The Not So Obvious – As the Trojans were busy on Sunday evening with an intense scrimmage under the lights on Howard Jones Field, word was quickly spreading amongst the spectators of Mays' verbal. It was little more than a decade ago that the University of Washington lost another number one in-state prospect to Troy in lineman Travis Claridge, a 1996 grad of Fort Vancouver H.S. who would become a two-time All-Pac-10 offensive line selection and second round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Obvious – Although Taylor Mays' verbal isn't official until the February signing date, getting the top prospect out of Washington is as impressive as "sneaking out" a Keith Rivers from Florida, a Patrick Turner from Tennessee, or a Fred Davis from Ohio.
The Not So Obvious – However, while there is celebration over Mays in Heritage Hall, there is no official word concerning the final status of Minnesota freshman DT Walker Lee Ashley. However, according to Monday morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Walker Lee Ashley, the outstanding Eden Prairie athlete, plans to retake the college admission test next month after failing to pass his first one by one point. He signed a tender with Southern California but said he doesn't plan to go back there. Ashley, one of the most recruited athletes here in recent years, said after spending the summer working out with the Southern California football players that, ‘'I feel a lot more comfortable here and will likely go to school here,' indicating he favors enrolling at Minnesota." Okay, but is this one really over? It might be a bit premature to say the homesick bug took an early bite out of Walker, but if it did, uniform No. 94 may again be open for business.
The Obvious – Of his verbal to the Trojans, Taylor Mays told the Seattle Times "I felt pretty much 100 percent about USC when we went back down there again. I went to the practice, and everything made sense to me. It was just the intensity and the atmosphere surrounding the football program,"
The Not So Obvious – These are also much the same words of his father, Stafford, who spoke to the O/NSO and members of the WeAreSC staff during his recent visit to Howard Jones Field with his celebrated son. The former Husky and NFL performer was giddy over the spirit of the Trojan practices and his personal relationships he had with Pete Carroll and former pro teammate Sam Anno, now a Trojan grad assistant on the club.
The Obvious – Mays' verbal again confirms the message that prep players no longer look at the Trojans as a regional power David but a proven national championship Goliath.
The Not So Obvious - Like the McKay years, the Trojans are once again the national program trendsetter in the eyes of high school football players across the country. As if the state of Washington wasn't feeling the aftershocks of Mays' selection, the Trojans can now turn their attention to another Washington standout in offensive tackle Steve Schilling (6-5, 290), who like Mays has family in the Los Angeles area. There are some that hold the opinion that Schilling may be America's finest offensive irresistible force. You don't think that Mays will be in contact at some point with Schilling, do you?
The Obvious – Sunday evening's Trojan scrimmage gave all the earmarks of a team that is beginning to turn its attention to the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
The Not So Obvious – Meanwhile, a few thousand miles west across the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are not only trying to find a defense that can attempt to stop Matt Leinart and company, but an offensive replacement for record-holding quarterback Timmy Chang. After a recent 20-play scrimmage, third-year quarterback Colt Brennan, the former Mater Dei and Saddleback CC star, made some inroads completing 25 of 28 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. While some of his teammates were ecstatic, coach June Jones isn't ready to name a starter, but did say second-year freshman Tyler Graunke stills remains No.1, although his performance was much less dazzling. Trojan fans can expect to see one of these two as Hawaii's starting QB on Sept. 3.
The Obvious – There have been a number of pleasant surprises in camp, some of which were somewhat expected and some of which were somewhat unexpected.
The Not So Obvious – You could start with the reaffirmation of a number of freshmen living up to their promise as quarterback Mark Sanchez is savvy beyond his youth, defensive end Kyle Moore is now getting a look at both ends and works with the second unit, and linebacker Brian Cushing is currently working with the first defensive unit because of the injury to Dallas Sartz. While receiver Patrick Turner has been literally a huge challenge for veteran corners, an unexpected surprise has been the recent play of senior William Buchanon, who has become a real deep threat.
The Obvious – Coach Pete Carroll has gone on record as saying if the season was to start today, Indio junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua, who certainly had an extra bounce in his step in Sunday night's scrimmage, would be the starter.
