O/NSO - Call Out edition

While Pete Carroll's No. 3-ranked USC Trojans were doing a freshmen version of American Idol with a well-attended Wednesday afternoon team scrimmage, in another part of the country, the Arkansas Razorbacks of Houston Nutt were busy preparing a potential Trojan ambush

The Obvious – While Pete Carroll's No. 3-ranked USC Trojans were doing a freshmen version of American Idol with a well-attended Wednesday afternoon team scrimmage, in another part of the country, the Arkansas Razorbacks of Houston Nutt were busy preparing a potential Trojan ambush as the folks from Fayetteville couldn't quite contain themselves to the Associated Press, basically throwing down the gauntlet all the way from the Ozarks to Los Angeles. The comments weren't just braggadocio; they were a Hog calling out of the Men of Troy. In the other words, Whooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!"

The Not So Obvious – Probably the most controlled response of the emotional Razorbacks was coach Houston Nutt, who told the AP, "This game's out there. Our players know it, they know that we were embarrassed last year and humiliated, and we've got an opportunity. We've got a great opportunity right here at home to have probably one of the largest crowds in Arkansas Razorback history. The atmosphere is going to be electric, so let's go play." The O/NSO was particularly amused by comments from defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who said, "I've said it before: it's the most humiliating loss -- the most humiliating experience (the Trojans 70-17 victory) that I've ever gone through as a human being." However, the best bulletin board material came from standout fullback Peyton Hillis, who said, "They can't be as good as last year. I mean, they had two Heisman Trophy winners on their team, great defense. They lost a lot of guys to the draft. I just don't see them being better. ... If we get a good quarterback in there, there ain't no doubt we can beat 'em." Okay, we like the bravado, but are the Razorbacks 50 points better in 2006? We'll see in less than 25 days.

The Obvious Pete Carroll promised Wednesday's first scrimmage would showcase his freshmen running backs, open up the quarterbacks to real fire, and flaunt his plethora of team talent.

The Not So Obvious – Well, for starters, the O/NSO was impressed with the young running backs, but perhaps not in the same order that some may have. We thought that while Emmanuel Moody (3.4 ave.) was playful with a myriad of quick, impressive moves, both before and at the line of scrimmage. For our money, we were more impressed with the maturity of running style provided by C.J. Gable (8.0 ave.) and Stafon Johnson (9.2 ave.). Although Johnson had five more carries than Gable, we thought Gable (photo), who got the first carry of the scrimmage, showed huge potential and C.J. will get better and better as he puts on more weight. Johnson, "The Prince of LA", seemed to get better and better the more times he carried the ball. Both have an attacking style and controlled shake and bake, which blend with Pete Carroll's power running philosophy. Perhaps the biggest reward by all three backs was that they had no fumbles and even picked up a blitz or two.

The Obvious – Although quarterback John David Booty is considered the current starter, Mark Sanchez continued to stay right with him on Wednesday's scrimmage.

The Not So Obvious – In our opinion, both quarterbacks were efficient but not necessarily spectacular, which figured for a first scrimmage. Sanchez had the better percentage as Mark was 8 of 12 (103 yds.) with a short TD pass to Stanley Havili. John David was 8 of 19 (114 yds.) and had one scoring toss to freshman tight end Anthony McCoy and one interception. Neither yet is Matt Leinart, but then nobody expected them to be Heisman Trophy candidates this early in their careers. Both did a number of good things during the scrimmage, but one area of concern continues to be the number of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Earlier in the week, Mark Sanchez told the O/NSO that the number of passes batted down during practice was due to the type of drills being run and that the coaches were not concerned. However, Wednesday was not a drill and passes continued to be knocked down. It is an area that will need to be carefully monitored.

The Obvious – All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett was given the NCAA okay to play this season without missing any games.

The Not So Obvious – Jarrett learned earlier in the day that he would have to pay back some monetary payments, but for college football fans everywhere but perhaps Fayetteville, Arkansas, it was a nice beginning to Wednesday's scrimmage. Word traveled fast around Howard Jones Field of Jarrett's reinstatement, and Dwayne responded with a "typical" one-handed grab going out of bounds that had the fans in a full chorus of cheers.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line was impressive in opening holes for the young running backs (Chauncey Washington did not participate because of his "mild" hamstring pull).

