O/NSO - Big Hits edition

The California lottery has the "Big Spin," and former Laker Shaq O'Neil likes to be called the "Big Aristotle," but the "Big News" on Monday morning was of violent blocking and tackling by the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, who upped the intensity from shoulderless pads and shorts into a full uniform of big hits.

The Obvious – The California lottery has the "Big Spin," and former Laker Shaq O'Neil likes to be called the "Big Aristotle," but the "Big News" on Monday morning was of violent blocking and tackling by the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, who upped the intensity from shoulderless pads and shorts into a full uniform of big hits.

The Not So Obvious – For most of Pete Carroll's boys, the 8:45 start not only signaled it was hitting time, but it was a blessing for the Trojan linemen, whom the previous four days had to go at it without full body armor. You could feel the intensity in the air as the first day of practice provided the veterans their first chance to "baptize" those precocious freshmen, each wanting to fulfill the Trojan coaching staff's recruiting pledge of instant competition for playing time.

The Obvious – Naturally, Monday morning's full pads stars were the usual suspects as QB Matt Leinart was in total command, RB Reggie Bush put on "jelly leg moves," Winston Justice and Sam Baker showcased why they may be the best pair of offensive tackles in America, and linebackers Dallas Sartz and Keith Rivers continued their steady play.

The Not So Obvious – However, the two players who stood out on Monday morning to the O/NSO would be defensive ends Kyle Moore, the Georgia freshman, and redshirt junior Rashaad Goodrum, who is so quick coming off the edge. Moore plays with such competitiveness and uses his height to disrupt a quarterback's efficiency as when he knocked down a John David Booty passing attempt at the line of scrimmage and showed he could hold his ground against talents like Winston Justice. As for Goodrum, he senses the opportunity for productive playing time. Even though he is listed at 245, Goodrum was taking no guff from anybody and during the linemen one-on-one drills, he went after Deuce Lutui ( 358) to make his point. So what's wrong with going after somebody more than 100 pounds than you?

The Obvious – It was good to see the play of redshirt tight end Jimmy Miller come into play on Monday's muggy morning.

The Not So Obvious – Miller laid a crunching block on defensive end Lawrence Jackson that was a real attention getter. Jimmy, the former Westlake star, has slowly been making headway in the tight end competition to backup Dominique Byrd, who remains on the sideline jogging from surgery. A fellow backup candidate, sophomore Dale Thompson, gave freshman linebacker Brian Cushing a "pads" lesson, but the New Jersey import has continued to play good, sound technique football. Ah yes, and we are happy to report that Fred Davis too is looking very good in receiving and running after the catch. The Ohio native also laid a crushing block Monday on walk-on linebacker Clay Mathews, so perhaps last year's painful "learning experiences" is now paying off.

The Obvious – Much of the Trojans success against the run will come down to the performance of nose tackle Sedrick Ellis, replacing All-America lineman Mike Patterson, and tackle LaJuan Ramsey, who is taking over for All-American Shaun Cody.

The Not So Obvious – For the most part on Monday, Ellis held his own, and showed a competitive spirit as his father watched the proceedings. Sedrick's father played at W. Texas St. and has more than just a faint resemblance to his talented offspring. One important member of the defensive line Frostee Rucker, the senior from Tustin, has been healthy and a beast out there while Fili Moala has shown progress as an important backup and has drawn praise from coach Franklin.

The Obvious – Freshman wide receiver Patrick Turner played Monday, despite an uncomfortable heel injury.

The Not So Obvious – A number of times, the 6-foot-5 Turner went up the ladder to bring in a designed "high" pass for a reception. On one reception, the kid did the opposite and went to the grass to bring in a low throw. In all honesty, you really have to be standing on the sidelines to truly appreciate the wealth of ability this kid brings to the Trojan table. A true Turner mismatch took place during one beautifully thrown ball by fellow frosh Mark Sanchez when Patrick used his huge frame to shield his body from corner Jim Abbott, who is 5-foot-10, to make a reception. Might we see that size mismatch a number of times this season? Of course not (lol).

