O/NSO - Huddle Edition

With fans of all ages dressed in cardinal and gold game apparel and Trojan family smiles as warm as the sweet Southern California sun, USC coach Pete Carroll tantalized the public with the annual " Trojan Huddle" Coliseum scrimmage, an exercise which will have to keep the Trojan faithful pacified until an Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii kickoff in Aloha Stadium on Sept. 3rd.

The Obvious – With fans of all ages dressed in cardinal and gold game apparel and Trojan family smiles as warm as the sweet Southern California sun, USC coach Pete Carroll tantalized the public with the annual " Trojan Huddle" Coliseum scrimmage, an exercise which will have to keep the Trojan faithful pacified until an Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii kickoff in Aloha Stadium on Sept. 3rd.

The Not So Obvious – For the 15,000 fans that came for what amounted to a satisfying Trojan football movie "trailer" and an In-N-Out feast, Sunday was a chance to renew friendships, Orange Bowl memories, and check on those reservations for Honolulu in August. However, once 11:37 a.m. reflected upon the Coliseum grass, all eyes of those Monday morning Trojan quarterbacks were focused on the emerging 2005 Pete Carroll edition sans a battery of stars.

The Obvious – With an enthusiastic crowd and the Goodyear blimp on hand, Pete Carroll's boys showcased the talents of quarterbacks John David Booty and Rocky Hinds, who combined for two touchdowns and showed ability at various times to move the offense.

The Not So Obvious – However, each QB was stung by the turnover bug as Booty had an interception and Hinds, while looking very mobile, threw two interceptions and had a fumbled snap. Overall, the two youthful throwers certainly showed enough talent to be the envy of most programs across America. If there were a winner on Sunday, the nod certainly would go to Booty who committed the fewest turnovers. As for that Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart Lefty worked the headsets and gave counsel to both Booty and Hinds. And, yes, attendance was taken and future QB Mark Sanchez was in the house sitting behind the Trojan bench with the rest of the sunbathers.

The Obvious – Running backs Chauncey Washington and Desmond Reed provided enough thunder and lightening to warrant a Roman numeral for the phrase that has been the moniker for LenDale White and Reggie Bush.

The Not So Obvious – To the surprise of some, Pete Carroll gave Reggie Bush a number of opportunities and Reggie looked like old No. 5. It was, however, the play of Desmond Reed, one tough son of a runner, who reminded the sun drenched throng that he is the perfect compliment to Roadrunner Reggie, especially on a 46-yard sharp cutting scamper. Perhaps the best news was watching the toughness as well of Chauncey Washington, who served notice to LenDale White that Pete Carroll's Den of Competition will continue full throttle in the fall.

The Obvious – A number of Trojans from last year's national champs were on hand including Shaun Cody and Lofa Tatupu.

The Not So Obvious – Also down on the Trojan sideline were legendary offensive linemen Anthony Munoz and Brad Budde and original Wild Bunch member Al Cowlings.

The Obvious – Perhaps the loudest crowd response of the day came after punter Tom Malone launched a moon shot during a punting situation.

The Not So Obvious – When Pete Carroll wanted Malone to try another punt after his first "launch", public address announcer Dennis Packer commented, "He didn't kick it far enough, let's do it again." The remark brought out a good chuckle from the crowd. Second loudest ovation came before kickoff when Pete Carroll got a mostly standing ovation when his name was announced. Back-to-back national championships has a way of enduring the old coach to the Trojan faithful.

The Obvious – Maybe it was the Thundering Herd doing a spring rehearsal of spirit at the Coliseum tunnel as the Trojans took the field, but unlike last week's scrimmage on Howard Jones Field, it was clear the defense that came to play early as it took some time for the offense to get untracked.

The Not So Obvious – Sophomore Keith Rivers reminded everybody on Sunday why he will be the next great Trojan linebacker. A number of times he disrupted the Trojan quarterbacks and running backs with his speed and technique. Inside backer Ryan Powdrell also had a fine game and some teeth shattering tackles. However, the big surprise on defense was the play of Palmdale JC walk-on corner Jerry Williams, who had many of the fans scrambling to their spring media guide for background.

The Obvious – One area of concern for the Trojans has been the replacement of kicker Ryan Killeen, who finished last season on fire.

