O/NSO - Audition edition

Following the conclusion of Thursday night's closed Coliseum scrimmage, the massive crowd-noise speakers cranked up the 60's cult song "The Time Has Come" by the Chambers Brothers and so has come the time for the No. 3-ranked USC Trojans free Coliseum public Sunday evening scrimmage that may raise more questions than it does answers with "kick-off" set for 7:45 p.m.

The Obvious – Following the conclusion of Thursday night's closed Coliseum scrimmage, the massive crowd-noise speakers cranked up the 60's cult song "The Time Has Come" by the Chambers Brothers and so has come the time for the No. 3-ranked USC Trojans free Coliseum public Sunday evening scrimmage that may raise more questions than it does answers with "kick-off" set for 7:45 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – After a highly successful first-time Pete Carroll brainchild last year, the Trojans will again stage a mock game complete with a 6:00 Trojan Walk, the Trojan Marching Band, concessions, and a kickoff time that recreates the Arkansas opener. So what can Trojan fans expect? Well, after watching Carroll's lads closed thursday night's scrimmage, expect to see an exceptionally fast and aggressive defense, a wonderfully gifted group of young tailbacks, and a quarterback unit that is still a work in progress. You'll love those shark-in- the-water linebackers and the speed and grace of a retooled secondary. The offense may leave you nodding in agreement at the newly unleashed freshmen running backs and your patience may be challenged as you watch gifted quarterbacks try to follow the Heisman footsteps of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, fair or unfair.

The Obvious – Parking last season "started" at $20 dollars at public sites and worked its way up.

The Not So Obvious – Wouldn't you know we would be cut a deal with parking for Sunday evening's excitement at $10 per car. I, for one, am happy to begin the payment again. If the team has to get in shape and go through a mock scrimmage in game conditions, so should the fans and no better way to start but with a little freeway clogging and a parking donation. As for the actual crowd, the fact it is on a Sunday night and at 7:45, we expect a considerably smaller turnout than last year's impressive throng. Why Sunday? Who knows since the official Coliseum website doesn't list a Saturday event. However, the Coliseum site lists the game as the "annual spring game on August 20." Yep, we, too, always get confused between spring, summer, and fall. Throw in winter and it really turns into a conundrum.

The Obvious – The Associated Press Poll released late Friday has the Trojans ranked as the No. 6 team in the country behind Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas, Auburn, and West Virginia, in that order.

The Not So Obvious – The Associated Press justified the Trojans, who received three first-place votes, No. 6 ranking by writing "USC must replace Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and enough offensive talent to start an NFL expansion team." Of course, the USA Today Coaches Poll has the Trojans as No. 3 in the nation. We've always said those coaches know more than us writers.

The Obvious – Friday night's Salute To Troy, the annual dinner on-campus program introducing the 2006 Trojans, provided the perfect pep rally for Sunday evening's free open public scrimmage at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – A real treat at this year's Salute To Troy was the recognition of players from the 1956 and 1981 Trojan football teams. The 1956 team in attendance included a number of celebrities including running back C.R. Roberts. Perhaps an unsung hero of the 1956 club is Ron Fletcher, whose devotion to Trojan super fan, Don Clausen, who is battling cancer, should be duly noted. The 1981 team provided Trojan fans the opportunity to appreciate the in-person likes of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen and former All-America guard Roy Foster, who told the 5,000 Salute To Troy sellout that Allen (photo) would be happy stay for autographs and pictures which drew a large laugh and applause. It was also great to see former members of the 1981 club like defensive back Duaine Jackson, tight end Mark Boyer, defensive tackle Dennis Edwards, and defensive back Darrell Hopper. Yes, even running back Zephrini Lee was in attendance.

The Obvious – The live pre-program music at Salute To Troy was a country west blue grass group, which was selected for the Trojans trip down south into Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – Last year's live Salute To Troy music was a Polynesian group, which got the locals in the mood for the opener in Hawaii. Next year the Trojans 2007 opener is home against Idaho, so can we expect a Hollywood rap group for Salute To Troy?