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO talked shop with starting offensive left guard Jeff Byers to get his take on Wednesday festivities, Byers said, " I thought is was a good first scrimmage. I thought the young guys played hard and we ran the ball. Of course we have to look at the tape to get a real evaluation. Personally, I feel healthy." Byers played some center on Wednesday and said, " I still like playing guard, but you want to give guys as much opportunity to play other spots since it is a long season and you never know what's going to happen."

The Obvious – The defense showed the fans, who ringed three-fourths the field, why the defense figures to be a much improved unit.

The Not So Obvious – Safety Kevin Ellison had his own thoughts on Wednesday. Kevin said, " We did okay on defense, but we still need to look at the film. I thought the three freshmen running backs all looked solid, and (fullback) Stanley Havili is really solid.I thought I played all right, but I need to get better at recognition. I think our 2006 defense will play fast and physical." As for the new 3-4 defense, Kevin took the high road and said, " I don't worry about the defense we run; I just try to do my job." Of the impressive new Trojan freshmen receivers, Travon Patterson and Vidal Hazelton, Kevin said, " Travon is really quick and very fast and will get better as he learns the playbook, and Vidal is a good talent, smooth, and really opens your eyes. He is tough physically."

The Obvious – Junior tight end Fred Davis did not participate in the scrimmage due to a bruised rib.

The Not So Obvious – Davis, however, did have some thoughts on Wednesday's scrimmage. The gifted tight end said, " I thought we looked good with all the new running backs and receivers. I thought the defense was also looking good." The O/NSO asked Fred, who says he is now 6-4, 258, about his remarkable turnaround from his turbulent freshman year and he revealed, " You get older and see things differently mentally. You learn responsibility and not to be so into yourself. Everything about college football is so different than high school. You learn that everything here is about your team. For me, I just want to improve and become a better blocking tight end and be physical. I want to work harder and finish each play." Asked about the long-range possibility of playing his native Ohio State at the end of the year, Fred smiled and said, " Our only concern is getting ready for Arkansas."

The Obvious – One thing about attending Wednesday's 93-play scrimmage, most fans spent the day giving their opinions and left with an idea the Trojans could be pretty good, but there was still a lot of work to be done prior to Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious - Some of the thoughts the O/NSO had following the Wednesday's scrimmage was more about individual play than the overall team performance. First scrimmages are never really pretty, much like first games. There is no question that freshmen receivers Travon Patterson(4 rec./76 yds.), a real recruiting find, and Vidal Hazelton are great additions. Patterson (photo) reminds us of the late receiver Kevin Williams, the lightening quick receiver from the late 70s. Hazelton give us Reggie Bush anticipation when he is in the pattern or the ball is in his hands. VH1's talent is big, big and well worth the past recruiting anxiety. Freshman safety Taylor Mays (6 tackles) is really something else. The athletically huge safety (6-4, 225) almost and could have just killed freshmen tight end Anthony McCoy with a catch over the middle, but Taylor held off. McCoy, BTW, is a real talent at tight end. Freshmen defensive linemen Alex Parsons and Derek Simmons showed some aggressiveness and that 3-4 defense looked mighty fast when the inside backers were Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers and senior Dallas Sartz was part of the outside backer group. There was a growing rumor that safety Allen Bradford might take some tailback snaps, but like most rumors, it never happened. How the heck would Bradford even know the plays, considering he has been on defense the whole time?

The ObviousPete Carroll and staff take great pride in making sure the "little" things are done correctly.

The Not So Obvious – During a recent warm-up session, strength coach Chris Carlisle did not like the team hand-clap to move on to the next stretching moment and made the entire team repeat the clap routine.

The Obvious – In case you haven't noticed, we have a new front page for WeAreSC.com and a new contributor, Trojan radio play-by-play voice Pete Arbogast, whose Pete's Arboblog will be a nice addition to the site.

