The Not So Obvious – Prior to Sunday's intense and vocal scrimmage before a galaxy of Junior Day recruits and wide-eyed prep football coaches, the most noticeable spring adjustment has been the overall environment on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields. While the drills and the tempo have remained at breakneck speed, there has been a general verbal decrescendo as was to be expected with the legendary bayou voice of former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron nothing more than a romantic Ole Miss memory. That's certainly not to suggest that all is quiet, for linebacker coach Ken Norton is "bringing the smack talk" loud and clear along with new offensive line grad assistant David Watson before, during, and after stretching, thus easing the Orgeron transition.
The Obvious – Sunday morning's scrimmage provided an opportunity for the Trojans offense brain thrust to tryout their new chain of play-calling command.
The Not So Obvious – With offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin atop Dedeaux Field and relaying his "call" down on the field to assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans began a new era of offensive communication. With game officials on hand Sunday, there were no delay of game penalties for the "Sarkiffin" experiment, but then again there weren't 83,000 fans or ABC cameras on Howard Jones Field either.
The Obvious – Despite the absence of a number of superstars in the loaded Trojan arsenal, spring ball has been a continuing delight watching the development of a number of players who are returning or just entering the cardinal and gold fold.
The Not So Obvious – Our general impressions of surprises and impressions are directed to the likes of senior defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, sophomore tailback Chauncey Washington, junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua, and probably the most impressive advancement of playing accomplishments, sophomore tight end Fred Davis of Ohio, who seems to have been reborn after a textbook freshman season of misguided adventures resulting in a no-traveling ticket to the Orange Bowl.
The Obvious – One of the biggest hits of any practice in memory came Sunday morning when senior safety Scott Ware came up from the secondary and provided a vintage Matt Grooetogoed strike on running back Chauncey Washington, bringing a reaction of awed reverence by players and fans.
The Not So Obvious – It was the type of hit by Ware that many had seen on various highlight films during Ware's community college career at Santa Rosa JC. For those that attended the WeAreSC recruiting dinner a little over a year ago, you know what we're talking about. It was a "Last Rites" type of hit.
The Obvious – There is concern about the depth of the Trojans defensive tackles, but the healthy return of senior LuJuan Ramsey has provided an uplifting perspective.
The Not So Obvious – Manuel Wright, who was at Sunday's scrimmage wearing a black Alan Iverson jersey,.remains in his current state of academic limbo. Ramsey, however, is providing a workmanlike performance under new defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who is one-third the volume of Orgeron but like the old E.F.Hutton commercial, when Jethro speaks, everybody listens. Ramsey appears to have taken to Franklin and could be a key cog in the Trojans drive for a Three-Pete. One last add on Franklin, the former Green Bay Packer DL coach has no problem getting in the face of his linemen, and it appears only be a matter of time before coach and players interact in trust and confidence.
The Obvious – Okay, let's get the obligatory John David Booty and Rocky Hinds early quarterback assessments out of the way.
The Not So Obvious – JD has received glowing reports and looked impressive on Sunday, and ,yes, he looks like he belongs at the offensive controls more than at anytime in his career. If Matt Leinart is smooth peanut butter, then Booty is crunchy. Booty's feet and direction along the LOS seem to be going a mile a minute. Another good reason to hit The Huddle this coming Sunday is to view the Shreveport Slinger for yourself. If you need to be picky, Booty does seem to get some balls batted down at the LOS before they find their destination. As for Hinds, he really reminds us of former Trojan QB Vince Evans. Like Evans, Hinds is a gifted athlete who may need patience and maturity to challenge for future quarterbacking rights. He also could be the Trojans version of Texas QB Vincent Young but with a much better passing touch. His two scoring strikes on Sunday didn't hurt his stock.
The Obvious – There is intense competition at middle linebacker after the unexpected departure of Lofa Tatupu.