The Obvious – The WeAreSC table at Salute To Troy was table No. 68, so a number of the staff simply referred to our table as the Butch Lewis table, in honor of the Trojan freshman's jersey number.

The Not So Obvious – The food at Salute To Troy was another fine all-you-can-eat buffet, which included BBQ chicken, steak, mixed veggies, a Caesar salad option, sliced potatoes, dinner rolls, and baked beans. For the younger set, there were extra large hot dogs and potato chips. The deserts included brownies, fruit, and an assortment of cookies. Yes, there was a "refreshment" stand. Let's not forget that Traveler was in attendance and provided a nice touch.

The Obvious – Last year's Salute To Troy drew some criticism because quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush were kept isolated and unavailable for autographs and pictures.

The Not So Obvious – What a difference a year makes. Starting quarterback John David Booty was busy signing autographs and pictures and the line to see the Trojan starter grew by the minute. Booty seemed very at ease with all the fan adulation. Another popular player was former starting fullback Brandon Hancock, who generally looked appreciative of the fans' response, considering the fact his career has ended due to an ACL injury.

The Obvious – The Salute To Troy main program music was provided by the incomparable USC Marching Band.

The Not So Obvious – True to form, the TMB played songs specific to each unit on the football as they departed the stage. During games, for example, when the defensive line makes a sack of the opposition quarterback, Dr. Art Bartner's band plays "Another One Bites The Dust." One table guest remarked, "Seeing the band facing the audience behind the podium should get them ready for their relocation to the Sun Deck in the Coliseum."

The ObviousPete Carroll was the MC for the Spirit To Troy and introduced his assistants, who in turn spoke briefly about their units.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll seemed most proud of the fact that the Coliseum would be sold out for all six home games. Carroll said, "I can't tell you how much I like to do things like they've never been done before and this is one of those things," referring to the sold out home games.

The Obvious Todd McNair is the Trojans highly respected and popular running backs coach and special teams coordinator and Pat Ruel is the Trojans offensive line coach.

The Not So Obvious – McNair drew quite a response when he reminded fans that three years ago he introduced the phrase "Thunder and Lightening" in referring to youngsters LenDale White and Reggie Bush. "T-Mac" provided a new catch phrase in talking about his big fullback Ryan Powdrell and his young running backs. McNair said, " This year I am bringing to you Earthquake and the Aftershocks." Ruel and his offensive lineman Chilo Rachal provided a wonderful "Motown" duet with Ruel doing the lead and Rachal (photo) providing the backup harmony. They could be a candidate for Regis Philbin's Americas Got Talent.

The Obvious – Near the end of Salute to Troy, Carroll announced the 2006 team captains which included quarterback John David Booty, center Ryan Kalil, and linebackers Dallas Sartz and Oscar Lua.

The Not So Obvious – The voting was done by the team and the message is clear about Booty; they want the patient junior to succeed and they are sending the Bayou Bomber their full support. It was ironic, as well, that the team selected middle linebacker Oscar Lua, who may not even start at Arkansas because of the heavy competition provided by sophomore Rey Maualuga.

The Obvious – As expected, the Salute To Troy conclude to a stirring rendition of "Conquest."

The Not So Obvious – The finale was a fireworks display, which seemed appropriate. However, the colors were not cardinal and gold but an assortment of colors. Hey, don't blame the O/NSO for being picky; we're just pointing out the facts.

The Obvious – This is the time of the year when many families take off for vacation destinations throughout the continental United States and did we mention Hawaii?

The Not So Obvious – Well, your humble columnist must have angered the Trojan football gods by taking his family to Disney World this past week for his daughter's high school graduation present because all cardinal and gold heck broke loose. Brandon Hancock out. Allen Bradford in. Garrett Green now a safety. Tight end Gerald Washington to defensive end and then back to tight end. Ryan Powdrell starting at fullback. Somebody stop the spinning machine, hold on to the handrails, and let's make some sense of this and other matters and no more vacations during fall practice even if it is in summer.

