I made my first trip to the upper deck of Dedeaux Field today, to look down upon the last portions of the Saturday afternoon practice, but still haven't found the need to actually speak out loud and practice play-by-play. Perhaps it was the couple sitting on stools next to me that scared me off. I don't often see an audience while actually performing my line of work, and I was concerned with what they might think. Then again, at the fog bowl in Corvallis a couple of years ago, where I was walking the sideline doing the PBP, the boosters and others seemed to find a sense of joy in the oddity and absurdity of that special moment.
I was really trying to get a look at the backups, to see who is getting the real playing time behind the "1's", but I still haven't reached a quality decision to add many to the magic spotter board.
I did see something interesting. I really wasn't sure if what happened is what I saw, but it's probably not important. New defensive coordinator Nick Holt was told something by Head coach Pete Carroll, and from my vantage point, didn't look happy with whatever it was. He looked a bit upset, in fact.
Let's face it, football is a hugely emotional game, and even in practice we see tempers flare up all the time. Players' good-natured kidding sometimes boils over into actual fighting between team mates. It all blows over in the locker room eventually, but it's a really interesting dynamic to see as a team takes shape. And make no mistake about it, each and every team, due to the variant personnel on it in any given year, has its own personality and has to find its own way of doing things.
So, after a few minutes, Pete comes back over to Nick and pats him on the back and says something, and it seems to be okay again. The fact that I may have read something into these moments is immaterial to what crossed my mind: I wondered, almost aloud, to myself how Nick must be feeling and what kind of challenges he faces in his new position.
After all, he is a former assistant already, who went away to try his hand at being a head man at Idaho…a fairly thankless thing to try in terms of trying to woo players to Moscow and win there (let's see how much of genius Dennis Erickson is with that task at hand). Then, Holt gets offered a gig with the Rams (yes, I still root for the Rams, even though they are long gone from the days we could see them Sunday after a Saturday SC game at the Coliseum—I will change my allegiance when we get an expansion team, not a transplanted one, into LA and into the Coliseum…which we should NOT let them change a hair on to lure them in), and I think he may even have accepted the job, but Pete called and made the offer that he DID take. So how does it feel being totally in charge, being a man of some vocal leadership, and a hard-driven football man, and a tough no-nonsense coach, and then put back into a spot where he has to answer to someone else at the same level. It made me wonder a bit, due to the fact that Pete is, after all, the head coach, and used to run the defense himself, how much autonomy Holt has with his defensive calls. But, knowing the two of them, they will work not for the ego, but for the betterment of the team, putting aside all personal goals to attain the team goal. And that's why teams win.
It's understandable if you go from head man in college to pro assistant, you sort of expect that. I find Nick to be friendly and personable, but you can see the football fighting spirit in his eyes, in the way he barks, in the way he sweats, in the way he wears his shorts. Every team needs him. Eddie O and Tim Davis are gone, we lacked that "thing" that Holt has, that every team needs, and now we have it back. I've seen his softer side, playing with his boys on the field, or at a function with wife Julie, who has been in her career a really excellent women's basketball coach at the collegiate level. I have not seen her since a trip to Pullman a couple of season's ago. She always has time to talk to me, and she seems really fun.
I think, and have said this out loud on the air, and even directly to him, that he may have been PC's #1 recruit of the off season. I have seen no reason to feel otherwise. He or Eddie O. may make fine head coaches of the Trojans some day in the (I hope) long distant future.
Well, Stafon hurt some part of his body. CJ took most of the reps at TB, but here's Allen Bradford wearing and running like a recent #21. Hmmmmmmmm?
Josh Pinkard, Patrick Turner, Jeff Beyers, Drew Radovich all took parts of the day off. Not hurt, just a way to get some of the older guys a day off once in awhile to stay fresh for the grind. Good concept. Pro guys have to pretend they are hurt to get that time off now and then, but the vets are always ready come game time, so I never begrudge them that.
Middle of practice, Pete called the team together and had a little pow wow. The end of mid-camp doldrums then officially came to an end with the next segment. It lasted about 24 hours. Good for us.
The team went to Knott's. I have not been to Knott's since like 1990 or something. Do they still have that crazy slanted room, or do they still pan for gold? Can you still get good boysenberry jelly on site? I have pictures with my brother John and my grandparents at Knott's when it was still a ghost town themed place. Circa 1964 or so.
I was running on the Boardwalk in Venice last night about 7, and saw high school basketball phenom OJ Mayo and his buddies walking along the other way. Is that the same OJ Mayo that I saw at practice today, and the same one I am told in the Times today will announce he's coming to play at SC as we begin our renaissance as we enter the new building? His one friend, Aaron Pogue looks more like a footballer, and in fact is being recruited for the gridiron by Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, so if he comes as a hoopster here, we might get a two sport dude of some repute. And imagine being a Trojan fan and being able to chant "OJ, OJ, OJ" again without fear or embarrassment. As USC Sports Info Asst. Dave Tuttle is fond of saying "woo-hoo"!
Let's hope things swing in the right direction for Tim Floyd's boys. After this past dark off season, it's gonna be tough this year, but maybe the clouds are beginning to break. Before I die, I want to see the Kings hoist Lord Stanley's cup (and would have except for Marty F'ing McSorely) and for the Trojans to cut down the net in the Final Four. I've got about 35 years left. Come on guys, Let's go!
Speaking of which, Mark Trakh's Women of Troy ought to be REALLY good. Top 20 good, maybe battle Stanford for the Pac-10 title. I am calling 10 of their games, plus post-season games, too.
Good Dodger win yesterday, and I also have tickets for tonight, so I'm taking daughter Stephanie and her friends to the game, forcing me to miss most if not all of the tonight's scrimmage. Dang. BTW, Stephanie went to the Rose Bowl to try out for the latest edition of American Idol. There were something like 30-000 applicants who sang in groups of four for associate producer types who are charged with weeding out a huge percentage.
But….they did take 180 of them to the next round, and Steph was one of the 180. The next step is in front of the executive producer in late September, where they cull it down to 50 (including the obligatory nerds and losers brought along for comic relief) . Those who make it past that go to the TV show and perform at some hotel for Paula and Randy and Simon for the right to go to the big show. Pretty heady stuff just to make the 180, for which she is happy but not satisfied.