O/NSO - Trojan Huddle edition

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will be the first regular season home game in 2006, but for starving USC Trojan football fans, the new Coliseum home season begins this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with the 19th annual Trojan Huddle, a controlled scrimmage that will have all the external and internal trappings of an autumn afternoon.

The Obvious – The Nebraska Cornhuskers will be the first regular season home game in 2006, but for starving USC Trojan football fans, the new Coliseum home season begins this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with the 19th annual Trojan Huddle, a controlled scrimmage that will have all the external and internal trappings of an autumn afternoon.

The Not So Obvious – Yes sir, besides the $10 admission, there will also be a Fanfest, giveaways, halftime contests, Art Bartner's Trojan Marching Band, a healthy dose of Trojan Bookstore paraphernalia, and, oh boy, Coliseum concession stands. However, the real entertainment for all the cardinal and gold Monday morning quarterbacks will be the spring public debut of heralded redshirt freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez, who may be taking snaps in Fayetteville, Arkansas, depending on any unexpected residual effects of John David Booty's recent successful back surgery.

The Obvious – Weather report for Sunday afternoon in the Coliseum calls for a high of 67 and partly cloudy.

The Not So Obvious – The real whether report is whether Trojan fans will come out in large numbers, despite the loss of Hollywood names like Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, LenDale White, and Darnell Bing. The O/NSO suspects that much of the glow of the past four seasons remains and so does the fun factor. We figure somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000.

The Obvious – It figures that should John David Booty's recovery be complete by August, the Louisiana prep legend will start at quarterback against Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – Remembering last spring, J.D. was "the man" when Matt Leinart was recovering from his arm surgery. So it is, indeed, ironic that Sanchez is in the saddle on Sunday for Booty. However, Trojan fans would be well advised to also concentrate on No. 16, junior Mike McDonald (photo), who has accounted well for himself at quarterback, showing this spring that he can move the club. The son of former All-America Trojan quarterback Paul McDonald, the kid has done a solid job.

The Obvious – The highly anticipated fifth-senior season of tailback Hershel Dennis has already come to an end with the dramatic announcement that the former Long Beach Poly star would undergo knee surgery yet again.

The Not So Obvious – If Dennis didn't have bad luck, No. 34 wouldn't have any luck at all. With the Trojans running back depth at a virtual ground zero, there is even a greater Huddle spotlight being illuminated in the direction of senior fullback-turned-tailback Brandon Hancock. Trojan fans may be surprised with what they see from the Clovis native. In last weekend's closed Coliseum scrimmage, No. 40 showed plenty of power, speed, and even some shifty moves. On Sunday, Trojan fans will also get a chance to watch a new senior fullback, No. 37 Ryan Powdrell, who has done a pretty darn impressive job up to this point. Powdrell is also an excellent receiver and in some ways, it's too bad the Mission Viejo star wasn't able to move from linebacker to running back last season. With the Dennis injury, Sunday would be a good moment to judge No. 35 Jody Adewale, the junior from Los Angeles Roosevelt.

The Obvious – Trojan fans will be nodding their heads in approval when they are comforted to see junior All-America receiver Dwayne Jarrett and a rejuvenated Steve Smith on the receiving end of Trojan quarterback tosses.

The Not So Obvious – Pencil in No. 82 Chris McFoy and No. 48 Brad Walker for scrutiny. Senior receiver McFoy has had a rewarding spring so far in both receiving and blocking and junior walk-on Brad Walker has looked anything but a walk-on. In fact, the O/NSO has learned Walker has been told by the Trojan coaching staff to be ready to be more involved in 2006. On your Huddle checklist, mark down No. 81, junior tight end Gerald Washington (6-6, 255), for must-see inspection. He is a man in every sense of the word, and he is in the thick of it in coach Brennan Carroll's rotation. No, we didn't forget junior Fred Davis, who will start and shown great maturation since his difficult freshman season.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line will show a mix of players on Sunday that features junior All-America tackle Sam Baker and a potential All-American in senior center Ryan Kalil.