The Not So Obvious – What was expected to be an early spring battle between junior Oscar Lua and sophomore Thomas Williams has thus far been a "Lu-Lua" of a performance by the former Indio star. Lua, whose highly anticipated career was cut short early in 2002 due to a knee injury, has noticeably picked up of some his lost speed and quickness and it showed during Sunday's scrimmage when he baptized freshman running back Michael Coleman with a true "varsity" hit. Don't count Williams out of the competition picture, for this kid is highly motivated to hopscotch Lua. Oscar, however, is currently setting the pace through mid-spring. Both players bring the wood, so Trojan fans can rest comfortably when it comes to pure middle linebacker punishment. Of note, Williams still played some OLB on Sunday while senior Ryan Powdrell commanded the second unit at MLB.
The Obvious – The Trojan tailback position has received another barbell of strength with the return of sophomore Chauncey Washington.
The Not So Obvious – Need another good reason to get up early to attend Sunday's Huddle? If the past two weeks are any indication, Trojan fans will be in for a real treat as Pete Carroll takes off the wraps and cuts Washington loose on the Coliseum Tavern on the Green. Washington is in marvelous physical shape, and the kid can really see the point of attack, accelerate into the hole, and make the right instinct cut bursting into the secondary. Sunday's scrimmage showcased a Washington five-yard score in which he accelerated into the hole and leveled a Trojan defender at the goal line. Add some impressive speed as seen on both practice fields by the O/NSO, and one is easily reminded why this kid was about even with Reggie Bush and LenDale White entering Troy in 2003.
The Obvious – Much has been written about the development of sophomore receiver Dwayne Jarrett and the uncanny ability of junior Steve Smith.
The Not So Obvious – Even though the current available Trojan secondary isn't going to bring back memories of Ronnie Lott and Dennis Smith, Jarrett and Smith play with such confidence that the real pressure now resides with the Trojan quarterbacks to get em the ball. To watch how these two receivers have developed is stunning – not from ability but from the confidence they exhibit in formation, in the pass route, and running after the catch. Sunday provided another glimpse into perhaps the nation's finest receiving duo.
The Obvious – There were a number of high profile junior recruits on hand at Sunday's scrimmage.
The Not So Obvious – Impressive juniors on Sunday included Lemoore wide receiver David Ausberry, who physically looks like a clone of wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, and heralded Colton linebacker Allan Bradford, a Lofa Tatupu sized linebacker. One of the many prized juniors attending Sunday's scrimmage remarked, "Wow, look at the size of their (USC) linebackers. They're much bigger than UCLA!" Yeah, Keith Rivers (6-3, 220) and Dallas Sartz (6-5, 220) can get your attention.
The Obvious – Sunday's scrimmage brought out some football celebs like Scout.com's recruiting guru Allen Wallace of SuperPrep fame and Hollywood producer/actor Allan Graf, the former starting offensive guard for McKay's legendary 1972 national champs.
The Not So Obvious – Was the O/NSO the only one to find a Wallace resemblance to Henry Winkler of Happy Days Fonzie fame? As for Graf, whose son Derek was a valuable offensive line member of the 2002 Trojans, he brought to Sunday's scrimmage his huge youngest son who easily could have passed for one of Junior Day's celebrated recruits. Only problem was the former San Fernando High star's son is only 13-years old!!!!!!!! Believe me, you have to see the kid to believe it. A real talent in the making. Lights, camera, Trojan action!!!
The Obvious – Last year's spring Huddle MVP was Whitney Lewis, the talented wide receiver from Oxnard St. Bonaventure.
The Not So Obvious - After having been out a year due to academics, Lewis appears to be still feeling the layoff effects and trying to use some gridiron WD-40, hoping to return to the form that had him the talk of last spring. The fact the kid gutted it out and returned is a positive, but Spring 2005 appears to be his window of opportunity before Pete Carroll's recruiting van unloads the likes of Tennessee's 6-5 Patrick Turner, the nation's premier receiver recruit.
The Obvious – With all-star senior tight end Dominique Byrd out with academic issues, sophomore Fred Davis is taking full advantage of making No. 83 a household name during late night film sessions.
