One Man's Opinion - Midsummer edition

As each day goes by, I find myself checking all the various USC Football Sites and all the Online Newspapers hoping for some news, most any kind of news pertaining to USC Football. It seems like forever since Spring Practice finished and that magnificent victory against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, though a great memory, is just that, a memory. It just doesn't seem fair that so much of the year is without our favorite pastime--college football and most importantly, USC Trojan Football.

Obviously the staffs' work is never done and the recruits and players themselves have a year round commitment to the sport. But, for those of us on the outside, things certainly get a bit slow at this time of year. So what is going on and what do we know and not know about now.

On the recruiting front, an interesting topic at just about any time, the usual internet banter is in full swing. At this date and time, there are more sites and non university employed folks involved in the process of evaluation, interviewing and reporting than at any previous time, at least to my knowledge. The reason for this is quite simple to explain and can be expressed in two words: THE INTERNET. This whole process of following one's favorite team, keeping up with the very latest developments, viewing videos of the rising stars and reading articles such as this are now focused around the "NET". In the early days, coaches almost uniformly fought the whole idea. But, some things can't be stopped and the development and evolution of the internet and the associated message boards and even some resultant support groups are now irreversibly woven into the college sports world and that trend is unlikely to change. It was not that long ago that Malaefou McKenzie was a freshmen at USC and Coach Robinson reportedly got visibly upset that Foo's forty time would reach the computer world. Well, I doubt there is a coach around who has any doubt that such information becomes instantly available in this day and age and I have to believe that most successful guys even encourage it and use the internet to their advantage. As to whether or not the USC Staff has figured out how to take advantage of this part of the equation--well, everyone can decide for themselves.

Speaking of recruiting, so just how is USC doing at this time? Well, first I think it is prudent to put things in some form of perspective. We haven't even started fall camp for the 2005 season. In other words, it is very early and things are not yet etched in stone, or even in sand for that matter. There are strong rumors that one running back will "officially announce" his decision later today--July 10th. Will SC land this kid? I honestly don't know, but even if he were to announce for the Trojans publicly, I suspect that the local school, in this case Texas A&M will continue to pursue him, as is their right until the LOI is officially signed. If not this runner, Goodson, then who will SC land? I don't know for certain, but with rumors existing that this might very well be LenDale's and Reggie's last year, it is hard to believe that a couple of incredible runners won't sign on with USC. And wouldn't it be ironic if the next great tailback at USC were actually recruited initially to play another position such as linebacker? I mean, for those who read this that are old enough, can anyone recall any similar situation in the past? Does that question ring any BELL? As for quarterback, well that will be very interesting as well. SC will definitely lose Matt Leinart, at the end of the season. Rocky Hinds has left USC. So that leaves just two scholarship quarterbacks scheduled to return to USC next year, Mark Sanchez and John David Booty. That is a very talented pair, but most teams need at least 3 scholarship qbs. What will be the solution to that one? Will USC try to get a fabulous kid this year? If so, how will that affect the recruitment of all world junior to be, Jimmy Clausen? Does it even matter? Or will USC decide that Michael McDonald is the perfect answer? He has fine blood lines, has some necessary talent and having come in without a scholarship, it does not seem to be a huge leap of faith to figure that he might have realistic goals should he be given a full ride.

Should the recruitaholics who follow almost every internet service be worried that USC has so few "Public Verbals"? How many folks have seen the comments about Texas has this many, A&M has that many, and even UCLA (heaven forbid I mention that name) has far more verbals than USC? Well, in a coy sort of way, I will revert to the old "scoreboard baby" routine and just take a minute to remind all those that are worried that it is the University of Southern California, and not the others, that is the TWO TIME DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION--there I did it. But more realistically, it is at least equally important to review Coach Carroll's MO when it comes to recruiting. He and his staff are relentless in their pursuit of the kids they really want, and they usually have an adequate backup plan. It might not be readily apparent to even the most "connected insiders", but at least up till now, the end has justified the means. From what I hear, and my sources have been about as good as most over the past ten years or so, USC is once again very likely to get some of the nations best recruits, and whether they are currently the infamous 1 star or 5 stars, by the time Pete finishes pursuing them, these kids will be sought by many other top rated programs. The staff that Pete Carroll has assembled excels at evaluating and recruiting talent. We lost Orgeron, but from what I am told, Coach McNair is second to nobody when it comes to recruiting. We lost Coach Davis, but all indications are that Coach Pat Ruel is also most effective. And being the results driven guy that I have been trained to be in my professional life, I can't help but compliment Coach Kiffin. Up till now, he has helped bring in more than his fair share of excellent talent, much of it being of the out of state kind.

