O/NSO - Opening Day edition

After months of reading college football magazines, following the latest recruiting notes from youth camps, and endless banter on message boards, USC fans and their No.1-ranked beloved Trojans merged together in purpose Thursday with the opening of fall practice on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields.

The Obvious – After months of reading college football magazines, following the latest recruiting notes from youth camps, and endless banter on message boards, USC fans and their No.1-ranked beloved Trojans merged together in purpose Thursday with the opening of fall practice on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields.

The Not So Obvious – With the first four days devoted to split squads between the mostly veterans in the morning and the mostly "newcomers" and selected vets in the afternoon, the real excitement begins early Monday morning when it's time for "pads." Always a highlight of fall practice, there is nothing more invigorating that watching those wide-eyed freshmen come mask-to-mask with the likes of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Darnell Bing.

The Obvious - So what's going to happen Monday morning when New Jersey freshman linebacker Brian Cushing (6-4, 235), who had a John David Booty interception taken to The House in Thursday's afternoon practice, comes face-to-face with running back LenDale White (6-2, 235) on the goal line? Stay tuned, kiddies.

The Not So Obvious – New Jersey Brian might want to ask Georgia freshman defensive prodigy Kyle Moore, who found out first hand Thursday morning, how tough it is as a true frosh to fend off a monster block by the likes of a national champion offensive tackle like Sam Baker. Welcome to the club, youngsters, and get those chinstraps buckled tight for Monday morning. That would be 11:45 a.m. ET for the New Jersey Bergen Catholic Brian Cushing Fan Club and the Georgia Houston County Kyle Moore Association.

The Obvious – Continuing the practice plan of intensity prescribed by coach Pete Carroll, the morning practice was an unwavering demonstration that surely caught the attention of selected freshmen Mark Sanchez, Kaluka Maiava, Kyle Moore, and Patrick Turner.

The Not So Obvious – After Thursday morning's high-speed practice, a number of Trojan veterans were found sleeping around the Heisman Trophies in Heritage Hall. Linebacker Keith Rivers was on his back partly covering the cardinal rug's SC logo trying to recoup along with center Ryan Kalil, but defensive end Frostee Rucker still had enough energy to dance in the middle of the slumber party and have some fun with Petros Papadakis, who was doing his 1540 show "live" from inside Heritage Hall.

The Obvious – It figured that Thursday morning's session would be the star-studded veterans led by Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Darnell Bing.

The Not So Obvious – How appropriate the football stars were out early as stars of another genre were on campus as CBS was filming their new fall series, Threshold, across from the track stadium. Threshold is a Sci-Fi series that " revolves around a female government contingency analyst who leads a team of scientists and military personnel who get in contact with a mysterious alien lifeform."

The Obvious – Both Thursday practices were high intensity and coaches were in energetic spirit, especially defensive back coach Greg Burns and offensive line coach Pat Ruel,

The Not So Obvious – After one Trojan defensive back failed to "finish" a drill, Burns yelled, " This is not a walk-through!" and later "How do you make plays? Don't let them catch the ball!" Not far away, Ruel displayed a fiery disposition that should make Trojans fans feel at ease in the final transition from coach Tim Davis, now with the Miami Dolphins. Ruel made sure that his linemen knew of his intensity to do things his way. He was a true Marine drill instructor out there and the players were kept on their toes.

The Obvious – Early in the spring, a columnist from the Toledo Blade predicted that sophomore tight end Fred Davis would "probably" transfer back to a famous university in Columbus, Ohio.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans would have loved watching Freddy's afternoon performance with some nice catches and no hint of leaving on a jet plane. It certainly appears that the Trojans have some nice tight end depth developing behind Dominique Bryd with the emergence of both Davis and Dale Thompson, who has impressed observers.

The Obvious - Quarterback Matt Leinart has thrown out the ceremonial first-pitch for both the Dodgers and the Angels this season.

The Not So Obvious - Lefty really started to wing it as Thursday morning's practice evolved, but like a starting pitcher in between starts, casually walked through the afternoon practice wearing a red Angels shirt and thongs. Ah, the life of a starting hurler.

The Obvious – Making his first appearance as a Trojan was freshman offensive lineman is Nick Howell (6-6, 265), the son of former all-time great USC offensive guard Pat Howell, who went on to play with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.

The Not So Obvious – Nobody on Thursday was more proud and excited as Daddy Howell watching his son follow in his footsteps. Pat first watched the proceedings from atop Dedeaux Field, alone with some every emotional reflection. "It's unbelievable," the proud papa said. " Just seeing him put on that helmet for the first time." The experience made Pat remember his first time in pads when he had to go up against Trojan all-time great defensive tackle Gary Jeter, whom Howell said handled him with ease. "I couldn't do anything with him and just wanted to fight him," Howell laughed.