The Not So Obvious – Let's give the Toledo native some love simply because he deserves it. Ya guess when the head coach tells you that you ain't boarding the big bird for the national championship in Miami, it's time for some deep soul searching. Give Better Never Late Than Never Freddie credit. He has started to produced like the athlete Pete Carroll envisioned when the Trojans "snuck" one out of Buckeye country. Making some wonderful catches this past week with a couple of impressive blocks, Davis could become a real factor next fall if he continues on the same pace. Keep it up, kid.
The Obvious – Offensive tackle Winston Justice has returned from Suspension Island and talk has centered on his rededication to Trojan football and a future NFL career.
The Not So Obvious – One of the best performances this past week was watching the "new" Winston living up to some of his All-America potential. No, he's still earning his way back to starting right tackle, but boy has some Trojan defensive linemen had to pay the price. On a typical play last week, Winston drove redshirt freshman defensive tackle Fili Moala easily back five yards and toyed with some other challengers. DE Chris Barrett, back again on the defensive line unit but on crutches after Sunday's scrimmage, has also been put in reverse by some of Justice's drive blocks. With Winston starting at right tackle on Sunday's scrimmage, all signs point to the complete return of No. 74. Yep, he has been that dominating.
The Obvious – According to a number of offensive linemen, this unit has really taken to new offensive line coach Pat Ruel, who has shown he can be just as animated at times as former coach Tim Davis, now with the Miami Dolphins.
The Not So Obvious – Ruel is the rule as the O/NSO watched him direct his techniques. "Work your hands, bend baby, bend," roared Ruel. " I want you to do it the way I want it done. I don't want you to beat some dummy. I want you to beat the best guy in the conference."
The Obvious – Sophomore offensive left guard Jeff Byers did not practice last week and did not participate in Sunday's scrimmage due to a reported hip injury.
The Not So Obvious – While some feel it's Byers position to lose, sophomore Drew Radovich started Sunday's scrimmage and the former Mission Viejo All-American appears to on the come. Tiny Malu (6-4, 335) is also trying to make it interesting. In observed drills this past week, there is nothing Tiny About Tiny, who was having his way against the defense. The feeling here, without providing too much hyperbole, is that the 2005 is the deepest since the McKay era, and who would have said that five years ago? We won't say this is the best group in school history, but they have the ability and depth not seen in a long, long time.
The Obvious – Last week provided future Trojans Mark Sanchez, Luther Brown, and Brian Cushing a chance to take in the week's festivities.
The Not So Obvious – Sanchez's father, Nick, a captain in the Irvine Fire Department, was once a quarterback at nearby Manual Arts High in the mid-60s. One of Nick's football teammates at Manual Arts was the late Willard "Bubba" Scott, a charter member of the original Wild Bunch defensive line. Speaking of Brian Cushing, the future Trojan linebacker out of New Jersey, welcomed to practice his Bergen Catholic head coach Fred Stengel, who spent part of last week with the Trojans. You can bet that Coach Stengel will have a nice L.A. weather report for his returning Bergen Catholic players.
The Obvious – Spring visitors to Heritage Hall who enter through the front doors are in awe as they are greeted by the ADT National Championship Trophy, which is flanked by three Heisman Trophies on each side.
The Not So Obvious – So it wasn't a surprise when Mission Viejo tight end Konrad Reuland, who also attended Sunday's scrimmage, was inspecting the display. Sources close to the MV tight end say the big 6-foot-6 blond is strongly considering his college career as a Trojan. In person, it certainly wouldn't be hard to mistake Reuland as a current college performer. No schlock, Sherlock Holmes, this is a national recruit that easily passes the eyeball test.
The Obvious – The Galen Center, the heralded campus arena that will provide the basketball and volleyball teams a venue to rival any in the Pac-10, was a topic of discussion during last week's practices.
The Not So Obvious – A few people wanted to see the old fashioned Friday night pep rallies as part of the Galen Center activities. Those that have been to a Notre Dame pep rally in the ACC in South Bend can attest to the fun and spirit that is created in an indoor arena. With Frat Row not far from the new facility at Jefferson and Figueroa, this could Pete Carroll's next best idea since the return to the "Old" Trojan uniforms, the Trojan Walk before games, and the intense third-down gong in the Coliseum.