The Not So Obvious – As far as the new front page, we see it as a definite improvement and hope you do too. As for Pete's Arboblog, we enjoyed Pete's opening random thoughts, especially about Tom Kelly and Mike Walden. The O/NSO also had a chance to work with Walden, who at one time did baseball for the old Milwaukee Braves, in some other ventures and he is really wonderful person. We would be remiss, however, if the O/NSO didn't call attention to the first Arboblog and make mention that the only thing missing was at least one "How do you do?" reference. Of course the Arboblog is still in its developmental stage and me thinks we'll see Arbogast's trademark call pop up at some point in the new WeAreSC feature.

The Obvious – Quarterback John David Booty has had three years to prepare for his probable opening deput at Arkansas on Sept. 2.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO caught up with John David on Monday to get his take on a number of issues. On his evaluation of the offense to this point, J.D. said, " Everything is going well and every day we are getting better. I think we are growing as unit. We need this to happen so when times get tough. I think the fact that the guys know the system really makes a difference. I think we need to become a more physical football team. We've got an offensive line that is physical. Our wide receivers are all great and they all bring something to the table. They run such great routes. Tight end Fred Davis has come a long ways. This is the best he has looked in camp. He's making great plays. Being here three years in many ways is a good thing for me. Success to me will be going to the Rose Bowl; that is what Coach Carroll always preaches."

The Obvious – With Chauncey Washington held out due to his hamstring pull on Monday, it gave spring practice star tailback Ryan Powdrell, the former Mission Viejo star, a chance to re-show his stuff.

The Not So Obvious – Ryan didn't disappoint and had a very productive afternoon. The O/NSO had a chance to get Powdrell's views on a number of subjects. On his status thus far, Ryan said, " My main position is fullback. I'll line up at tailback if they want me to pound away. I like being known as a powerback. I think I did good during spring, but it's good to see Chauncey Washington up and running. As far as improvement, I know that I have to keep from running high. Coach Carroll said I should get lower and keep my feet running." On the state of the offense, Ryan added, " We'll be solid. We just got off to a slow start. Of the new guys that I have seen, for my eyes, Stanley Havili is really good. A lot of the other guys think the same thing. I know he was not as well known as the other running back recruits, but to me he can catch, has a great work ethic, and reminds me of Malaefou (MacKenzie)."

The Obvious – Much of the attention of the Trojan offense has been focused on the reloading of Pat Ruel's offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – According to tailback Powdrell, "They are very athletic from tackle to tackle. They all can run." When asked if he had to choose one of his offensive line teammates to run behind if he needed a yard, Ryan thought for a moment and said, " Well, if I had to choose one guy, it would be Chilo Rachal. I would love to run behind him because he is so big, fast, and strong."

The Obvious – Most colleges these days pro-rate their ticket prices for marquee games like the Trojans have done with Nebraska and Notre Dame to gain added revenue.

The Not So Obvious – This week, Trojan season ticket holders were reminded of this strategy when the ticket office apologized for a financial "turnover." The Trojans Ticket Department e-mailed, "Your season ticket for the USC vs. Nebraska game contains a printing error. The price printed on your ticket is $40, but the actual ticket price is $65. Please note the proper price of $65 per ticket was included in your season ticket amount of $290. We apologize for any inconvenience."

The Obvious – Legendary Trojan Ronnie Lott addressed the team on Monday.

The Not So Obvious – Lott was one of the Trojans all-time hitters during his cardinal and gold strong safety playing days, and some believe that freshman Antwine Perez will bring back memories of Lott as his career develops. During one pass play to receiver Steve Smith, Perez came over and delivered a restrained blow that still had Smith rocking. It reminded us of our conversation with Antwine during the spring when he said that Pete Carroll had reminded his talented freshman not punish his own receivers but wait until the fall to let it rip. We can say, Antwine will be more than ready to release his hitting instincts and for those that have seen footage of his prep days, you better fasten your seatbelts if you are not wearing cardinal and gold.

