O/NSO - Pac-10 media day

That annual southern California love-in, better known as Pac-10 Media Day, was a rhetoric of love, gridiron flower power, competing media guides, and a satisfying lunch, as the regional and national press descended on the LAX Sheraton Gateway Hotel to predict once again that Pete Carroll's USC Trojans should be expected to be sizing up their ring fingers for a fifth consecutive Pac-10 crown.

The Obvious – That annual southern California love-in, better known as Pac-10 Media Day, was a rhetoric of love, gridiron flower power, competing media guides, and a satisfying lunch, as the regional and national press descended on the LAX Sheraton Gateway Hotel on Thursday morning to predict once again that Pete Carroll's USC Trojans should be expected to be sizing up their ring fingers for a fifth consecutive Pac-10 crown.

The Not So Obvious – Okay, stop the Jefferson Airplane music and put away the flower pooka shells, the O/NSO wasn't fooled by Thursday bonding session of Pac-10 coaches. So for those hard at work in the factory, your humble correspondent made his way up the accident-strewn 405 to digest, first-hand, the prime from the rib eye. It would be fair to say there was a healthy selection of "bull," but it would also be fair to say that nobody was fooled by the Trojans graduation loss of talent, but the Pac-10 opposition is openly hopeful of cardinal and gold dethronement. Here now is a re-creation of the morning's generals and soldiers, giving their both humble and no so humble assessments.

The Obvious – The media poll had the Trojans winning their fifth consecutive title with 276 points and 18 first-place votes.

The Not So Obvious – Following the Trojans in predicted finish were Cal (247 pts, 7 first-place votes), Oregon (229 pts, 3 first-place votes), ASU (204 pts, 1 first-place vote), UCLA (145 pts), Arizona (133 pts), Oregon St. (125 pts), Washington St. (96 pts), Stanford (90 pts), and Washington (50 pts).

The Obvious – Last year's media day was a major circus with the Trojans and Matt Leinart the main attractions as a huge national media descended on the Gateway.

The Not So Obvious – With the Trojans not expected to be atop the nation's polls in the coming weeks and with no national superstars like Leinart and Bush, the paparazzi were nowhere to been seen. However, it was still a fine turnout of media and things were very low-key compared to last year's celebrity atmosphere. For those lucky reporters in attendance, the morning began with the annual gathering of those precious media guides and TBS provided a large, hot/cold, tailgate thermal bag. We thought the bag pretty darn cool and the Pac-10 provided a leather baggage tag and a leather money clip. No complaints here. Muchas gracias and de nada.

The Obvious – After the opening 9:30 a.m. introductions and format from Associate Commissioner of Communications and Football Administration Jim Muldoon, Thomas C. Hansen, Commissioner of the Pac-10 Conference, gave his open remarks.

The Not So Obvious – Hansen covered a variety of topics including the new talent landscape in the conference, television contracts with ABC, FSN, and TBS (7 Pac-10 games at 5:00 on ABC), introduction of ABC's new West Coast broadcast team, the new BCS format, the new Hawaii Bowl affiliation for the 6th place Pac-10 team, new Pac-10 instant replay rules (one coaches' challenge per game), and mention of the top teams from around the country that will be playing Pac-10 teams, both home and away.

The Obvious – As expected, there were no real bombshells thrown by any of the Pac-10's well-scripted head coaches.

The Not So Obvious – It was a relatively low-key affair, and one scribe in attendance mentioned it might have helped in the "stirring the pot" department had Notre Dame's Charlie Weis been a "guest" pontificator following Pete Carroll.

The Obvious – As was the schedule at last year's Pac-10 Media Day, Pete Carroll came to the podium as the last speaker of the morning (12:02 p.m.) and was accompanied by senior All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil.