The Not So Obvious – You know the names of Baker and Kalil, but pay close attention to No. 66, sophomore Chilo Rachal, at right guard. He is somebody to get excited about, especially for those old folks that remember the name Roy Foster, the Trojans' former All-America guard. If you want to inspect a real wild card on coach Pat Ruel's unit, pay attention to No. 69 Matt Spanos, a junior, who could be starting at either left guard or right tackle before the first snap in the fall. Pay even closer attention at the emerging battle between Spanos and senior Kyle Williams. This is a rapidly developing story. Before we forget, old No. 53, redshirt sophomore Jeff Byers, has returned from his hip injury and has shown that he figures to be the starting left guard sooner rather than later. Want to scoop your Coliseum seating neighbors? Tell'em to focus those binocs on redshirt freshmen tackles Nick Howell, No. 76, and Charles Brown, No. 71. Howell is really on the come and has performed like a Pat Ruel training video.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's defensive front seven has a number of returners headed by junior All-Pac-10 defensive end Lawrence Jackson, improved Sedrick Ellis, the junior nose tackle, and a seemingly faster Oscar Lua at middle linebacker.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO believes the one glaring position of concern on defense is the LaJuan Ramsey vacated defensive tackle position. Junior Chris Barrett, No. 91 (photo). Barrett appears to have taken a substantial lead in the competition but can the former Tustin Tiller have a greater effect in pass rushing than the departed Ramsey? Want a sneak preview of a much-publicized newcomer? Inspect Minnesota's Walker Lee Ashley, No. 94 on your WeAreSC.com roster sheet. The kid has come on of late, so let's see if he gets some "feeling you" love from Trojan fans with a good performance. He made some outstanding plays at Thursday's practice. Sophomore linebacker Kaluka Maiava, No. 43, appears to be pushing for playing time and one wonders what adjustment will be made to get the former Wailuku Baldwin assassin on the turf.

The Obvious – Normally, special teams doesn't draw much attention for a spring scrimmage in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – With the departure of fixture Tom Malone as punter, the great experiment of sophomore kicker Troy Van Blarcom, No. 17, as a Malone replacement, will catch the eye of those "experts" in the Grand Old Lady. Don't expect to see a Tom Malone performance on Sunday, but the former Orange Lutheran star is learning and getting better. Of greater concern are the special teams, especially on kickoff coverage. Trojan fans are hoping that Sunday will not showcase the famed "pooch" kicks of last season.

The Obvious – The Trojan secondary is full of talent and Sunday should provide fans a great opportunity to see some young but highly talented beef.

The Not So Obvious – Train those binoculars on No. 6, freshman arrival Antwine Perez, who is as prep All-America as they come. The Camden headhunter will get your attention as a Mark Carrier clone if he gets a Scott Ware opportunity on Sunday. We invite you to check out the Trojans' youthful sophomore corners Kevin Thomas, No. 18 and Cary Harris, No. 7, both of whom have left an imprint thus far in spring. It appears that junior Josh Pinkard, No. 36, could be returning to the safety position to join sophomore Kevin Ellison, No. 4, as experienced replacements for Darnell Bing and Scott Ware. If it's competition you want, the secondary has plenty of it and talent galore.

The Obvious – This past Tuesday, WeAreSC publisher, Garry Paskwietz, was a participant at the prestigious USC Sports Industry Showcase.

The Not So Obvious – If you don't think this was a big enough honor and recognition, be informed that other participating organizations included Fox Sports, Lakers, Angels, Nike, Avengers, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, Los Angeles Times, NFL Network, the Rose Bowl, Warner Home Video, Tollner, Moon & Steinberg Sports Management, and Brener Zwikel & Associates. Keynote speaker was Fred Claire, former General Manager of the Dodgers. Garry also spoke Wednesday night at a USC sportswriting class taught by the legendary Joe Jares of Sports Illustrated fame. Jares felt that at this point in time, you can't teach sports writing without a discussion on the Internet.

The Obvious – The Trojans announced on Thursday that they are taking their radio rights to KSPN Radio 710am after a controversial era with Sporting News Radio 1540.

The Not So Obvious – Call it a lover's promise but 1540 could never deliver their pledge to increase their power. Orange County, a huge area of Trojan alumni and supporters, might as well have been in El Paso once the sun went down. The lack of evening power all but obliterated game coverage and post-game interviews. The sad part for 1540 was the fact that the programming devoted to the Trojans was pretty darn good, when you could hear it. While it was announced that Pete "How do you do" Arbogast and Honest Paul McDonald will continue on the game coverage, it will be a real loss if Mark Willard and Harvey Hyde are no longer part of the pregame tailgate show. Willard is a real pro and he was never above criticizing the Trojans, which was rare. His work was greatly appreciated on the post-game coverage. Hasta la vista, 1540.

The Obvious – Despite not being the Trojan flagship station, KSPN has continued to air Trojan Confidential with former Trojans David Newbury and Darrell Rideaux.

