O/NSO - End Game edition

"The" USC Trojans may have finally concluded spring ball late on a warm Tuesday afternoon, but "thee" USC Trojans will reappear for the 2006 season in August, and it won't be the current walking wounded, academically challenged, or unseasoned participants. No sir, the spring Trojans that cardinal and gold fans saw on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields won't be the same fall ensemble that will take the gridiron stage on September 2 at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium in Arkansas.

The Obvious – "The" USC Trojans may have finally concluded spring ball late on a warm Tuesday afternoon, but "thee" USC Trojans will reappear for the 2006 season in August, and it won't be the current walking wounded, academically challenged, or unseasoned participants. No sir, the spring Trojans that cardinal and gold fans saw in March and April on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields won't be the same fall ensemble that will take the gridiron stage on September 2 at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium in Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – No doubt about it, this spring was one of the most uneven, weirdest, and grab bag buffets that many "regulars" have seen in many moons. We can't recall so many injuries, classroom issues, and "can't- catch-a-break" spring rituals. If it wasn't quarterback John David Booty's back, it was the back of left guard Jeff Byers. If it wasn't offensive lineman Matt Spanos academic yellow flag, it was defensive tackle Fili Moala, and tight end Gerald Washington's turn in the academic barrel. The coup de grace was the devastating ACL injury to tailback Hershel Dennis while courageous tailback Desmond Reed valiantly began a long comeback attempt by moving with the aid of a foot brace.

The Obvious – Tuesday's final spring practice squad looked like half the number of players on the complete roster.

The Not So Obvious – At the end of practice on Tuesday, one regular remarked, "So now this group will take a shower and after a short break, the rest of the team will work the evening session?" Such was the state of Pete Carroll's team as the final "three horns" concluded spring ball.

The Obvious – The Trojans' final practice was highlighted by some hard contact, despite the fact that the Men of Troy spent most of the afternoon in shoulder pads and shorts.

The Not So Obvious – One of the "big hits" on Tuesday was a collision by sophomore CB Cary Harris, who came up from the secondary and gave walk-on tailback John Griffin the "business." Boom, Pop, Pow. It may have been the last day, but don't tell that to sophomore linebacker Clay Mathews and junior tight end Dale Thompson, both of whom had to be separated after a not so friendly exchange of clashing shoulder pads. For extra emphasis of competition, sophomore receiver Patrick Turner from Tennessee could have lost his lunch if New Jersey freshman safety Antwine Perez hadn't showed some teammate compassion on a Turner pass reception. Perez admitted after practice to WeAreSC that he has held back on his "patented" decapitations in order not to hurt his own teammates. As one observer said, "Mr. Tennessee, meet Mr. New Jersey." It was definitely a potential 911 hit.

The Obvious – The last thing Pete Carroll wanted to see on the final spring day were players getting injured.

The Not So Obvious – Well, you just knew that this spring's "curse" would continue right through the final horn. Senior receiver Steve Smith had ice applied to his left ankle but was able to move around later under his own power. For junior defensive linemen Alex Morrow, the look on his face after injuring his left arm said it all. With ice applied to what appeared to be an elbow injury, the look of disgust was etched in Morrow's face as the former Rancho Cotate star sat out the rest of the day.

The Obvious – "Starting" senior tailback Ryan Powdrell continued to impress with relentless and shifty runs and a strong showing of power.

The Not So Obvious – While Powdrell was showcasing his running skills, senior Ryan Ting continued to raise some eyebrows with his solid punt return skills. WeAreSC staff writer George Young commented, " Ting just might get up the field faster than Reggie Bush." It's not like our buddy George was trying to convince anybody that Ting was better than Bush, but we agreed that Ting sees an opening, he hits the hole immediately while Roadrunner Reggie was sort of like a counter-puncher in boxing. He tried to make the defense commit first rather than hit a hole instantaneously.

The Obvious – "Starting" quarterback John David Booty was in attendance on the final day and he moved around like he could take snaps right now and nobody would know the better.

The Not So Obvious – Booty was not the only non-suit Trojan quarterback on the sidelines. Former cardinal and gold signal-callers from yesteryear, Walt Ransom (1978) and Jim Hardy (1942-44) were in attendance. Oh, and did we mention that future Trojan walk-on quarterback, Duron Sylvester of Westchester, was in the house?

The Obvious – "Second unit" quarterback Mark Sanchez had a good day, showing his growing knowledge of the game by hitting Dwayne Jarrett after surveying the his options.