The Obvious – WeAreSC has released the new game-day radio schedule of ESPN Radio 710, new home of Trojan football.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO is pleased that 7 1/2 hours of pre and post-game conversation will take place with a limited number of holdover talent from the bygone 1540 days. The rehiring of former UNLV and Pasadena City College coach Harvey Hyde is a plus and it will be interesting to hear how former Trojan star wide receiver Curtis Conway fits into the mix, since we've never heard his work. If he turns out to be as finely tuned as former Trojan safety star Mark Carrier was, it will be a plus. Steve Mason, however, is a curious mix, but WeAreSC's John Jackson is a proven pro. However, many Trojan fans will take a wait and see attitude with the hiring of former Washington Huskies' star D'Marco Farr, who starred for the UW 1991 national champs. Some have inferred that Farr has no love for the Cardinal and Gold and his Husky blood runs purple thick, but we're willing to wait and see. Farr will team with Gary Miller, another "curious" ESPN mix for Trojan football.

The Obvious – You have to admire the accuracy of new placekicker David Buehler during various workouts as he drilled them through the uprights.

The Not So Obvious – And those were just his kickoffs! This lad lives up to the metaphor "he's got a cannon for a leg." It certainly would be no shock here if the Trojans showcased both a new punter and a new placekicker in September.

The Obvious – In what may just the beginning of freshmen position rearranging, massive lineman Butch Lewis was moved on Tuesday from defensive to offensive tackle.

The Not So Obvious – While this move was anticipated from the get-go, the quick move from defensive to offense will Lewis his best chance to succeed. The domino effect may be in play here because of the health status of sophomore backup center Travis Draper (back). The move may assure a move of redshirt freshman Nick Howell to center, since Howell has been seen more and more practicing center snaps. One area of concern has been the recent rash of botched center snaps when starter Ryan Kalil is not in the lineup. Starting left guard Jeff Byers has also been doing some backup work at center. One thing about Howell, while lack of girth is an issue, his technique as a tackle was not. At times, he has been a clinic out there. Let's keep an eye on the backup center spot.

The Obvious – Arizona stud offensive lineman Kris O'Dowd has named a leader for his services and says if he had to make a selection this moment, it would be the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Leave it to Scout.com's Allen Wallace to unravel yet another recruiting mystery. The likeable Wallace has a soothing way of allowing recruits to release previously sealed preferences. With Ohio State still deep in the picture according to O'Dowd, the Trojans still have some work to do. However, if you want to look deep into the offensive line future, think realistically of a future offensive line of tackles Butch Lewis, who was wearing a white offensive unit jersey on Tuesday, and Martin Coleman, guards James Wilson and Kris O'Dowd, and center Michael Reardon. By our way of thinking, that ain't chopped liver and looks pretty realistic, so help me Pat Ruel.

The Obvious – Mt. Sac transfer Greg Woidneck continues to impress with his daily punting auditions.

The Not So Obvious – There has been some confusion on the road that Woidneck traveled to get to Troy. For the record, he left Brea Olinda High as a second-team all-state punter and walked on at Arizona State. After finding that Sun Devil punter Chris MacDonald, an Arizona native and an important year older, got the scholarship, Greg figured his playing time didn't look good, so he re-routed to Mt. San Antonio College, former playing home of Trojan secondary coach Rocky Seto. With some game film and phone calls, Woidneck's original dream of playing for the Trojans is coming true. The kid comes from a USC family as his grandfather and dad are Trojan alumni. His brothers, Brian and Rob, are former Trojan football team managers. As they say at Disneyland, "It's a small world after all."

The Obvious – As he enters his sixth season as Trojan head coach, there is little question that this will be Pete Carroll's fastest defense.

The Not So Obvious – There was no better illustration of the team speed on defense this week when quarterback Mark Sanchez was rolling left and was pursued by linebacker Keith Rivers and Jeff Schweiger. The closer that Sanchez got to the sideline the more intense the closing speed of Rivers and Schweiger. The defensive effort drew a large vocal response from defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

The Obvious – A number of Trojan fans follow Notre Dame by sneaking a couple of peaks at Blue and Gold, an outstanding publication covering Irish football.