The Not So Obvious – While we will give you, good reader, the chronological timeline of the morning's festivities, we don't want to tease, so well start with Coach Charisma. In his opening remarks, Carroll said, "We find ourselves in a position where we were a few years back. Three years ago we lost our quarterback, a running back and many other key players and we now facing those same issues again. Hopefully, we will respond just as well. The Coliseum is sold out for every game next year for the first time ever. What is unique about the team is that we have the culmination of three very big recruiting years, and those classes have a sense of what this is all about. Being the No. 1 team going in didn't put any pressure on us last year, and it's not going to change how we are right now if we don't have that ranking.

The ObviousPete Carroll is very high on this year's defense and said so at media day.

The Not So Obvious – In regards to the defensive backfield, Carroll said, "We think that it's going to be a fantastic secondary. Safety Josh Pinkard is one of our best football players on the team. He's big, fast, and strong. Safety Kevin Ellison played very well as a freshman and Kevin Thomas has a chance to be a starting corner and he's competing with Cary Harris."

The Obvious – Senior center Ryan Kalil was the Trojans lone team representative at Thursday function.

The Not So Obvious – When the O/NSO asked Kalil about this year's team, Ryan said, " We have great depth. I don't see us missing a beat." Kalil (6-3, 285) broke up the gathering saying he was selected to represent the Trojans because he is the best looking guy on the team. Carroll gave Kalil quite an introduction saying, " Ryan is one of the best linemen in the nation, if not the best the best lineman.

The Obvious – The issue of Dwayne Jarrett's eligibility is still unknown and Trojan fans are hoping the NCAA will give an answer soon.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll addressed the issue to the media and said that all paperwork is in and he didn't expect at all that the All-American would miss any games. Okay, sir.

The Obvious – Naturally, there is a large group of local media for the Pac-10 Media Day, and it was a nice opportunity for your humble scribe to ask some questions on the wireless microphones that were passed around the ballroom.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO asked Carroll about the talents of tailback Chauncey Washington, mentioning that the junior from Torrence has been described by many as a combination of Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Pete gave a response that revisited what the O/NSO had written about in our last conversation concerning Washington's potential number of carries. Carroll said, "Chauncey can be an every down back. He has terrific speed. We like a physical back and Chauncey gives us an every down back. If he could do it that would be great."

The Obvious – Pac-10 Media Day brings out all the local wags and media folks, as well as some noted national figures.

The Not So Obvious – New ABC play-by-play West Coast voice Dan Fouts was in attendance along with analyst Tim Brandt as were FSN's Barry Tompkins and Petros Papadakis, who will be on a Saturday WeAreSC chat at 1:00 p.m. for premium subscribers. The O/NSO was joined at his table by Bob Davie, current ABC national game analyst and former Notre Dame head coach. More on Davie and our conversation, but first let's get back to the original order of the media, which began with Washington's Tyrone Willingham.

The Obvious – First up at 9:35 after Commissioner Thomas C. Hansen's opening address, was Ty Willingham, who begins his second season as head coach of Washington and has a Huskies career record of 2-9 and is 0-1 in his Huskie record against the Trojans and 4-2-1(including Stanford) overall.

The Not So Obvious – Willingham was accompanied by senior quarterback Isaiah Stanback (6-3, 205), whose beautiful "locks" still flow down to his shoulders. When the O/NSO asked the senior Husky quarterback his views on the Trojans and the Pac-10 race, he diplomatically said, " There is no set team; we just look at it as taking it one team every week." He has learned his lessons well from Coach Willingham, who gave his typical vanilla answers. Willingham did say, " I am excited because in this conference, quarterbacking is such a key ingredient, and we are fortunate to have Isaiah. One of our main goals for next season is not to have the 9:30 slot at this meeting next year." The crack drew quite a chuckle from the gathering of media.