The Not So Obvious – On one play in particular on Sunday, Lua virtually hurled his body like a missile into an unfolding dog pile. For all the provado of the Trojan mantra of competition, when it gets right down to it, no way, no how is Carroll going to go with an inexperienced middle linebacker early. Creating a self-inflicted situation of blown assignments and confused alignments with so much on the line is above Pete Carroll's coveted rule of competition. As Carroll points out, the "competition" will continue as it always does, but with Trojan each game figuring to be a bowl-like experience and as long as the Trojans remain No.1, there is no reason for the coach to play Santa Claus for Trojan opponents.
The Obvious – Sunday's scrimmage gave another opportunity for the freshmen to verify their testosterone against the veterans.
The Not So Obvious – Within a few series of each other, freshman linebacker Kaluka Maiava made a marvelous play in stopping running back LenDale White at the goal line. Naturally, Maiava got a hero's welcome by his teammates and linebacker coaches Ken Norton and Rocky Seto. However, moments later, LenDale, who ran for 68 yards on 10 carries, took a handoff off the right side and up came the the aggressive Maiava to "fill" the hole. Not wanting to make the Maui freshman look like the best Trojan linebacker since Chris Clairborne, White unleashed a vicious forearm left shiver into the face of Maiava that seemed to stun the rookie. White continued up field a few more yards before being stopped. It was a reminder for Maiava that tackling LenDale White is no day at Kannapali Beach.
The Obvious - There is no greater fear for a linebacker than having the responsibility of covering Reggie Bush one-on-one, especially flanked along the sidelines with plenty of room to maneuver.
The Not So Obvious – And that's what happened during Sunday's scrimmage when No. 5 was matched against freshman linebacker Kaluka Maiava. Everybody in the house knew where the pigskin was going as quarterback Matt Leinart looked right and gave the obvious non-verbal communication with The Roadrunner. There was a sense of excitement in the air waiting for the ball to be snapped. As the snap count began and tension was in the eyes of Maiava, the whole mismatch never materialized as an official threw a flag against the offense. Nobody was more disappointed than Leinart and Bush, who showed their displeasure both verbally and non-verbally. Give Maiava credit, he never gave a look of relief as he trotted back to the huddle.
The Obvious – At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, a 22-year-old Matt Leinart, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 187 yards on Sunday, is no physical wimp.
The Not So Obvious – A couple of seasons ago, Leinart got the respect of his teammates with a devastating block in the Coliseum that brought the fans to their feet. During Sunday's scrimmage, feisty corner Jim Abbott gave LenDale White an extra "kiss" after the whistle and Leinart came up and pushed Abbott out of the way. Nobody messes with Lefty's homeboys.
The Obvious – In might seem redundant to mention him in every report, but the fact is that freshman linebacker Brian Cushing is now with the first unit with fellow linebacker Dallas Sartz out with injury.
The Not So Obvious – Cushing, the New Jersey native who is big, fast, and is a "striker," made a number of Tony Soprano "hits" Sunday evening. On one particular tackle, Cushing really laid into senior starting fullback David Kirtman. A few series later, Kirtman tried to return the favor, but Cushing held on and brought down the rugged Trojan fullback.
The Obvious – In the Pete Carroll era, one of the hallmarks of his championship teams has been the lack of penalties assessed.
The Not So Obvious –There were way too many penalties (12) on Sunday evening, especially along the line of scrimmage. An especially unhappy camper was offensive line coach Pat Ruel, who demanded his lineman show more concentration.
The Obvious – Sunday again provided observers in attendance the opportunity to view how difficult it is to covering the Trojans bevy of ultra-talented receivers.
The Not So Obvious – On one play, Steve Smith ran what appeared to be a comeback out-pattern, and before you could say Keary Colbert, Smith turned deep upfield, leaving his defender hung out to dry. On another, Dominique Bryd showed the quickness of a wide receiver, evading a linebacker, and found himself wide open down the middle. And, of course, 6-5 Dwayne Jarrett, who had six receptions for 94 yards, played the scrimmage at a completely different level, like a couple of feet above everybody else on practiced high pass receptions.
The Obvious – Trojan fans are hoping that this is a breakout year for talented sophomore receiver Whitney Lewis.
The Not So Obvious – Lewis was rather quiet as far as receptions on Sunday. The former St. Bonnie star did have an opportunity returning punts but fumbled one opportunity. With no breakout moments on Sunday and a highly competitive field of receivers in the mix, it would appear critical at this point that Whitney make himself some plays in next Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage in the Coliseum.