The Not So Obvious – Sunday brought some relief with a fine exhibition by sophomore kicker Mario Danelo who was radar with his two upper 30-yard field goal connections. However, in terms of kickoff distance, there appears to still be concern. It would also appear that recently admitted freshman-to-be Troy Van Blarcom of Orange Lutheran will be given a shot to reproduce Ryan Killeen's end zone touchbacks. The O/NSO ran into Orange County All-Star Game director Phil Anton, who said it would be announced that Van Blarcom would be named to the OC All-Star game to be played July 8th at Orange Coast College. Trojan fans will be able to check out the newest Troy for Troy.

The Obvious – If there is a better pair of complete fullbacks in the country than senior David Kirtman and Brandon Hancock.

The Not So Obvious – These two are truly triple-threat fullbacks. Blocking, running, and catching, these two are throwbacks to the old Oakland Raider-style fullbacks. On Chauncey Washington's short touchdown run, Hancock put the hurt on a Trojan linebacker to clear the way. Kirtman also had his moments in blocking, and this kid keeps getting better and better as his career has unfolded. Kirtman continued his reception prowess with two more touchdown receptions (40 & 8). You can talk about your great Trojan depth at tailback, but the fullback depth is national championship caliber.

The Obvious – There were the usual amount of vendors outside the Coliseum as the Trojan Bookstore was selling the usual national championship clothing items. Discounts were not the order of the day.

The Not So Obvious – One unique item being sold was the appearance of a "Future Song Leader" doll, dressed in the typical white sweater with the cardinal USC letters. The new item doll was going for $54.45 and, yes, one of the dolls had the "typical" blond, blue-eyed Trojan look. For those not in the doll mood, one could also put in for a dinner with new Trojan basketball coach Tim Floyd.

The Obvious – One very familiar Trojan vendor face was former USC wide receiver Lonnie White, who was promoting his well-received book UCLA vs USC, 75 Years of The Greatest Rivalry in Sports.

The Not So Obvious – Sales for the 270-page book were going briskly before kickoff. If you're fascinated by the decades of various sports competition between these two celebrated athletic rivals and enjoy the personalities including Pete Carroll, then this is the book for you. For those that would like to purchase a copy or get more information, White, a current LA Times sportswriter, can be contacted at WWW.UCLAUSC.COM or (877) 872-8252 for more information.

The Obvious – Following Sunday's scrimmage, fans were invited to participate in a peristyle player autograph session as part of Pete Carroll's constant media and fan- friendly environment.

The Not So Obvious – Through no fault of the football program, the only flaw of the day came during a disorganized post-scrimmage autograph session. Many fans followed the repeated directions of public address announcer Dennis Packer to head to the peristyle end for autographs. However, after the scrimmage, many of the players remained at the center of the field and the impatience of the fans became quite evident. Perhaps next year the powers that be will reconsider and let fans onto the field. It certainly works better than Sunday's snafu. There were still a few autograph silver linings as Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, unable to sign due to his surgery, still posed for pictures with fans who formed a line longer than Space Mountain on New Year's Eve.

The Obvious – Normally Coliseum parking during the season is $20 per car.

The Not So Obvious – For those unable to attend, the Coliseum showed some mercy by charging $10 per car for a scrimmage that cost $30 for walkup sales.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's open door media and fan policy seems to have had no adversarial effect during the Trojans march to back-to-back national championships.

The Not So Obvious – Meanwhile, media and fan relationships back in South Bend is a Pete Carroll oxymoron. In an editorial written by respected ND columnist Tim Prister of the widely read Blue and Gold publication, Prister wrote, " Welcome to Charlie Weis' world. While it would be too early and an exaggeration to call the Weis regime's relationship with the media adversarial, one wonder if his attitude mirrors Buddy Ryan's thoughts when he was an NFL head coach. ‘I don't need (the media) when I win, and they can't help me if I lose.' When Weis met with the media for the second time, he made it clear that all information would be disseminated through him. He declared that any member of the media who dealt in unnamed sources (re:speculation, hearsay or rumor) would land a permanent spot in his doghouse." As evidence, Prister pointed out no information being forwarded to the media and general public over an assistant having surgery, a player's career being ended due to injury, an OL transfer, and the return of former QB Ron Powlus as director of personnel development.