The Obvious – Following Willingham at 9:53 was Bill Doba, who begins his fourth season as head coach of Washington State and has a Cougar career record of 19-16 and is 0-3 against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Always good with the media, Doba was again quite comfortable at the podium along with intimidating senior defensive end Mkristo Bruce (6-6, 255). When Doba was asked about the Trojans being in transition, he quipped, " Are they in transition?" Doba added, " I expect a tight race. Everybody's got something going for them. It's a pretty even league. You take out a Reggie Bush and a Matt Leinart and that's a lot of talent." In a coach-speak sort of way, Doba was like a number of his Pac-10 colleagues in basically saying the Trojans have lost a lot and this is everyone's big chance.

The Obvious – Next up at 10:02 was Mike Stoops, who begins his third season as head coach of Arizona and has a Wildcat career record of 6-16 and is 0-2 against the Men of Troy.

The Not So Obvious – Stoops appeared with senior receiver Syndric Steptoe (5-9, 182). For Trojan fans, a question was asked about former cardinal and gold recruits Louis Holmes and Gabe Long, two high potential defensive tackles. Interestingly Stoops said, " We hope everybody we signed will be qualified and we'll see next Thursday. Of Holmes, Stoops said, " We can't talk about anybody who is not with us right now on the team." You got the impression that both Holmes and Long may not make next Thursday's first practice appearance by Stoops answers. Of the Trojans, Stoops said, " It's inevitable that when you lose a Leinart, Bush and the other monster (White), things change. However, people don't realized their defense will be much improved. It will be different for the quarterback (Booty or Sanchez) when the score is 0-0 compared to 50-0." As far as the conference race, Stoops said you still had to look at the Trojans, but Cal has a lot of big stars returning. Mike said this is "one of the best years in competitiveness in recent times." Translation: The Trojans are beatable and not a sure thing.

The Obvious – At 10:19, up to the stage came Mike Riley, who begins his fifth season as head coach of Oregon State and has a Beavers career record of 28-30 and a 0-3 record against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Riley came forth with big senior star safety Sabbie Piscitelli (6-3, 226). Riley continued the theme of conference parity." I think the conference is very, very competitive from top to bottom. You have to give USC credit with what they've done. A lot of conference teams that have been down are starting to rise up." Piscitelli echoed his coach's statement of difficulty in the Pac-10 by saying," One play can make a game and there were little things (last year) we didn't capitalize on." Riley did say he likes the fact that all conference teams play each other and loves the 12-game schedule.

The Obvious – At 10:33 it was time for Walt Harris, who beings his second season as head coach of Stanford and has a one-year Cardinal career record of 5-6 and a 0-1 record against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Harris brought his star senior quarterback Trent Edwards (6-4, 220) from Palo Alto. If the glowing words of Harris are any indication, the new Stanford Stadium is going to be a big hit. Harris said, " It's gonna add a whole different feeling to going to a game. The last seat in the in the last row of the lower level is the same distance from the first seat in the old stadium. There is not a bad seat in the house. They kept the old stadium look, which is great. They've upgraded and built a brand-new stadium, but it still has that feel of Stanford. Again, there was the underlying theme is that the Trojans can be had. Quarterback Edwards said, "It's going to be an extremely competitive year, but I'm encouraged that we are playing all nine other conference teams, 12 total, and hopefully a bowl game at the end."

The Obvious – At 10:42, to the podium came the Pac-10's Mr. Offense, Dirk Koetter, who begins his sixth season as head coach of Arizona State and has a Sun Devil career record of 32-28 and an 0-5 record against the Trojans

The Not So Obvious – Koetter brought with him enormous senior offensive tackle Andrew Carnahan (6-8, 300), a second-team All-Pac-10 selection. Much of Koetter's discussion was based on his explosive offense and two-quarterback competition between Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter. No decision has been made as of now. Dirk says the key is defense, not something the Sun Devils have been able to crow about in recent times. Only four starters return and Koetter cracked, " Maybe that's a good thing." Of the Trojans, Koetter said, " Has SC returned to the pack? I don't know for sure. Not many teams lost two offensive Heisman winners and not taken a step backward (cue the bulletin board material). Until somebody proves otherwise, they are the team to beat."