The Not So Obvious – It was the type of "read" that brought high praise from quarterback coach Steve Sarkisian. Sanchez looked more relaxed on the final day, perhaps not feeling as much pressure to compete against the inactive Booty. Either way, Mark looked good most of the day.

The Obvious – The Trojans took their final lessons in field goal proficiency, both offensively and defensively.

The Not So Obvious – There was a bit of brevity near the end of practice. After a Mario Danelo field goal attempt, mammoth offensive guard, Chilo Rachal, went the extra mile lifting junior linebacker Keith Rivers over his shoulder and proceeded to walk back to the huddle with Rivers looking like a sack of potatoes.

The Obvious – It seems to be a general routine that Pete Carroll plays a game of catch with a player, coach, or even a spectator following practice.

The Not So Obvious – Every once in a while, Carroll plays a game of celebrity catch. It may have gone unnoticed by the general public in attendance, but the hawk eyes of the O/NSO recognized Carroll's Tuesday catching partner as former Kansas All-America quarterback Bobby Douglas, who played for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. Douglas, a lefty, can still throw the ball with authority. Douglas, 6-feet-4, was always considered a running quarterback more than a throwing quarterback, the Vince Young of is day.

The Obvious – Last Friday's final practice was cancelled due to rain, thus making Tuesday the finale of spring ball.

The Not So Obvious – And wouldn't you know it, the heavy rain on Friday was certainly ironically appropriate for this year's cycle of spring ball, considering the extraordinary amount of obstacles. However, the spring was not without some rainbows as well, as Trojan fans got to see the talents of freshman safety Antwine Perez, the intersquad baptism of freshman defensive tackle Walker Lee Ashley, and the apprenticeship of redshirt freshman quarterback, Mark Sanchez. We could go on and on, but the O/NSO will save our opinions and projections until this Friday's O/NSO.

The Obvious – There has been a vast round of applause down at practice by Trojan fans over their excitement of the official announcement that KSPN 710 is the new radio home of the Men of Troy.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans were equally relieved that veteran Trojan play-by-play voice Pete Arbogast and analyst Paul McDonald were retained as the broadcast team. Sources have indicated the strong possibility that former defensive back, Darrell Rideaux, is deep in the mix to be part of the pre-game and post-game coverage. Rideaux would be an excellent choice in the humble opinion of the O/NSO. Rideaux, who gives a great deal of thought before he makes comments, has shown his rapid development already on KSPN with David Newberry, both of whom are WeAreSC regulars in the well received DVD video series that provides a player's analysis of Trojan football.

The Obvious – Barring a last minute change of heart, it appears that the Trojans 2005 Heisman Trophy tailback, Reggie Bush, will be the first player taken in the NFL draft and will be selected by Houston.

The Not So Obvious –Reggie recently signed his first endorsement deal with Subway Restaurants. As part of the Subway contract, Bush will have a blog on Subwayfreshbuzz.com in which No. 5 will hold chats and give updates on the NFL draft, his newfound fame, and the inside life of Roadrunner Reggie.

The Obvious – The Trojans will need big things out of new starting senior right tackle Kyle Williams, who must replace expected high draft pick, Winston Justice.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO had a chance to talk with Williams about subjects ranging from Trojan defensive linemen to the Rose Bowl. We asked Kyle who was the toughest defender he has faced in practice and he said, without a doubt, it was defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Williams said, " Lawrence is really tough. He can tell which way an offensive lineman is looking or leaning and he is just so smart. He's really good." As for the Rose Bowl, the former Dallas Highland All-American showed class by acknowledging that Texas was as tough a team physically as the Trojans had faced all season. There was no bad mouthing, but professional praise. Williams said many teams were intimidated by the presence of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush but not the Longhorns.

The Obvious – One of the unsung performers this spring as been former Los Angeles Roosevelt star Jody Adewale. The junior has fought through some spring medical issues and ended up sitting out the final days of spring.

The Not So Obvious –Adewale served noticed that he is a Ready Teddy. Last week, he took a handoff, went outside left, and distributed a physical calling card to linebacker Rey Maualuga, running over the talented Rey Rey to the oohs and awes of is own teammates and some prepsters who were standing on the sidelines.