The Obvious – There are various signs, such as Monday morning's "conditioning" for three freshmen, that Pete Carroll is tightening his discipline to make sure this year's team has a legit chance for a three-peat.

The Not So Obvious – For frosh linebackers Kaluka Maiava and defensive backs Kevin Thomas and Will Harris, missing the first full morning of pads to do "remedial conditioning" was a major disappointment. As the team continued to work through the spirited morning, the three talented freshmen must have endured every known football coaches' assertive discipline plan under the watchful eye of assistant strength and conditioning coach Jamie Yanchar. Give the kids some credit for after practice was over, they came running back to the final Pete Carroll huddle for the day. It's doubtful the trio will again be part of Jamie's "independent study" group.

The Obvious – As is standard procedure, officials were used to help bring a game atmosphere to the field, and there were very few infractions called on the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan players were in game mindset when after tight coverage was played on wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, the stellar sophomore complained about pass interference along the sidelines. After pleading his case, the back judge looked compassionately at Dwayne and said, " From my angle, it was no interference," which left Jarrett shaking his head back to the huddle.

The Obvious – There were very few disappoints on Monday except for the absence of running back LenDale White, who did not participate due to an injured toe.

The Not So Obvious – While White looked on from the sidelines, so did a number of NFL scouts that were in attendance, including the Dallas Cowboys. You don't think LenDale would have loved to displayed his talents to those type of talent evaluators on Howard Jones Field, do you? A number of scouts were looking very strongly at the Trojans passing and receiving performers, and do we have to mention players' names?

The Obvious – The Trojans were named No.1 in the country in the USA Today Coaches' Top-25 Poll.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans were featured on the front page of USA Today on Friday announcing the first poll. The cover story talked about the USC coaching changes, but the most confident, seasonal foreshadowing quote came from former Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who said, " They're going to win it. They have tremendous players, and Matt Leinart is as good as they come. They're not going to miss a beat. Not one."

The Obvious – Perhaps the best-kept secret on the Trojan team and perhaps the country is explosive tailback Desmond Reed.

The Not So Obvious – As was shown on Monday morning, there are times that if Reed was wearing No. 5 instead of his No. 22, you would hardly notice a difference. Desmond is tough on tough but the only way he'll see extensive running time would be if the real No. 5 went down with an injury. One of the few times we have ever seen a tackler not get faked out by Desmond was last Friday afternoon when freshman safety Will Harris, the former Charter Oak star, was able to unravel all of Reed's Houdini moves and put his helmet in Desmond's chest. We may not see that again this season.

The Obvious – Sophomore defensive end Jeff Schweiger is out up to eight weeks due to a broken foot, suffered in a non-contact drill on the first day of practice.

The Not So Obvious – One hopes that Schweiger is not going to endure a Trojan career of injury as has been his early resume. As mentioned above, one man's Trojan downer is another Trojan man's upper in the Pete Carroll system, and it appears to be the opportunity, as mentioned, for Rashaad Goodrum and Kyle Moore, who may be able to do in passing situations what Schweiger was able to do as a true freshman last season. Moore is wearing Shuan Cody's No. 84, so the Georgia Peach has some pride to uphold.

The Obvious – The Trojan defenders on the regular and scout units are all aware not to hit Matt Leinart when Leftly scrambles out of the pocket.

The Not So Obvious – On one scramble play this past weekend, Leinart was heading for the sidelines when a trio of Trojan defenders converged on the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner. When the trio got within three yards of The Franchise, they suddenly stopped as though an army of secret service agents came out of nowhere to protect the President.

The Obvious – The weather in Los Angeles, until Monday, had not been too hot or muggy, especially compared the suffering going on in the East.

The Not So Obvious – Arena League Commissioner Dave Baker, daddy of starting Trojan left tackle Sam, was in from New York City and told the O/NSO the weather was really "oppressive" in the Big Apple, and he would be staying out here a couple of extra days. Even on a "normal" SoCal day of warmth, on one particular play this weekend, wide receiver Chris McFoy caught a pass and while running down the sidelines, safety Scott Ware, a sideline observer, took a bottle of water and sprayed McFoy as he ran by.