The Not So Obvious – Expect that show to continue with a possible third related Trojan host. Newbury and Rideaux also are featured on the popular DVD show, a video production discussing various topics of Trojan football interest, on WeAreSC.com.

The Obvious – The Trojans celebrated a new "version" of Sunday Pro Day, a day in which NFL-bound Trojans showcased their skills in front of the NFL but also incorporated Junior Day for all those potential future Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – It should come as no surprise that the Pete Carroll marketing that brought us the Trojan Walk, the Coliseum third-down "gong", the "Fall Huddle", and the retro uniforms would come up an even more "pro"-nounced idea for Pro Day by merging Junior Day into the affair. Now, you can count the seconds till the rest of the college football world picks up on Carroll's idea of having next year's senior prep stars watching the outgoing NFL hopefuls go through the hoops.

The Obvious – With Pro day well publicized, a large turnout of fans showed up on the Trojan athletic facilities to watch from near and far.

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps the most striking fan moment was when the "tryouts" went to Howard Jones Field for the Matt Leinart exhibition. With a field lined with a cross-section of coaches, scouts, media, Trojan players, and Junior Day onlookers, Matt Leinart showed the vast array of folks why he is the best quarterback in USC history. However, the most striking picture was WeAreSC photographer Joe Andras shot of fans lining the top of Katherine Loker Track Stadium. It was a scene that brought memories of those apartments across Waveland Avenue behind Wrigley Field. Wholly cow!!!!!

The Obvious – The Pro Day highlight was Reggie Bush (photo) running a 4.33 in the 40, a moment that brought applause usually reserved for high-ranking dignitaries.

The Not So Obvious – When Roadrunner Reggie got in his stance to run, the whole joint got as quiet as the 18th green at the Masters in Augusta. For one moment it might as well have been Tiger Woods lining up a tournament-winning putt.

The Obvious – A large number of former Trojans were in attendance to support their cardinal and gold brethren.

The Not So Obvious – Former Trojan All-American defensive tackle Shaun Cody was in attendance and he was carrying his Los Altos lettermen jacket. Cody was asked by FSN's Lindsay Soto why Shaun was still wearing his high school jacket? Cody replied that he had it tailored to fit his large torso and he was proud of his school. Speaking of Cody, it was great to see his dad, Mike, walking the Trojan campus. Mike, now retired, said he is loving every minute of flying around the country and watching Shaun's NFL career.

The Obvious – There is so much on the line for players during Pro Day, one gets the feeling that there may be more pressure working out for the NFL than there is playing a regular season game in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO ran into Melba Rucker, mother of Trojan DE Frostee, and asked her the same question. Melba said, " Oh yes, there is no question that I feel more pressure today than I did during some of the games. Here you worry about Frostee running a 4.7 in the 40. I told him just to do the best he can." For the record, Frostee ran a 4.8.

The Obvious – The Trojans have a new defensive line coach in Nick Holt.

The Not So Obvious – Nick's wife, Julie, was in Pro Day attendance to support Reggie Bush, who was recruited by husband Nick. Asked about her families return to Troy, Julie, a former college basketball coach, said, " We love it being back here, but it was so unexpected."

The Obvious – The bleachers at the Track Stadium for Pro Day were sectioned off for scouts, player parents, and the general public.

The Not So Obvious – One of the highlights for the O/NSO was the reappearance of longtime Trojan supporter Stu Weinstein, who has been busy fighting a strong medical adversary. Stu and this scribe have known each other since the mid-1970s, dating back to the John McKay practice days, and there is nobody we know that has been more devoted to USC Trojan football. When asked a couple of years ago at practice about his job, Stu joked, "My job is watching Trojan football." Fight on, my friend.

The Obvious – With big money at stake, offensive tackle Winston Justice wowed the pro scouts with his gifted athletic ability.

The Not So Obvious –Watching Justice do 38 bench-pressing reps was like watching the pistons moving on one of those old steam locomotives. Needless to say, the scouts were shaking their heads and you could almost hear the sound of coins flowing into the Justice bank account.

The Obvious – Running back LenDale White did not run the 40 and did a paltry 15 reps in the beach press.

The Not So Obvious – Although scouts might argue to the contrary, LenDale told the O/NSO, "This is just a meat market, a used car lot. I didn't run due to my hamstring. These guys know what I can do with a football." No denying that No. 21 has proven himself on the field, but you worry that his lack of motivation off it may hurt his value when names are called in New York later in April. For the record, LenDale told us he weighed 244 but likes to play at 232.