The Obvious – A year ago, Pete Carroll's inaugural open "fall" practice in the Coliseum brought out huge numbers for a team that was pretty much a Hollywood stars reflection and an in-place offensive juggernaut.

The Not So Obvious – While most fans really enjoyed last year's August festivities, the O/NSO finds this Sunday's scrimmage light years ahead of last year's in intrigue and guesstimations. The new quarterbacks, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez, the awesome array of young running back talents of Allen Bradford, Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable, and Emmanuel Moody, the revamped but talented offensive line, America's best linebacking unit, and perhaps just as important as any, a new punter. You shall see what we shall see and what we see should be a real eye opener, despite the normal offense-under-wraps approach.

The ObviousAllen Bradford is moved from strong safety to tailback.

The Not So Obvious – Hooray! Bravo!! Mazal Tov!!! Allen Bradford, the strong safety, may have developed into a very good defender in time. Allen Bradford, the tailback and barring injury, could be an All-America and drawing a Sunday paycheck someday. If all goes according to O/NSO clairvoyance, "Allen the Animal"'s move to tailback is perhaps as big a position change in the Pete Carroll era, so help me Matt Grootegoed. John David Booty calls running back Bradford, "The beast" and you won't get an argument from the vets in camp. Heck even Bradford's dad, Keith, told us last year and media at Camp Carroll that his son's best position was tailback, but Allen insisted on beginning his career on defense. If you can conjure up Bradford's Scout.com highlights as a running back last year at Colton High, you'll understand completely why Carroll would even consider moving Bradford to offense from his beloved defense. The O/NSO has commented in earlier columns that this could change a player's career and Bradford and No. 21 look like a match in football heaven, so help me LenDale White. Of course running behind the Trojans ultra-talented offensive line may also have been a nice incentive.

The Obvious – The move of Allen Bradford gives the appearance of a virtual logjam at tailback.

The Not So Obvious – As anticipated here and confirmed by player movement, the Bradford exchange was another domino effect, with Michael Coleman, not surprising, being given a chance at fullback to help both his cause and restock the fullback depth and freshman quarterback Garrett Green getting new time at safety. When you consider the Marc Tyler and Broderick Green verbals, the future line at tailback looks like there is a need for a Disneyland FASTPASS. However, take a look at the current status of Chauncey Washington, whose "mild" hamstring is into its second week and the loss of Hancock, and suddenly the tailback line to the front moves a little quicker. Fumbles, missed assignments, development, and performance have a way of it all coming out in the Trojans' wash.

The Obvious – Most observers that watched practice from the very first day say that not only has freshman running back C.J. Gable been the most consistent during drills and scrimmages, but he continues to remind some in syle of former standout running back Justin Fargas, now with the Raiders.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of Fargas, did you know that as a 12-year-old, Justin was prominent member on a SoCal championship AYSO team? Perhaps you knew that, but did you known that legendary DJ voice Charlie Tuna was the coach of the team?

The Obvious – A number of Trojan fans are in a state of paranoia over the Arkansas ticket mailing process.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO placed a call to the Trojans' ticket department and was told on Thursday that tickets for the game in Fayetteville are still being sent out. If you haven't received your tickets by Aug. 28, give the ticket department a call (213-740-4672). In a worse case scenario, the O/NSO was told arrangements would be made to pick up tickets at the Will Call booth at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Nothing like planning a big trip and adding the Will Call factor to your bundle of nerves.

The Obvious – Fullback Brandon Hancock's career has come to a premature close after the football gods decided another knee injury during a drill would be this star-crossed players final fortune.