The Obvious – Former starting right tackle Big Deuce Lutui is expected to compete with sophomore Drew Radovich for the left guard position.

The Not So Obvious – However, it appears that Lutui may have found some competition at right guard, trying to put some serious push on two-year starter Fred Matua. Pete Carroll believes in competition and reward and with Lutui's solid performances this past week, which he opened freeeway-sized holes for ground scores, Trojans fans just might want to keep an eye on this developing competition.

The Obvious – It may very well happen that Deuce Lutui becomes the 2005 Eric Torres, the former Trojan jack-of-all-trades offensive linemen from a couple of years ago.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO had a chance to talk with Deuce after a recent practice and asked him about the possible position switch. Lutui said, " I love the guard competition. I love the O-line and this is the first time I've been able to play something different. It brings me new concepts and a lot more help than being out there on an island (right tackle)." Lutui entered Troy last season at 370 and Deuce said he is currently playing at 358.

The Obvious – One frequent visitor to the opening days of practice has been Brad Budde, the former all-time Trojan great offensive guard and maybe the best ever at his cardinal and gold position.

The Not So Obvious – Over the weekend, Budde, who likes this Trojan offensive line, spent time with Deuce Lutui refining his offensive guard footwork. Budde has been extremely impressed with new offensive line coach Pat Ruel. "I like coach Ruel. He really teaches the subtleties of footwork. It's all about the attention to detail." In a moment of encouragement, Budde walked over to center Ryan Kalil and gave him a tap on his Trojan helmet that brought a smile to the 2005 Rimington Trophy candidate and later walked over to injured guard Jeff Byers, sitting in an electric cart, and did the same.

The Obvious – During one team drill, Brad Budde was well behind the offensive huddle when coach Ruel motioned for the Trojan legend to join him for some offensive line evaluation.

The Not So Obvious – There was no tougher guard than Budde, and later in the day, with his linemen standing next to him, Ruel said, " It's all about mental toughness. We need to be not only physically better than our opponent, but we need to be mentally tougher!"

The Obvious – Trojan fans have begun to receive their season ticket package through the mail.

The Not So Obvious – For those out of the area, those six home game tickets look like collector football cards. The Game #1 photo of Pete Carroll standing in front of a silver photo of legendary coach John McKay looks like it could be made into wonderful poster. Wouldn't be surprised one bit of Trojan fans took all six tickets with Leinart, Bing, Jarrett, Byrd, and Bush, supported in the background by Rodney Peete, Ronnie Lott, Lynn Swann, Charles Young, and Mike Garrett, and framed it. By the way, interesting that Reggie Bush is on the UCLA ticket with Garrett in the background.

The Obvious – The ban on beer message from Dr. Sample is included in the season ticket mailing.

The Not So Obvious – The big winner in the Coliseum beer ban is Coca Cola, which figures to sell a lot more product at Trojan home games. Coca Cola is also celebrating the Trojans' "quest" for three consecutive national championship with a special USC Back-To-Back National Championship six-pack, available at local retailers.

The Obvious – One of the most talked about freshmen linebackers in camp has been Maui's Kaluka Maiava and judging by his performances, the hype appears to be justified.

The Not So Obvious – More than one knowledgeable observer has remarked just much his play has conjured up sweet memories of Troy Polamalu, the former Trojan All-American strong safety and Pro Bowl Pittsburgh Steeler. Maiava, who is wearing Polamalu's old No. 43, displayed his aggressiveness and speed on Friday when he came flying in pursuit and delivered a forearm shiver to reserve tailback John Griffin along the sideline that drew a gasp from the onlookers. This kid is nails of the carpenter variety.

The Obvious – It's amazing just how much a couple of national championships can effect the mood and appearance of a campus.

The Not So Obvious – In a recent trip into the Trojans' food court on campus, a number of workers were wearing red national championship hats.

The Obvious – The Trojans finally got their first look at sophomore DB Mozique McCurtis (6-1, 225), the highly anticipated transfer from Grossmont JC, who was held out of the first day of pads.