It is not often that I borrow somebody else's ideas, but yesterday I read what I considered to be a great post written by another person who described Pete's recruiting as a professional like draft. Each year he really tries to bring in kids that can actually expect to compete for real playing time from the day they arrive. I found that description to be thought provoking and very accurate. Obviously, it can't be expected that a kid who is only 18 or 19 and right out of high school is going to frequently come in and be superior to other kids who were also at the top of their classes when they were young, yet who have now been in the USC system for 2 or 3 years. However, each year, the State of California and the nation in general does have a certain number of superstar types that can make the jump and give the hardened and well trained veterans all they want in terms of competition. Some positions such as running back, wide receiver and defensive end might be easier to impact for the younger kids. Yet, as we all know, Pete and his staff have managed to find some stars that can compete at defensive back, linebacker, defensive tackle and even quarterback from the instant they step on campus. This system of his is amazing and it draws the best there is while at the same time, it forces those who are already at USC to continue to strive for excellence, lest they become pine warmers, regardless of their class. This approach will obviously keep the team well stocked with talent, and it will also discourage a certain type of recruit who DEMANDS instant playing time and star status, but overall, it would be a tough sell if one were to imply Pete's method is anything but the best.

And what about the summer workouts? What is going on and what do I hear? Well, not actually being able to view the workouts certainly is a hindrance, but that has not stopped me before so here it is. First, Coach Carlisle and his staff continue to work their magic and one will have to look long and hard to find a better conditioned team and better physically prepared squad. Obviously, Patrick Turner is going to be amazing and he is a future star. Having met Patrick personally here in Tennessee before he left for USC this summer, it didn't take long to realize that physically, this kid is amazing. It is simply hard to fathom a kid as young as he is, who is also that big, fast and smooth. The linebacker from Hawaii, Kaluka Maiava, is plenty thick ( I recommed that everyone look at the picture of the Polynesian players at USC that is posted on the Premium Board) and he might be as good as any of the linebacker prospect we have coming in. Rey Maualuga came to the workouts leaner and in better condition than he had been in at the Army game, and the defensive backs are getting plenty of chances to show their stuff early on. It is no secret that of the three new corners, Mozique McCurtis, Cary Harris and Kevin Thomas, a couple of them, if not all three, are likely to see real playing time very early in their USC career's. As of this time, there is no definite word on Gabe Long and Kevin Meyers, so I guess with regards to those two, only time will tell. I am personally wondering how things will work out for Brian Cushing. Is this kid going to stay at linebacker, will he get bigger and end up at DE, or might he stay about the same weight, maintain his speed and end up playing some strong safety when Darnell Bing decides to leave? I have seen Brian play in three games and with the speed that I witnessed, I think he might be a huge safety that causes wr's lots of headaches as the years go by. Of course, it is still far too early to know how it will work out.

By now, most of us know that Jeff Byers will miss the upcoming season due to a hip injury, and I am really hoping the his surgery is successful and that he heals well and he can resume his most promising football career, but even more importantly--I hope he heals so he can have a normal gait and he can live a healthy life. The kid has a huge upside, but as in the rest of life, first things first. When it comes right down to it, HEALTH is most important of all.

It will be less than a month till fall workouts begin on August 4th?. The kids will continue to work out, the coaches will enjoy what's left of their much deserved vacations, the message boards will continue to have some interesting and not so interesting comments and the cycle will continue. When the players start going after each other for real after camp starts, the news will surface and things will be back to normal. Once again USC has had its share of summer, off the field distractions and once again it certainly appears that Head Coach Pete Carroll and Staff have managed to keep things together very well. Despite the injuries and distractions, USC is about to embark on a season that could end up with USC pulling off the first recognized 3peat in modern college football. It has not been done and recognized as such up to this point (somebody emailed me once and said that Minnesota did it in the ?1940's--but it was not recognized by all the powers that be). There is a reason it has not been done up till. For SC to win out, everything will have to go just right. USC will have to have the talent--which it does, the coaching, which is in place, and the luck that is also necessary to run the table--and that has yet to be determined. Many have expressed concern over the Trojans' young and inexperienced Dline and the depth at corner. Well, here is my feeling on that one. The defense will be the surprise of the team. I honestly believe the Dline and corners will get it done. So long as the offense lives up to the lofty expectations we all have considering the unit that SC returns, USC will win its games. I can't wait till the fall practice and the season begin.
- MJDavidson


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