The Obvious – The Trojans are still awaiting final word from the NCAA on the extra-year eligibility petition of senior linebacker Ryan Powdrell, who has had some solid moments at middle linebacker but is being now also being worked some at outside linebacker.
The Not So Obvious – Powdrell certainly hasn't been waiting for the NCAA ruling to be considered for a starting position. The O/NSO saw first hand earlier in the week how much starting at linebacker means to Powdrell, as the former Mission Viejo and Saddleback CC star filled a hole at the goal line and knocked RB LenDale White into Cuckoo-Cuckoo Street. It certainly was the "hit of hits" that we have seen this camp, and it took White a few moments to find his Trojan helmet.
The Obvious – Perhaps the hardest hitting defender on Pete Carroll's defense is safety Scott Ware, who wears a menacing goatee as a "buyer beware."
The Not So Obvious – Ware, taking a break on the sidelines during a recent practice, submitted his application for officiating to Pac-10 field judge Bernard Samuels, who has been part of a crew that comes to Howard Jones Field to assist in different drills and scrimmage play. After one pass play, Ware turned to Samuels and gleefully said, " I am going to help you make the call." Samuels turned to Ware and just grinned.
The Obvious – The Los Angeles Times ran a big story on running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, concerning the possibility they both could leave for the NFL after this season and be drafted in the first round, similar to Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.
The Not So Obvious – While the story by writer Gary Klein was informative, the captions under the color photos is exactly not the perception that either Bush or White want to portray. With Bush, there was the boldface "Mr. Outside" and with White it was "Mr. Inside." It has been well established that Bush has put on weight and muscle hoping to dispel the notion he is not a between the tackles runner. As for White, while he has exceptional inside running vision and power, LenDale has the speed and lean to get to the outside.
The Obvious – There is an intriguing battle going on for defensive end playing time and one of those candidates is former Tustin star Chris Barrett, who was working with the first team on Sunday.
The Not So Obvious – With more visits to a doctor than your average senior citizen, Barrett's Trojan career has been one big medical appointment. Some argue that his heart is more into body building than football, but those who have seen him this summer have been impressed when he has been in there. On one recent play, Barrrett almost intercepted a Matt Leinart pass at the line of scrimmage and with Jeff Schweiger out for seven more weeks, this is a crucial time for No. 91. Chris certainly has the physical ability to help coach Jethro Franklin's pass rush.
The Obvious –Chris Carlisle is the Trojans acclaimed strength and conditioning coach.
The Not So Obvious – A three-year starting offensive lineman for Chadron State in Nebraska, Carlisle recently showed the hands of a receiver during a break in the action when he helped warm up Matt Leinart for next-drill duty. From our sideline location, Carlisle showed soft hands, concentration, and agility. Not bad for a former offensive lineman who was an all-area selection in college.
The Obvious – Much has been made this camp of the weight loss of senior tight end Dominique Byrd.
The Not So Obvious – Getting your jaw wired from a teammate's punch may be a little unorthodox compared to the Atkins Diet, but there is not doubt about it that Dom looks in the best shape of his Trojan playing career. On one pass pattern along the sidelines, the former Minnesota prep star looked more like a veteran wide receiver with moves before and after catching a pass. The feeling here is Bryd, if he can stay healthy, is a serious threat to the other talented tight ends in the Pac-10 for first-team honors.
The Obvious – Pete Carroll is prideful of his team's discipline performance on the field, and he knows it will take every bit of it to withstand the challenges of 12 inspired opponents to make it three national titles in a row.
The Not So Obvious – Speaking of a disciplined team, Trojan Marching Band director Art Bartner retired this weekend as director of the Disneyland All-American College band, a summer job he has held for the past 28 years. Bartner, who wears a say-it-ain't-so Bruin blue blazer for Disney performances, revealed in the OC Register the differences in demeanor between his USC and Disneyland gigs. Bartner said, "I'm a tyrant at USC. I'm all business. Here (Disneyland), I'm a good guy. I'm strict with them, but I'm a good guy." Wow, sounds like the good doctor is a band director's version of Ed Orgeron, the former fiery Trojan defensive line coach now head mentor at Ole Miss.
The Obvious – One of the toughest challenges for coach Greg Burns secondary is to keep the confidence level high after day after day challenges of the Trojans' gifted receivers.