The Not So Obvious – McCurtis, known as "Zeke" to his teammates, has flashed some of his impressive credentials during recent practices. However, one of the more interests aspects of McCurtis is his facial resemblance to NBA star guard Jason Kidd.

The Obvious – Trojan fans better be prepared for the Blitz Head.

The Not So Obvious – Blitz Head??? Don't be surprised if more than just the youngsters are wearing the new foam Trojan helmet called Blitz Head. This Trojan helmet "replica" also comes with an attachable facemask. Yes, Trojan fans, the facemask is in gray. Cost of this party favor is twenty bucks.

The Obvious – Tailback Reggie Bush is weighing in at 203 pounds, the most weight he has carried in his Trojan career.

The Not So Obvious – Word around Howard Jones field is that Roadrunner Reggie wants to prove that he can run between the tackles and not be classified solely as "just" an all-purpose back. The Heisman hopeful, including Monday, has looked unstoppable to this point, but it's difficult to pinpoint how much of it is the experience and talent of the offense as opposed to the inexperience and talent of the defense. One thing is for certain, the extra pounds have had no effect on Reggie's fifth gear or multiple moves. For the record, the three Trojan Heisman tailback, Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, and Marcus Allen weighed in at 185, 207, 185, and 202, respectively.

The Obvious – One of the most courteous and well-mannered Trojans is senior starting outside linebacker Dallas Sartz.

The Not So Obvious – While some say he is not physical enough, this standout performer placed some of that tale to rest when he came up and really laid the wood to fullback Brandon Hancock this past Saturday. The hit along the sidelines was so intense, a young Pop Warner attendee turned to his grandmother and said, "Grandma, did you hear that!" Grandma, who was standing next to the O/NSO, turned and said, " I've been following this team for 37 years and this is the first time I have seen them up close. Lord, these guys are really big!"

The Obvious – One Trojan who is looking to end his career with a big bang is senior defensive back John Walker, the talented athlete from Birmingham High.

The Not So Obvious – Walker is really making a push and took the opportunity to leave his Saturday calling card on tailback Reggie Bush. It appears the Walker, who made another big play on run support Monday, knows this is his final chance to make a name and the hit on Bush this past weekend did not go unnoticed.

The Obvious – Washington blue chip defensive back Taylor Mays (6-3, 220) of Seattle O'Dea, considered by many the top recruit on the West Coast, was at last Saturday's practice.

The Not So Obvious – As our Garry P. reported, the Mays' trip down from Washington appeared to be very encouraging for the Trojans. While Mays' father, Stafford, seemed very impressed with the pace and intensity of practice, his personal NFL Vikings relationship with coaches Pete Carroll and Sam Anno,, and the "short ride" down the coast, the former Washington Huskies' defensive lineman also said his son has heavily "researched" the Trojan roster and depth chart and will go back to Seattle for one last evaluation session, sorting out the Trojans, Michigan, and the Huskies. When last seen, the Mays were walking into Heritage Hall with Pete Carroll and staff, and you just know from experience the Trojans could be in position to pick up their second Washington stud since senior fullback David Kirtman from Gig Harbor.

The Obvious – Joe Andras is the official WeAreSC staff photographer.

The Not So Obvious – A remarkably skilled lensman, if you have enjoyed the photos of practice by Andras (eetrojan), you need to treat yourself to his popular depth chart. Joe has player mugs, bio info, and color coding for easy identification. I know, I know, so how do you find it? Just go to the WeAreSC.com front page, scroll down, and look to the left side of your monitor until you see "rollover depth charts." Just click on it and you're in Trojan depth heaven.

The Obvious – And finally, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined the phrase "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

The Not So Obvious – Of course, President Roosevelt never had to defend a Matt Leinart a play-action pass with Reggie Bush, while tight end Dominique Byrd streaks deep down the middle and wide receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett are running post-corner and crossing patterns, respectively. At least after the first day of pads, the Trojans appeared to be well on their way to instilling their own "Fear Factor."


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