The Obvious – Sophomore wide receiver Whitney Lewis is awaiting final word on his summer school dance class but was running pass patterns on Thursday happy as a lark.

The Not So Obvious – Now that the dirty little secret is out – Whitney is finishing a dance class to be eligible – let's just ask how many stone throwers out there took college classes like modern ballroom dancing, puppetry, and motion picture review? The only difference is nobody else knew except you and the 40 to 400 students with you. Heck even our friends in Westwood offer classes in the history of Motown, history of Rock and Roll, and the history of the Beatles, favorites of blue and gold athletes. Sorry, but this is not a condemnation of the Bruins or anybody else. Everybody does it, athletes and non-athletes for GPA advancement. Let's just hope that Whitney now has a better appreciation of the Texas Two-Step.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has made his Trojans aware that they have achieved a high level that few teams in college football history have reached, and the mile-a-minute coach says it is his job to maintain the players level of intensity and focus.

The Not So Obvious – As if the players needed to be reminded of their perch on top of the college gridiron universe, upon walking through Goux Gate and onto Howard Jones field there is a new colorful interlocking "SC" logo on the grass and below it in white lettering is "National Champions."

The Obvious – One of the first players viewed as observers filed through for the afternoon practice was freshman kicker Troy Van Blarcom.

The Not So Obvious – Blarcom has to be the biggest kicker (6-3, 210) the Trojans have had since a kid named Richardson (6-5, 220) punted for Troy from 1983-85. Both are from Orange County, Richardson form Huntington Beach Edison and Van Blarcom from Orange Lutheran. However, the greatest similarity is they both have the first name of Troy and how appropriate.

The Obvious – In order to help out in drills on Brian Kennedy Field, junior safety Ryan Ting took some snaps at quarterback to help out against the defense, which included the likes of freshmen linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing.

The Not So Obvious – It takes somebody with athletic ability and smarts to go from safety to quarterback and not bungle the responsibility. Ryan, who played receiver at Union City Logan, certainly has the brains to do it since he carries a Trojan team-high 3.90 GPA, majoring in American studies and ethnicity.

The Obvious – Michael Coleman is a true freshman running back for the Trojans who participated in spring ball.

The Not So Obvious –Michael Coleman also was doing some quarterback chores to help with some passing drills. Coleman (6-1, 235) earned San Bernardino County Player of the Year last season at the quarterback position for Arroyo Valley, completing 143-of-261 passes (54.8%) and 22 TDs. Did we mention Michael also ran for 1,077 yards and 17 touchdowns? Don't expect a move back to quarterback for Michael who could stay at tailback or even be used as a fullback.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's team is being housed in the Fluor Tower, an on campus apartment complex, as preventive medicine for last year's team misdeeds.

The Not So Obvious – If it was about keeping the team from getting in trouble and away from the mainstream, how about a return trip to Irvine, that "isolated" little township over the hill from Newport Beach? Can't recall any poor conduct at UC Irvine. It sure would make the South Orange County Trojan constituency as happy as the coach after a fumble recovery. Don't bet on an Orange County return, my friends.

The Obvious – It appears that Minnesota defensive tackle Walker Lee Ashley (6-5, 265) and Pomona's Charles Brown may be sacked by the NCAA Clearinghouse before the kids can even run down the Coliseum tunnel.

The Not So Obvious – No doubt this is a tradition that Pete Carroll and his staff would like to have discontinued, but Trojan fans have learned to be on pins and needles when it comes to the final fall roster of freshmen that actually walk through Goux Gate.

The Obvious – Freshman offensive lineman Thomas Herring, who was at Thursday practice, appears lost for the season with ACL surgery.

The Not So Obvious – Herring was also once an NCAA Clearinghouse casualty, but the kid took care of business and participated in spring ball. It is hard to believe, especially for Thomas, that he will not have played a down of football in two years and who knows how much longer depending on his recuperation powers. Having worked hard to get into Troy, we think the kid will come back with even greater determination once they fix the knee.

The Obvious – Starting defensive end Frostee Rucker, who participated in Thursday's morning practice, wears uniform No. 90.

The Not So Obvious – In a recent visit to national brand sporting goods store in Tustin, a woman was browsing the USC football wearing apparel and came across two new items next to the replica jerseys of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. One of the gray shirts had No. 21, LenDale White's number, and the other had No. 90, Frostee Rucker's number. The woman was so excited upon seeing Rucker's number, she got on her cell phone and said, "Frostee, they have shirts with your number on it. Can you believe it? How many should I buy?" The woman had every reason to be excited; she was Melba Rucker, Frostee's mother.