The Obvious – When you are fortunate to write for a successful website as WeAreSC, you never really know who is reading the material.

The Not So Obvious – Former Trojan running backs coach, Kennedy Pola, now with Jacksonville, said, "Keep that website going. That's how I stay connected with the Trojans." Thank you, KP, and may the Jaguars draft a Trojan of your choice despite what ESPN's Mel Kiper predicts.

The Obvious – Former Washington Huskies coach and UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel was doing some scouting for the Baltimore Ravens.

The Not So Obvious – No, Slick Rick didn't try to rock the boat with a Bruin 8-clap, but one observer actually tried to bait him into doing it.

The Obvious – Former Trojan coach Norm Chow was roaming the infield during the 40-yard dash and he spent some time talking with Matt Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – And wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation? The feeling around Howard Jones Field was that the Jets would trade up to the No. 2 slot and grab Lefty. The feeling in New York is that the Jets can't afford to let the Giants' Eli Manning take over the Big Apple. Matt Leinart would certainly be the great equalizer, so help me Carnegie's Deli.

The Obvious – Former Trojan star safety Mark Carrier, now coaching with the Baltimore Ravens, was seen checking out the cardinal and gold talent.

The Not So Obvious – Well, it was a far better feeling seeing Carrier, the former Long Beach Poly legend, in a Ravens shirt than in Arizona State Sun Devil attire. Me thinks that Carrier would now even agree, especially after suffering big time beating to his alma mater.

The Obvious – Last Saturday night's closed Coliseum scrimmage was open to coaches, media members, and families.

The Not So Obvious – The award for family member coming from the farthest destination was Frank Cushing, father of standout sophomore linebacker, Brian. Frank is a true "Jersey" guy and was quite animated in true East Coast style in recalling the recruiting of his son. The elder Cushing recalls after Brian's trip to Boston College, Frank's original choice, he was sure that Brian was headed for Chestnut Hill. As Frank recalled, Brian wore a BC hat and all the usual garb. After a pit stop on the way home to their home in New Jersey, Frank said he returned to the car and Brian had switched plans and said he wanted to be a Trojan. As the recruiting continued, Brian took a trip to USC with his mother and Mama Cushing was sold. The irony is that Frank says he has adjusted to Brian being in Los Angeles, but it's his mom who is now suffering from separation anxiety. Frank said he was surprised when Brian picked the Trojans, so far away, and as he laughingly put it, "Every time I left the room thinking he was staying locally (East Coast), it went back to USC. I was back-doored." BTW, Frank, who played college baseball at Seton Hall and is much shorter with less girth than his son, said good-naturedly that Brian (6-4, 235) must have got his size from the Polish side of the family.

The Obvious – Sunday's Huddle will be the first real starting nod in front a large crowd for current "No. 1" quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had some bright moments last Saturday night and some, well, "learning" ones as well.

The Not So Obvious – While Sunday will be a "live" crowd, last Saturday night provided the Trojans with some high-tech crowd noise. Rather than the "normal" noise being piped across the field, a new computer program provided intense crowed noise, fans yelling "Reggie, Reggie", Trojan public address announcer Dennis Packer, and even the Spirit of Troy playing Fight On after a touchdown. The O/NSO was told that the new program could even provide the National Anthem and, get this, the sound of a military jet fly-over. My stars and stripes forever.

The Obvious – The Trojan got a big commitment last weekend from Broderick Green (6-1, 230), an imposing running back from Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – As we were walking down the famed Coliseum tunnel onto the field for the closed scrimmage, we were next to Green (photo) and assistant coach Brennan Carroll, As the field and enormity of the Coliseum began to appear with each walking step, the look of shock and awe entered the face of the highly-touted running back and might we mention a huge smile extended ear to ear.

The Obvious – Last spring's Huddle was a big success, largely due to the fact the Trojans were the defending national champions and the return of a massive amount of star power.

The Not So Obvious – Sunday's 2006 Huddle unwraps some proven veterans but also will point out some potential question marks that will have no spring answer. Can you say, "running backs?" However, it's Trojan football and the Pete Carroll product is a proven one. Of course, if you need a little injection of enthusiasm after Sunday's festivities, just drive down "Fig" and get a daylight update on the Galen Center. Now there's a good cardinal and gold metaphor, comparing two unlike objects, Trojan football and the Galen Center, two under construction edifices that are expected to rise above the rest.

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