The Not So Obvious – Ain't there no justice. In our 40-plus years of following and covering Trojan football, there are very few players that came to the University with a body sculptured by Adonis. We first saw Hancock during his recruiting trip as he was milling around the peristyle end of the Coliseum with his attractive "host." Brandon was the most impressive physical specimen we had see since former defensive tackle Gary Jeter stepped on campus out of Cleveland, Ohio back in the 70s. Who knows why things like his have to happen, but Hancock will be sorely missed in all phases of the program and those receiving bursts to the end zone were a thing of beauty. Best of luck to a player whose GPA and degree is a reminder just how important it is take advantage of a college education when it literally could be over in one play.

The Obvious – Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who has been under some intense public pressure to start freshmen phenom Mitch Mustain, announced he will start junior Robert Johnson, who started against the Trojans last year at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Against the Troy last season, Johnson was 8 of 16 for 91 yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Johnson was aided in his drive to be the 2006 starting quarterback when predicted sophomore starter Casey Dick had to go to Little Rock for further medical evaluation on his back. As for Mustain, the former local Springdale High star whose prep coach is now the Razorback's offensive coordinator, he has the public support as evidenced by the rousing fan reaction to a recent scrimmage, which reportedly was very awkward for newly-named starting QB Johnson. Johnson said afterwards not only did he feel he needed to prove his ability to the coaches but to the fans, as well.

The Obvious – Senior Ryan Powdrell will replace Hancock as starting fullback.

The Not So Obvious – How ironic that both of these studs were the stars of the spring game as tailbacks. For Powdrell, whose career never seemed to be at the right place at the right time, has suddenly found that time is now. Oh how fortunate this kid was on the on-deck circle, and we have every reason to believe that this is a kid West Coast media might point to when they say the Trojans are loaded with talent. When the O/NSO talked with Ryan last week, No. 37 knew his role would be at fullback and expressed a team attitude. Now he gets his tap dance in the spotlight and just wait to he takes his 260 pounds on a swing pass to some unsuspecting defensive back.

The Obvious – A reminder for those Trojan fans that are making the trek to Fayetteville that WeAreSC.com is hosting a football luncheon at "On the Mark" sports bar in Fayetteville around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, September 1st.

The Not So Obvious – Interested Trojan fans should e-mail garry@wearesc.com to reserve your spot for this TBA menu. Garry will be in attendacne to answer your Trojan questions. Your humble correspondent hopes to get there if the winds out of the west are blowing properly.

The Obvious – There are many arguments concerning who has the top prep talent , California or Florida.

The Not So Obvious – In our recent trip to Florida, the O/NSO purchased a new publication called Florida Football, which profiles high school, college, and pro team in the Sunshine State. The 225-page publication by a company called Varsity Sports Media, had a Trojan angle with some bios on their pre-season All-Florida Prep Team. Trojan verbal James Wilson was on the first-team offense. Of Wilson, Florida Football says, "If you watched his team play last year and saw some thing things that this athletic blocker did to create positives for Tim Tebow (Florida) and the offense, you'd understand why his a player everyone wants." Also on the first team is Trojan recruits Noel Devine (5-8, 180, 4.37), cover boy and RB out of North Fort Myers, and Kevin Bryant (6-6, 370, 5.4)), mammoth OT from Hollandale. Florida Football also contains info on all the prep teams in state. If you would like to purchase this inaugural edition, call 727-209-1750 or check out www.floridafb.com.

The Obvious – When you visit Florida, you get a taste of how the nation is thinking for the upcoming football season.

The Not So Obvious – During a trip to the Epcot Center, an obvious big Notre Dame fan, complete with Irish shirt and hat, was asking an Army fan how his team was going to be. Of course, the Army fan returned the favor and asked the ND guy how the Irish looked. Of course, the ND fan was glowing with optimism and had a huge smile on his face. As always, the ND fan left the conversation with the Army fan with the proverbial "Go Irish!" With the smile on his face, the ND fan suddenly turned in your's truly direction and the smile went completely blank when he saw my "WeAreSC" hat. Geeze, what is it about WeAreSC hats that does that to Irish fans?

The Obvious – Was there a more talented prospect at defensive tackle than that of one Manuel Wright, currently with the Miami Dolphins?

