious – During special teams practice, special teams assistant coach Dennis Slutak has Malone and his fellow punters catching snaps from a "pitching machine" type of device. "Nolan Ryan" snaps it back with authority and Trojan punters must be alert or be ready for cosmetic surgery.

The Obvious – Twice in the past week, stellar senior defensive tackle Shaun Cody has drawn gasps from those in attendance when he went out with apparent scrimmage injuries.

The Not So Obvious – Asked if he gets nervous watching his son come off the practice field dinged up, Mike Cody said, "No, not really, it's just part of the game." Spoken like a true father. Of course Mrs. Cody was unavailable for comment.

The Obvious - The Daily News' Scott "Sherlock:" Wolf once again had Trojan fans on spins and needles with his " investigative scoop" that incoming freshman receiver Derrick Jones of Long Beach Poly, might be declared ineligible due to challenged test scores.

The Not So Obvious – It would be a shame for Jones if this comes to pass because the former Poly star was a bright light during Tuesday's scrimmage including a 19-yard touchdown from vagabond quarterback Brandon Hance. Jones, adjusting to the demands and discipline of playing for the preseason number one team in the nation, flashed his reputed talents drawing applause from spectators on hand.

The Obvious – USC football lost a local icon and friend last week when Robert Bootzin died at the alleged age of 89.

The Not So Obvious – Better known in SoCal as Gypsy Boots, this health promoting Bohemian, was the counterculture to the late Trojan conservative superfan Giles Pellerin. Dressed in a bizarre yet entertaining fashion, Gypsy was a favorite of television directors whenever a "shot" of the Southern California "scene" was appropriate. For young Trojan fans who don't recall Boots, just check out almost any ESPN Classic USC game, and you can be sure to see this unique individual with his cowbell and Trojan attire.

The Obvious – One of the big changes early in camp was the move of highly recruited freshman Eugene Germany of Pomona from linebacker to tight end.

The Not So Obvious – As last Tuesday's scrimmage dragged on, there was a flurry of excitement when Germany had a reception running a crossing pattern and headed up the far sideline. A number of fans quickly went thumbing through their press guides looking for No. 80, Germany's new receiver number. For what it's worth, Germany looked every bit a tight end. Wonder if Michigan had the same thing in mind when they were hotly recruiting Eugene who did play tight end as well as linebacker at Pomona High.

The Obvious – Much as been made of the fact that if there is a questionable spot on Pete Carroll's defense, it's at the cornerback spots.

The Not So Obvious – One player to keep eye on is former Super Prep All-America Eric Wright, the redshirt freshman. Wright was very active in the scrimmages as the former San Francisco Chronicle Co-MVP made a nice play leaping high to disrupt a pass to freshman sensation Dwayne Jarrett on Tuesday. The impressive part of the play is that Wright is listed at 5-foot-10 and Jarrett is 6-foot-5.

The Obvious – All-America wide receiver Mike Williams hopes to find out this week what awaits his fate from the NCAA.

The Not So Obvious – One of the biggest mysteries for college football fans was the classes that Mike was completing in summer school. We learned recently they were a geography and cinema class. Before any comments, these were four-unit classes. For those that snicker at the classes, try taking a couple of four-unit classes and see how easy they are.

The Obvious – Recovering starting junior fullback Brandon Hancock is moving around quite nicely, but his service for the season is in doubt.

The Not So Obvious – As he has done in continuing fashion, junior fullback David Kirtman continues to be a valuable performer whenever needed. Kirtman, who ran for 1,380 yards and 18 TDs his senior year at Mercer Island (Wash) High, caught passes out of the backfield and had nice gains in last week's scrimmages.

The Obvious – One of the big battles of fall practice has been between redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Kyle Williams and transfer Deuce Lutui, already an "NFL body" says Norm Chow.

The Not So Obvious – Williams, the former Dallas Highland star, reported meeting with Pete Carroll about his playing status. Relax Kyle, it's a long season and all it takes is a few Leinart sacks or some holding calls and you will find No. 75 being called in the game, so help me Coach Tim Davis.

The Obvious – The Trojan Bookstore is doing a brisk business of selling shirts and spirit items with the Trojans' number one ranking.

The Not So Obvious – One of the items is an authentic Trojan home jersey. Naturally, the big selling jersey this season is No. 11 in honor of quarterback Matt Leinart. However the cost at last glance is $150. For that price, maybe an inflatable Matt Leinart should also be included.

The Obvious – Freshman linebacker Keith Rivers of Florida will wear the fabled No. 55, a number given Trojan defensive players that are expected to be All-Americans.

The Not So Obvious – The bookstore must be getting ready for Rivers' eventual rise to stardom. The vaunted No. 55 has its own Nike section in the downstairs section of the bookstore, and there were a number of "Rivers" jerseys ready for purchase.

The Obvious – Lonnie White appears to be the new UCLA beat writer.

The Not So Obvious – Lonnie White is a former USC football player hailing from Asbury Park High in South Belmar, New Jersey. Lonnie's brother, Timmy, was also a respected former Trojan wide receiver, as well.

The Obvious – For entertainment purposes, we think, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News came out with their 117 college teams and their "appropriate ranking."

The Not So Obvious – Here is the Trojans' schedule of opponents and their ranking by each publication: Va-Tech (SI-38/TSN-23), Colorado St. (SI-61/TSN-57), BYU (SI-86/TSN-79), Stanford (SI-75/TSN-71), Cal (SI-22/TSN-11), ASU (SI-51/TSN-46),
Washington (SI-49/TSN-47), Washington St. (SI-43/TSN-38, Oregon St.
(SI-30/TSN39), Arizona (SI-77/TSN-53), Notre Dame (SI-41/TSN-49), and UCLA
(SI-54/TSN-52). Let the debates begin!

The Obvious – Keyshawn Johnson is considered one of the Trojans' all-time receivers.

The Not So Obvious – "Key" still roams the practice sidelines disguised as a "Keyshawn Kart." With a red #3, the cart helps team managers transport players and equiptment from different areas of the various practice fields.

The Obvious – Former Trojan running back Petros Papadakis has been named analyst for Fox Sports Net's national and Pac-10 football games.

The Not So Obvious – For what it's worth, here is hoping some consideration by the "suits" be given to John "J.J." Jackson, the former great Trojan wide receiver and broadcaster, as Papadakis's radio replacement on Trojan broadcasts on 1540. J.J. is currently on the "B" team of the Fox television college football package.

The Obvious – So there you have it, a Trojan fan's dream. For the first time since 1979, the Trojans are top-ranked in the good old USA before the first kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – On a recent trip to the famed Farmers Market in Fairfax to get some of that famous Magee's churned peanut butter, the "number one" thing was in effect as more than a good number of visitors were wearing USC clothing and hats. For the O/NSO, it doesn't get any better than that. Farmers Market Magee's churned peanut butter and USC number one. Heaven.

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