The Obvious – Senior signee tight end Charles Brown of Diamond Ranch HS made his way to spring practice on Thursday.

The Not So Obvious – While some see his future as an offensive lineman, Brown, who looks every bit of 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, was more than happy to be greeted at the beginning of practice by tight end coach Brennan Carroll, who exchanged pleasantries and then playfully did a hand drill with Brown just to get the kid's mind thinking Trojan football, which drew out a two-way grin.

The Obvious – Senior signee defensive tackle Walker Lee Ashley of Eden Prairie HS out from the frozen tundra of Minnesota, spent the week watching the Trojan defensive line go through their paces with new defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

The Not So Obvious – Walker was sporting a red shirt on Thursday that brought the usual bystanders into a "cardinal" acceptance frame of mind. Ashley doesn't disappoint in the eyeball test and his listed 6-5 appears to be accurate and his girth appears about right as his listed 295 pounds. In shorts and a T-shirt, Walker Lee appeared to soaking in all of Franklin's instruction. With Manuel Wright's playing status in question, Walker Lee will come in the summer with some understandable visions of playing time. During part of Friday's practice, Ashley spent time discussing life with fellow incoming freshman DL Averell Spicer of Rancho Cucamonga HS. And yes, Spicer also looks mature beyond his years. And, yes, Averell looked 6-foot-2 and perhaps a bit bigger than his listed weight of 265 pounds.

The Obvious – Word is now public that defensive tackle Manuel Wright may be headed for the NFL supplemental draft.

The Not So Obvious –The negative into a positive is the Trojans have been working without Wright for the entire spring. Now you can add the new scoop provided by our Garry P. that heralded Fullerton JC DT transfer Gabe Long will make into school in the fall (see front-page story). While it is no surprise to insiders over the potential loss of Wright due to academics, it is still a potential disappoint for the personal Manuel Wright. Should the kid not make acquire a NFL career after being given a gift of a body from the football gods, a college degree becomes even more paramount. Let's hope that no matter how this latest Wright episode works itself out, the kid will have a positive adult future and we wish him well.

The Obvious – One of the most legendary offensive linemen in USC history is Pat Howell, a former unanimous Trojan All-American and NFL performer whose USC teams were 31-6 in his career.

The Not So Obvious – Big Pat, who must drink from a Fresno Ponce de Leon fountain of youth and still looks near collegiate in appearance, spent the week in town with his son, Nick, who may just be the next Ryan Kalil in terms of underrated talent. Nick, who says he is now 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, is the spitting image of daddy Pat in terms of body height and weight, especially when viewing them from behind. The fact that Nick also played volleyball at Fresno Bullard before putting all his efforts into football provides a tremendous upside. Asked about the Trojans impressive load of talent on the offensive line, Pat said, " I think it's great." The comment is revealing as Dad and Nick seem to embrace the competition and not shy away from it. The Howells reinforce the Pete Carroll mantra of recruiting players who aren't concerned about depth charts.

The Obvious – One of college football's most legendary plays through the course of history is 28-pitch, better known as John McKay's Studentbody Sweep.

The Not So Obvious – Nobody ran it any better than the 1970's unanimous All-America guard tandem of Pat Howell and Brad Budde, who also has been in spring attendance. Asked about the famous pulling of the Trojans guards on the sweep, last week Howell said, " The difference today and when I played is that the Trojan players do zone blocking rather than pulling due to size. I played (at USC) at 275 and was able to pull, but when I went to the NFL and went up to 290, when I pulled I felt I was stuck in a hole and couldn't get out."

The Obvious – ESPN's Kurt Herbstreit was in attendance on Thursday shooting an ESPN piece for his college spring practice tour of elite teams.

The Not So Obvious – Although it took him a couple of "takes" due to noise and commotion of airplanes and various other distractions, "Herbie" commented the Trojans' 2005 offense may be one of the best in college football history. The piece aired on Friday's SportsCenter telecasts. While some Trojan fans playfully kidded Herbstreit about shunning the Trojans last season as potential national champions, the former Ohio State quarterback did get a friendly hug from Bob Leinart, father of Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.

The Obvious – Perhaps one of the most surprising performances of this spring and reassured during Sunday's game has been the play of wide receiver William Buchanon.