The Not So Obvious – The most recent edition of Blue and Gold has a nice big photo of Florida offensive lineman James Wilson, who eventually selected the Trojans over the Irish. The publication also presented its 2006 preseason All-Opponent Team. Of the 23 players listed, nine are Trojans including receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, tight end Fred Davis, offensive linemen Sam Baker and Ryan Kalil, defensive linemen Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis, linebacker Oscar Lua, and safety Josh Pinkard.

The Obvious – One of the biggest Trojans games this year will be Saturday evening, Nov. 18, against the Cal Bears.

The Not So Obvious – You talk about a big night in Los Angeles. Besides an expected sellout in the Coliseum, the Rolling Stones will be performing the same evening at Dodger Stadium. Since the Trojans' game starts at 5:00 p.m., just how many rock and roll souls will brave the traffic and make it a two-fer with The Stones, which should be a 7:30 or 8:00 start time. Of course an opening act before Mick and the boys would be helpful for those hoping to make both events.

The Obvious LenDale White has agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans.

The Not So Obvious – After the recent Pac-10 Media Day, your humble reporter went out front of the Sheraton Gateway for the valet to retrieve our car. The valet asked what was going on inside and we said it was the Pac-10 Media Day for football. He remarked gushingly that LenDale White, the former Trojan running back now with the Tennessee Titans, was at the Gateway the previous week and "you should have seen the new luxury car he was driving." The valet said he got White's car and, no, the kid didn't comment on White's "tip."

The Obvious – Only Coliseum tickets available for the Trojans' six-game home schedule are ASU (Oct. 14) and Oregon, (Nov .18).

The Not So Obvious – You can talk all you want about the great winning streaks that have been accomplished under Pete Carroll's watch, but from our point of view, the inevitable selling out of all six Coliseum home games is just as mind-boggling, especially for any Trojan fan whose has followed this fable program for many decades.

The Obvious – One of the more famous quarterback numbers in USC lore is No.10, worn by such pitchers as Pat Haden.

The Not So Obvious – So you think that Dwayne Jarrett's No. 8 will be a popular selling items on display this fall? Well, apparently the marketing people have the faith in expected starter John David Booty, whose No. 10 is now for purchase in the Trojans' merchandizing warehouse. Both No. 8 and No. 10 greet consumers when they step of the escalator on the second floor the campus bookstore.

The Obvious – On rare occasion does one see merchandise items that represent both USC and Notre Dame, unless it's game day T-shirt, and that's usually sold in South Bend.

The Not So Obvious – Well, those feisty Irish are now selling a new 16x20 photograph (unframed $109.99) of a Trojan and Irish helmet resting side by side in the grass. Only problem is the Trojan facemask is not gray, a major snafu for any potential Cardinal and Gold customer. As for the grass, it certainly doesn't resemble that green marsh that disguised itself as Notre Dame Stadium grass.

The Obvious – Georgia running back Caleb King, on the short list of prep tailbacks being recruited by the Trojans, has transferred from prep power Parkview High to Greater Atlanta Christian High.

The Not So Obvious – The nationally recruited running back spent the last two seasons at Parkview, after transferring there from Columbia High in DeKalb County his freshman year. Last season King rushed for 2,768 yards for Parkview, approaching the state record of fabled Hershel Walker. For those that must know, King will run behind a new offensive line led by T-Bob Herbert, one of the best prep centers in the land. Thought you'd like to know about T-Bob. BTW, WeAreSC's recruiting guru, Brian Mathews, once attended Parkview High in Atlanta. Who knew?

The Obvious – And finally, the first Trojan scrimmage can be both energizing and frustrating for players, coaches, and fans.

The Not So Obvious – If you were one of the lucky fans that were able to attend Wednesday's first evaluation session, there are still a number of these exercises left to go. There is, of course, the Coliseum open house on Sunday evening, August 20th, which will bring the Men of Troy that much closer to game-day reality, especially with a 7:45 p.m. start. We wouldn't get too high or too low based on Wednesday, but hearing members of the Trojan Marching Band play the cardinal and gold standards from Dedeaux Field, does remind us that the moment of truth is only a few weeks away.


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