The Obvious – Sophomore corner Kevin Thomas had an interception of a Mark Sanchez pass last week.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO could see a real contrast between Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez and it had nothing to do with ability. The difference being that Matt Leinart is 6-5 and Mark Sanchez is generously listed at 6-4. With Leinart's extra inches, Mark probably would have not been in an interception position. Don't underestimate height in a quarterback. During the days of shorter Trojan quarterback like long ago Steve Sogge, Mike Rae, and Pat Haden, legendary coach John McKay would constantly talk about passing lanes as opposed to trying to throw over people.

The Obvious – It figured that with the coaching addition of Nick Holt that the intensity and discipline would be at a higher level.

The Not So Obvious – Holt was seen this past week giving personal attention to one of his youthful defensive linemen, who apparently drew the negative attention of the coach. When we last looked, the linemen was moving quite slowly with a "fall-down-back up drill" on Howard Jones Field. Holt was in a close-up, "supervisory" position. And, no, we aren't going to give up the name out of respect to the perpetrator.

The Obvious – There is the living motto that you're a Bruin for four years but a Trojan for life.

The Not So Obvious – So it was with positive irony that former UCLA quarterback Jim Bonds, coach of La Canada St. Francis and one of the good guys in the prep ranks, was able to spend some quality time after practice recently with Trojan linebacker coach Ken Norton, a former Westwooder. Not to worry, Trojan fans, there is nothing wrong with a friendship no matter what the colors.

The Obvious – This is the time of the year when high school seniors visit college to get the "feel" before the fateful May 1 college decision-making day.

The Not So Obvious – At a recent Open House on the campuses of San Diego State and Chapman, a prospective student and her mother were surprised to see so many dorm rooms with USC signs and students walking around with USC sweatshirts, both in the men's and women's sections. Shhhhhh, don't tell new San Diego State coach Chuck Long, the former Oklahoma offensive coordinator, he's probably still a tad sensitive about that 2005 Orange Bowl with the Trojans.

The Obvious – Former Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart, who figures to be a central figure in the NFL draft in the coming weeks, recently severed his business relationship with famed agent Leigh Steinberg.

The Not So Obvious – For our appreciative lady readers of the O/NSO, here is a little tasty morsel. You can bid on a new online "USC Auction" item described as a Matt Lineart life-size cutout. According to the item description, "Matt Leinart Cutout -Matt led the Trojans to back-to-back national championship while picking up a Heisman Trophy in the process. Now you can pick up Matt. You are bidding on a life-sized cutout of quarterback Matt Leinart The cutout will be signed by Matt Leinart. Slightly damaged edges from normal usage during the season." What next, a Matt Leinart inflatable blowup doll? No, we're not going there and, please, no slightly-damaged jokes.

The Obvious – The Trojans on-line auction still has a week to go before the "lucky" winners are announced.

The Not So Obvious – As of Monday, there were no bids on the Matt Leinart life-sized cutout, but the same item with Reggie Bush had two bids going at $540. To put things in overall perspective, the popular Trojans Football Adult Fantasy Camp had 22 auction bids with that item steaming along at a current $4140 level of bidding.

The Obvious – It figures that Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart will go in the first three selections of the NFL draft on April 22.

The Not So Obvious – While we have great interest in the Bush and Leinart selection and destination, for our money it's when and where LenDale White is drafted. White's selection will be an educational template for future Trojan gridders, both pro and con. On a secondary draft level, we also have great interest in the draft selection of strong safety Darnell Bing. While the O/NSO thinks that Bing could have definitely used another year under Pete Carroll, we wish him the best on Draft Day.

The Obvious – Incoming freshman defensive tackle Alex Parsons from Irvine Woodbridge has been a near daily visitor to spring practice and is getting an eye full of the intensity of new defensive line coach Nick Holt.

The Not So Obvious – Parsons told the O/NSO that he will not play in any all-star games this summer, instead he will enroll in USC summer school and get ready get ready for the fall. So cross off the name Parsons for those hoping to see Parsons in the Shrine and/or Orange County All-Star Games.

The Obvious – Much attention has focused on the Trojan defensive line, and freshman Walker Lee Ashley has made strides during the spring sessions.

The Not So Obvious – After practice on Thursday, the O/NSO caught up with Walker Lee to get some impressions to his introduction to Trojan football. The former Minnesota Player of the Year out of Eden Prairie High said was everything is going "great." He smiled and said, " I just called home and they have 10-inches of snow." When asked about what's the first thing that struck him about actually taking the field at Troy, Walker Lee said, " It's definitely the speed of the game and the players are so big. I really need to get back into playing shape." When asked which of Pat Ruel's offensive linemen was the toughest he has faced, there was no hesitation when Ashley blurted out "Chilo Rachal," the Trojans super sophomore from Compton Dominguez.