The Obvious – Many are saying that many of this year's Trojans could make numerical history in next year's NFL draft.
The Not So Obvious – Speaking of the upcoming draft, Trojan wide receiver Mike Williams is part of the cover of the Street and Smith Draft Guide and is prominently pictured in the Sporting News Draft Guide.
The Obvious – Safety Kevin Ellison, an early arrival Redondo Union, has shown some signs of prosperous football future.
The Not So Obvious – While tailback Michael Coleman has been the more visible of the two mid-year prep enrollees, when Ellison was confronted with lightening quick Desmond Reed one-on-one during a team drill last week, the rookie made a brilliant tackle as Desmond was in high gear with those hips and legs flying in all directions. For the football astute, the play did not go unnoticed. Ellison's work has not gone unnoticed as he was in with the second defensive unit on Sunday.
The Obvious – Much has been said pro and con about the Ting brothers, namely Ryan and Brandon, in the Trojan secondary.
The Not So Obvious – Folks, these two brothers may be as valuable as any Trojan when it comes to Pete Carroll's team theme. With the Trojans down to the bare bones of secondary performers, these two are the unsung heroes in helping the billboard performers get ready for battle. Life is never easy when put in these types of position as was illustrated when Reggie Bush got himself one-on-one with Ryan Ting and blew by RT for a 60-yard score. You really have to be upclose and on the sidelines to REALLY appreciate Bush's remarkable acceleration, moves, and speed.
The Obvious – The Trojans were once in a big recruiting battle with the Washington Huskies for defensive end Rashaad Goodrum.
The Not So Obvious – If you wonder if this recruiting business is a bit overblown, Goodrum, the former Fayetteville, NC star, reminded everybody last week of his potential to contribute in 2005. Healed from his injury bug, Goodrum has been difficult to contain coming off the edge. The junior, who played his JC ball at LA Valley, could be a real plus if he continues his spring progress.
The Obvious – Trojan spring football practice not only provides guests with some crackerjack insight into the progress of the 2005 club, but it also provides some pleasant information about past Trojan players.
The Not So Obvious – It was learned on Thursday that former Trojan tailback Ryan Knight, once considered the nation's finest tailback out of Riverside Rubidoux, is now a probation officer in Fontana. Ryan follows in the footsteps of his father, who was also a probation officer. Speaking of the football playing Knight family, Sammy is looking to hook with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Darryl returned to USC to complete his degree.
The Obvious – Defensive end Jeff Schweiger has played despite a back issue.
The Not So Obvious – Sophomore Jeff looks a bit different from his freshman year with those long wavy locks missing in favor of the new buzz cut.
The Obvious – Much has been said about the youthful age and experience of new Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
The Not So Obvious – Hey, the "kid" turns 30 on May 9th. Is he still too young? Remember the old football adage "Never trust an offensive coordinator under the age of 30." As for experience, let's not forget he was a backup QB at Fresno State (1994-96) under Jeff Tedford and do we need to identify Mr. Tedford?
The Obvious – Naturally, one of next Sunday's Huddle activities will be to attend the outdoor bookstore sale of clothing and souvenirs.
The Not So Obvious – If the past is any indication, Trojan fans may fine some of those expensive national championship items at a markdown sales price. According to sources, one of the bigger selling items is the national championship wall clock ($29.95). Ya might also want to check the tag on the popular national championship mousepad ($10.95). The O/NSO has been told these items have been hard to keep in stock.
The Obvious – The Trojan Huddle will begin this coming Sunday at 11:00 am at the Coliseum, and it may be one of the few times fans with a normal bank account get to sit between the 20-yard lines without having to fret an athletic department donation.
The Not So Obvious – The real question on Sunday will be how long the lines will be for the In and Out burger parade? With the Trojan bandwagon of attendance at a Pac-10 all-time high and a 22-game winning streak still in tact, making your own evaluation of John David Booty, Chauncey Washington, and Oscar Lua may be easier than predicting the Huddle attendance. Anybody for 15,000 fans or more?