The Obvious – The Pac-10 Media Day was held on Tuesday and each coach appeared to be careful about what they said in reference to the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – One coach's quote that got big "air play" this week in The Great Northwest was Oregon coach Mike Bellotti's comment about the "so-called favorites" in the conference. Mike added, " They (USC) have the toughest road of anybody. It's anybody's competition." The Oregonian viewed the story as Bellotti throwing down the gauntlet to Pete Carroll's boys. Think that story will find its way deep inside Heritage Hall? So-called favorites? Some pick the Ducks right behind the Trojans, although the pre-season media poll had the Duckies placed fourth in the Pac-10.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has come up with another winner with his idea of a Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage on Sunday, Aug 21, in the Coliseum at 1:00 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – With a poster on the gate entering practice, when you think of the creative mind of Carroll, remember this is the guy that also put the Trojans into those retro uniforms, created The Trojan Walk before games, pushed the idea for the third-down Coliseum gong to get the crowd into the moment, and has turned his summer youth and adult fantasy camps into a breeding ground for future Trojans and fans. And has anybody made better use of the Coliseum?

The Obvious – The Salute to Troy, that rush of cardinal and gold enthusiasm, spirit, and dining, is set for Friday evening, August 19, on campus.

The Not So Obvious – It will be a big day for the Trojan players who also scheduled to participate in a 3:00 p.m. practice.

The Obvious – The 2005 Trojan media made its debut at the Pac-10 Media Day and fans are going to love this hardcover book, which has a very appealing cover with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – While the fans are going to love, it will be engaging to see how the working press finds it thumbing through a tight hardcover book for on-deadline facts and background. We enjoyed the book form, but the physical tightness of the book may not lend itself to large smiles from those temperamental journalists covering the Trojans. The book style did get mentioned in a couple of out of area stories. Might the "book" been another Carroll brainstorm?

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has resurrected the Trojan football program to heights potentially greater than the legendary John McKay.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan football program has also resurrected the career of Pete Carroll, probably greater than he could even had truly imagined. Keep that marriage in mind when you start to get panicky that Carroll could leave if he captures some more national championship rings. Although the NFL will certainly call, Carroll won't go to Canton as a pro, but he could well make into the College Football Hall of Fame and go down as one of the greatest ever. Legendary Lou Holtz figured it out after a tour with the NFL, and like a president, Carroll will have to decide how he wants his coaching legacy to be remembered.

The Obvious – Sophomore running back Chauncey Washington, who was part of Thursday's afternoon session and came with great intensity, is being allowed to practice even though he is ineligible.

The Not So Obvious – Don't know about you, but we're going to have a hard time not rooting for this kid to make it. Washington has every reason on earth to transfer out, yet he is almost becoming the "Rudy" of Trojan football. The day the kid runs onto the Coliseum turf, we want the rights for the movie, pardon me, Mr. Graf.

The Obvious – Trojan fans that attended the Orange Bowl are eligible to show their game ticket at any Disney theme park on earth and get one free admission.

The Not So Obvious – Like a number of our loyal WeAreSC subscribers, we went to Disneyland this past week and used our Orange Bowl ticket. The only hassle was the ticket needed to be shown to a manager who has a special code that must be entered into the Disneyland ticketing system. The Disney ticket booth young lady became quite animated and excited when she saw the Orange Bowl ticket, and we asked her if she knew about the promotion. She replied, "I sure do!" For a moment, we thought the ticket must have had a picture of Matt Leinart to draw such a response.

The Obvious – Former Trojan DB Daylon McCutcheon, currently with the Cleveland Browns, is expected back in camp after suffering from headaches.

The Not So Obvious – With the tenth anniversary of the 1995 Trojan Pac-10 champs, it brings to mind the question: If Pete Carroll and Norm Chow were together in 1995, would McCutcheon, one of the SoCal's most explosive prep running backs ever, been the Reggie Bush of his time, or would Pete have still used him as a corner? One thing is for sure, if Daylon, son of former Rams great RB Lawrence, had been in Bush's position, he would have brought a lot of headaches to Trojan defensive opponents. Maybe timing is everything.

The Obvious – Two of the hot-selling Trojan marketing items are Matt Leinart's No. 11 jersey and Reggie Bush's No. 5 jersey.

The Not So Obvious – For the LenDale White Marching and Chowder Society, you will be happy to know there is a new No. 21 home jersey now available for purchase at the campus bookstore. You say you've got a No. 5 jersey but your wife likes LenDale? Buy her the No. 21 jersey and come to Trojans games as Mr. and Mrs. Thunder and Lightening.

The Obvious – The Trojans will continue their march to their first game in Honolulu with morning-afternoon sessions this weekend.

The Not So Obvious – One thing for sure, there is always excitement the first week of practice, but no doubt about it, Monday morning's full uniform Trojan session promises to be one big "hit."


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