The Obvious – One of the visitors to practice last Thursday was former Trojan defensive lineman Manuel Wright, now with the Miami Dolphins.

The Not So Obvious – Wright told the O/NSO that the NFL is "all business." Big Manny said, " Here at SC, you are surrounded with friends, classroom stuff, and your family. In the NFL, you are by yourself and you have to stay in shape year-round. I am in the off-season now, and you have to remember this is a profession and they're paying you. On the field the players are not only stronger but wiser." The former Long Beach Poly star remembers his initial introduction into the world of the NFL during the Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears. Wright said, " I was in my stance and at the snap of the ball, this Bear punches me in the mouth. I knew they meant business. The NFL referees call a much looser game than in college. They let you play."

The Obvious – There are those that would argue that the Trojans were probably a Manny Wright away on defense to winning the Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Wright said that he tried to follow the Trojans last year during is rookie year in the NFL, but "it's hard being on the East Coast." Wright, who said he is weighing 330, added, " Alex Holmes (former Trojan tight end) is my roommate with the Dolphins, and we tried to watch as many games on Saturday as we could on television."

The Obvious – The Trojans have concentrated on defense by staying low when coming out of their three-point stances.

The Not So Obvious – To get better technique, the Trojans have installed a " net tent" overhang over a small portion of Brian Kennedy Field, which keeps the players low.

The Obvious – Former Trojan coach Mike Giddings was in attendance last week.

The Not So Obvious – Giddings is a link to the John McKay era, having coached with Saint John from 1961-65. Giddings, who also coached at Newport Harbor High at one time and had a scouting service as well, was proudly wearing his Trojan Fantasy Camp shirt. The camp is for adults that have always wanted to be Trojan football players. To this point, the camp has been a smashing success and if you have some extra change, we would highly encourage you to look into fulfilling your "Coliseum" dreams.

The Obvious – One of the favorite hobbies of sports fans is the collection of trading cards, namely football, basketball, and baseball.

The Not So Obvious – Well, come April 21, Sage HIT cards will release its 2006 draft player cards, which will include the Trojans' Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Here's the catch, fans can buy a box of 150 Sage HIT cards that will include some with autographs by Leinart and Bush. The significance for Trojan card collectors is that either autographed card by Bush or Leinart is expected to have an immediate street value of $120. Fans will have an increased chance of getting their valued Trojans as Sage HIT cards will have specialty box of Pac-10 cards.

The Obvious – For subscribers to WeAreSC Magazine, look for the new edition with a cover shot featuring Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, USC's legendary band director of the Trojan Marching Band.

The Not So Obvious – The fascinating Bartner interview touched on Bartner's influence on Pete Carroll, the unique story of Bartner's matriculation to the West Coast, the bands love affair with the football team, and Bartner's favorite moment of a football game. It's a story to be enjoyed by all Trojan fans.

The Obvious – A number of Trojan fans made their way to campus last Friday for what they thought was the day of practice.

The Not So Obvious – Three of your devoted WeAreSC staff member braved the elements, knowing they were the eyes and ears of the vast majority of fans who rely on practice reports to satisfy their cardinal and gold appetite. Like the U.S. mail, rain nor sleet nor snow would stop your devoted reporters from getting one last look of the Trojans and securing that precious depth chart. History tells us practice was cancelled, but nobody informed the three WeAreSC reporters. Showing uncommon dedication, the three scribes knew our subscribers wanted those treasured depth chart announcements. We won't give the names of those writers that came from near and far, but G.P, G.K., and J.C. is your closest hint and if you can't figure it out, then you aren't a certified WeAreSC reader.

The Obvious – We can officially say, rain or no rain, that USC spring football practice has come to a conclusion.

The Not So Obvious – However, we can equally say that the cycle of the Trojan football program has no real conclusion. Pete Carroll's coaching staff will soon be taking off to all points on a compass as the recruiting machine will crank it up, especially with high school spring practice right around the corner. Throw in the various evaluation camps on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields, the "voluntary" summer workouts, the normal flow of information, and a Trojan fan has no time to take a vacation. After all, according to a source, Pac-10 Media Day is set for July 27 and let's get this show on the road.

Team comes together at end of spring ball practice

USCFootball.com Top Stories