The Obvious – After hearing from six Pac-10 coaches, there was a break at 11:00, so the O/NSO decided to strike up a chat with Bob Davie.

The Not So Obvious – Davie said he couldn't believe how much talent is now on the Trojans' roster compared to when he was coaching the Irish. He remembered the Trojans having a "white" tailback (no, he was not being a racist) and our Scott Schrader reminded him the name was probably Sunny Byrd. Bob, who said he will team with Brent Musburger on the ABC national telecasts, said in today's world, if there is a recruiting battle for a kid between USC and Arkansas, USC will win because the kid will become a better player going to USC because of the high level of competition, the legacy and work ethic left by Leinart and Bush, the swagger and the attitude, and the way Carroll's program goes about things. Davie came over has a good guy and we still think his voice sounds like Bill Medley from the Righteous Brothers.

The Obvious – At 11:15, media day continued with Jeff Tedford, who begins his fifth season as head coach of California, has a Bear career record of 33-17 and is 1-4 against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Walking into the room with Tedford was senior defensive back Daymeion Hughes (6-2, 188). Since Cal is picked right behind the Trojans, the scribes were working the notebooks as the highly successful Bears coach gave his opinions. Tedford made sure he said all the right things. Of the Trojans, Jeff said, " They're the champions. They're reloading. However, anytime you have to replace your quarterback and tailback, there is a learning curve. This is a transition period and a learning curve like when we lost Aaron Rogers (former star Cal quarterback). They have a lot of talent and obviously the team to beat in the Pac-10. We feel we can play with anybody on any Saturday." Well, come Nov. 18 in the Coliseum, we will find out if this is true.

The Obvious – The clock moved on to 11:31 and up stepped Karl Dorrell, who begins his fourth season as head coach of UCLA and has a Bruin career record of 22-15 and is 0-3 against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Dorrell was accompanied by senior wide receiver Junior Taylor (6-2, 212), who is returning from injury. Dorrell got the attention of the local media when he discussed the possibility of both the Bruins and the Trojans wearing their home uniforms next December in the Rose Bowl. Karl informed, " We haven't heard anything official. I haven't heard from Dan Guerrero (UCLA athletic director) and nothing from Mike Garrett." As for his view of the retooling Trojans, Dorrell said,"They (USC) had changes. They had a lot of people drafted and we didn't. They have depth and quality. We come in each season, we are all good coaches (Pac-10) and try to gain ground. We play all nine conference members this season and everybody is fair game and has the opportunity to prove their worth." Dorrell made another comparison between the two schools and referred to the Trojans as "the team across the street." Nope, in Westwood, they try not to mention that dreaded three-letter word.

The Obvious – At 11:48 and last before Pete Carroll's appearance came Mike Bellotti, who begins his 12th season as head coach of Oregon and has a Ducks career record of 90-42 and a 4-4 record against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Bellotti strolled to the stage alongside mammoth senior center Enoka Lucas (6-4, 299). Bellotti may be second only to Carroll in public speaking skills. Mike was very positive about his team and their addition of the spread offense and its incorporation with heralded sophomore tailback Jonathan Stewart. Of Stewart, Bellotti said, " He's 5-11, 240 pounds, has a 40-inch vertical, and he will be perfect in our offense. He can carry the ball 20-25 times." Bellotti mentioned that athletic quarterback Dennis Dixon remains his quarterback. There was no mention of the Trojan, but perhaps that was because Pete Carroll was next up at the podium.

The Obvious – Like most media days, there was the usual buffet lunch afterwards.

The Not So Obvious – Hats off to the folks at the Gateway for providing a fine lunch, both hot and cold. We enjoyed the chicken, Caesar salad, the tangy veggies, some garlic bread, but we did pass on the dessert, which included three types of cakes. Don't want to show up at Goux Gate over the training table limit, you know.

The Obvious – So, another Pac-10 Media Day is in the books, and everybody is saying they are better and the Trojans are beatable.

The Not So Obvious – It's just the way Pete Carroll wants it.


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