The Not So Obvious – Buchanon's journey through his Trojan career has been of placement and position switches. Having bounced from receiver to defensive back and back to receiver, Buchanon, who did some nice things on Sunday in the Coliseum, has become a shinning star in daily practices and seems to be fulfilling his potential after entering Troy following a glowing career at Oceanside High. So why the sudden light switch turn-on? Maybe it's just the fact that he is now a fifth-year senior and some players need longer time to develop than others. The son of former NFL three-time NFL Pro Bowler Willie, it's the Buchanons of spring ball that makes March and April so interesting. Let's root for this potential late bloomer to carry it through the fall. You've got to still like his 6-3 body and speed, something you just can't coach.

The Obvious – Due to injury and other assorted issues, the Trojans are mighty thin in the secondary, a place that Pac-10 teams will surely explore during the 2005 season.

The Not So Obvious – One of the bright spots in helping try and provide proper competition to the Trojans galaxy of talented receivers has been the play of walk-on secondary member Jim Abbot (5-10, 175), the former Loyola High star from Trojan bastion San Marino. On one particular play last week, Abbott's performance and effort drew high praise from secondary coach Greg Burns. After playing some great defense on one particular long pass attempt, an enthusiastic Burns screamed, " That's a helleva job Abbott! Stay deep, good job!!!"

The Obvious – Friday's practice was a reminder how attentive to detail Pete Carroll is when it comes to preparing his team for the fall as Carroll gave direction how to enter the field for warm-ups.

The Not So Obvious – It reminded some in attendance how Carroll fully prepared his team for the Orange Bowl. Knowing that during the season his Trojan team was in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem and knowing that his team would be on the field for the anthem at the Orange Bowl, the night before the national championship game during the stadium walk-through, Carroll showed his team how he wanted them to stand with their toes on the sidelines with proper behavior. Now THAT is being completely prepared.

The Obvious – The ever-prepared Pete Carroll also had his team working on a desperation Hail Mary pass play at last Friday's practice seesion.

The Not So Obvious – You'd think that with many calling this year's Trojan offense one of the best in recent college football history, the last thing this team with Matt Leinart and company would need is a prayer pass to win a game. However, Trojan fans should be reminded that five of those precious Trojan wins last year were by a combined 22 points. Certainly Carroll remembers what many fans have forgotten due to the Orange Bowl annihilation of those Sooners from Oklahoma. Of course, the Trojans really never had all their offensive weapons healthy in 2004 until the Orange Bowl.

The Obvious – One of Pete Carroll's original majordomos was Mark Jackson, one-time USC director of football operations who has moved on to Syracuse to work with new Orangemen athletic director Dr.Daryl Gross, the former USC senior associate athletic director.

The Not So Obvious – Jackson was in town this past week and visited the Trojans, receiving handshakes and hugs from those in attendance who appreciated all of his positive interaction in dealing with some of the grunt work of Trojan football.

The Obvious – It's never too early to start one's plans for tailgating and viewing parties, especially for what could be an historic Trojan football season.

The Not So Obvious – For those of you that would like to update your Trojan 2005 football calendar, two kickoff times have been set. Wouldn't you just know those times involve our friends from South Bend and Westwood? The Oct. 15 game at Notre Dame is schedule for a 1:30 p.m. CST (11:30 a.m. PST) kickoff and the UCLA game in the Coliseum on Dec. 3 is set for 1:30 p.m. PST. As per tradition, the ND game will be telecast on NBC while the UCLA game is an ABC production.

The Obvious – The ninth issue of WeAreSC the magazine is now on the stands with an Orange Bowl shot of tight end Dominique Byrd on the cover.

The Not So Obvious – For those curious sorts looking to peruse a copy of WeAreSC, it is now available in the USC Bookstore's magazine section.

The Obvious – With the Trojan Huddle now history, the Cardinal and Gold conclude spring ball this week four practices before shutting things down for gridiron hibernation.

The Not So Obvious – There was certainly a melancholy look to Trojan fans and admirers leaving the Coliseum on Sunday. The realization that the "real" season is four-plus months away brings a void that is hard to fill considering the dominance USC has thrashed upon the college football world. As rocker Tom Petty croons, "The waiting is the hardest part."

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