The Not So Obvious – In the continuing saga of Wright, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Wednesday that Manny left training camp weeks ago and asked the Dolphins for his release. According to Wright's agent, Peter Schaffer, and the Sentinel, part of Manny's "actions stem from a problem with clinical depression and that (Nick) Saban and General Manager Randy Mueller have worked hard to try to assist the second-year player." Let all Trojan fans hope that things work out for the best for Manny.

The ObviousPete Carroll always tells his team that anything they do can show up in headlines anywhere across the country.

The Not So Obvious – In the Orlando Sentinel, the news of wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett's detaining by Los Angeles police was on C-7 and the column also included three long paragraphs about the incident. Right below that was the bad news about Brandon Hancock, which was an even longer four-paragraph story.

The Obvious – It is never to early stop for Trojan Christmas presents.

The Not So Obvious – In the current American Airlines Sky Mall magazine, there is a nice picture of "comfortable slipper clogs boasting favorite college logos. Front and center was a cardinal and gold slipper with th SC logo. Behind the Trojans' slipper was a University of Oregon and a Texas Longhorn slipper. Cost of a pair of Trojan slippers was $55 and can be purchased at www.skymall.com.

The Obvious – Running back Desmond Reed is now considered the Trojans' No. 1 punt returner.

The Not So Obvious – This stunning development has to be the feel good story of camp. From the prospect of perhaps never again participating in the game he loves to being groomed play, the Desmond Reed story has the makings of storybook return and don't tell the Notre Dame Stadium grass that it hasn't seen the last of Darting Desmond. Considering that No. 22 is just a junior, he now figures to return to the scene of the crime in South Bend in 2007.

The Obvious – Tight end Gerald Washington seems to be a player that is stuck in position flux, going from tight end to defensive end and back to tight end.

The Not So Obvious – So what does it all mean? Some suggest that the early development of freshman tight end Anthony McCoy speeded up the Washington rearrangements. Others say tight ends such as Dale Thompson have shown development. The O/NSO thinks the Allen Bradford Rule may apply here that Washington could be a good tight end but might be a very good defensive linemen. The recent rash of injury to defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Alex Morrow may have speeded up the defensive experimentation. Washington, who follows the orders of the high command after a past career in the Navy, figures to be another interesting camp development whose outcome may come latter in the season. Depending on health and productivity, might the Trojans redshirt Washington if given the opportunity?

The Obvious – It figures that Jeff Byers will start on left guard on opening night at Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – Just don't tell that to junior Drew Radovich, who finally has shaken his series of injuries to be able to challenge Byers. This one could get interesting, especially if Radovich continues to impress.

The Obvious John David Booty, Sam Baker, and Ryan Kalil made this week's local Sports Illustrated cover for the annual college football preview.

The Not So Obvious – There is no special story about the Trojans different than the usual team previews, which have the Cardinal and Gold ranked No. 5 nationally. However, the magazine highlight was a full page mug of linebacker Rey Maualuga, which looks like a guy who just found the person that was trying to ask his girlfriend out on a date. It's worth turning to pgs. 62-63. Rey does not look like a happy camper. Ironically, there is no picture of All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett in SI, which was probably done because his playing status was unknown at the time of the printing.

The Obvious – And finally, spending time in Florida was a nice experience for the O/NSO family, however you really realize how fast you could lose touch with Trojan football, being on the other side of the country.

The Not So Obvious – Being in Florida also reminded the O/NSO just how much our out-of-state-subscribers depend on WeAreSC to get their "daily" fix of Trojan football news. Like those out of the SoCal area, we went through our hotel Internet connection to get the latest, both Allen Bradford good and Brandon Hancock bad. All in all, it sort of reminded this scribe the huge responsibility our staff has in being the eyes, ears, and pulse of USC football across the land. It is in that spirit that we reenergize our efforts to bring all Trojan fans across the land the latest. Tally ho and see ya Sunday night at the Coliseum!!!


USCFootball.com Top Stories