The Not So Obvious – If there is one player that knows what it's like to face these future Sunday catchers, it's sophomore corner Terrell Thomas. The talented star from Alta Loma is constantly matched against the best the Trojans have to offer. Some days are better than others in terms of success. On practice last Friday, it was one of those difficult days covering Lane Kiffin's sleek receivers, but Thomas showed his competitive spirit by blocking a field goal attempt by Mario Danelo.
The Obvious – Freshman Patrick Turner showcased again on Sunday evening's scrimmage that he's willing to "lay out" for a pass even in a scrimmage, something that WeAreSC's John Jackson, the former all-star Trojan receiver and broadcast analyst, loves to see.
The Not So Obvious – One player that had some recent success with freshman phenom Turner is junior walk-on corner Jerry Williams of Palmdale. who one play had success "squeezing" Turner and staying stride for stride on a deep pattern down the sidelines. The coverage was so "extraordinary," to use a Pete Carroll term, that secondary coach Greg Burns gave special accolades to Williams as he returned to the huddle. Later, Jerry made another standout play using outstanding timing by cutting in front of tight end Fred Davis in the end zone for an interception.
The Obvious – As mentioned earlier, there was no bigger hit in camp than the one delivered by linebacker Ryan Powdrell on running back LenDale White.
The Not So Obvious – Well, a close second for the O/NSO was a forearm shiver to the throat of wide receiver Greig Carlson by freshman linebacker Kaluka Maiava in Friday's practice. It was a near lethal shot by one of Pete Carroll's favorites and prompted one awed Trojan to remark, "Boy, did you see his (Carlson) head snap back?" There is a reason Maiava is wearing No. 43, for that hit could be felt all the way back to Pittsburgh, home of former Trojan All-America strong safety Troy Polamalu.
The Obvious – Encino Crespi senior offensive lineman Sione Fua (6-2, 280) was at Friday's practice with his father.
The Not So Obvious – In recruiting guru Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report book, Fua is listed ahead of Trojan verbal Zack Heberer as one of the premier offensive linemen in California. Height could play one factor in the Trojans recruiting of Fua, who is 6-2 while Heberer is close to 6-5. Having seen both in person,that is about accurate. Both are impressive physical specimens.
The Obvious – One of the more pleasurable moments of practice is meeting all the wonderful Trojan followers that have interesting stories to tell.
The Not So Obvious – Recently the O/NSO spent some time after practice with Steve Ross, a high level executive with Mattel Toys. Listening to Ross gave you the impression he was more than just an insightful Trojan supporter. After swapping generational Trojan football stories and some old Mike's Pizza stories from our old cruising days on Van Nuys Blvd., Steve said he was a former manager for John Robinson's Trojans in the late 70s, and still has the national championship and Rose Bowl rings to prove it. Trojan fullback David Kirtman interned for Ross at the toy factory.
The Obvious – Colton linebacker Allen Bradford was in attendance for Trojan practice on Saturday afternoon.
The Not So Obvious – Bradford has emerged as the Southland's most intriguing recruits, not because of his outstanding ability, but for all the rumors and innuendoes that seem attached to this super prospect. Saturday's afternoon appearance appeared to supercede the notion that the Trojans had fallen out of favor. The feeling here is that no way is Pete Carroll going to give up on this talented prospect, especially to the colors of blue and gold, where Bradford and his family visited in the morning prior to coming to Troy. In fact, Bradford and Rancho Cucamonga corner Devin Ross (5-11, 180) made it a "family outing" to both local universities on Saturday.
The Obvious – If Colton linebacker Allen Bradford appears to be the most visible local recruit, a magnet of attention, then Mission Viejo tight end Konrad Reuland's recruitment seems to be as quiet as a church mouse.
The Not So Obvious – Reuland, who very well may be the nation's premier schoolboy tight end, has quietly been traveling the country with family checking out various campus opportunities. Like Bradford, this figures to be another Trojan/Bruin battle of the bands.
The Obvious – And finally, this Friday evening is the always popular and entertaining Salute to Troy on campus, honoring the 2005 football team.
The Not So Obvious – As Sunday evening's scrimmage was wrapping up, the O/NSO apparently made a grievous misjudgment when we asked a veteran observer about the quality of the food. The O/NSO was severely admonished by being reminded that one does not attend Salute to Troy because of the culinary menu but for the magnificence of the event itself. However, one compassionate bystander turned and said, "The chocolate chip cookies are pretty good." The O/NSO didn't have the fortitude to ask if they were Toll House.