O/NSO - Countdown edition

Gridiron Mission Control has started the clock. The scrimmages are over. Pete Carroll has named a starting quarterback. The NCAA Clearinghouse has spoken. The starting tailback is still a mystery, but the USC Trojans, ranked No. 3 by the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 6 by the Associated Press, are now on the seasonal launching pad and pointed towards Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Obvious – Gridiron Mission Control has started the clock. The scrimmages are over. Pete Carroll has named a starting quarterback. The NCAA Clearinghouse has spoken. The starting tailback is still a mystery, but the USC Trojans, ranked No. 3 by the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 6 by the Associated Press, are now on the seasonal launching pad and pointed towards Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – Ah, yes, who is going to start at tailback? Well, Carroll and running back coach Todd McNair naturally won't give a final answer until next week, but predicted junior starter Chauncey Washington may have let the cat out of the bag when he commented this week that it might be better for him to skip the Arkansas game, take advantage of the following week's bye, and get ready for Nebraska on Sept. 16. Normally, a player says he is trying as hard as he can to play in the opener. The reality is that Washington seems to sense his hamstring needs more time. The fact that freshman C.J. Gable continues to run with the first club on offense gives evidence that he may be more than just a "maybe" starter come Sept. 2.

The Obvious –It's looking more and more as if tailback Chauncey Washington may see limited action at best, come game time at Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – For our money, Washington's potential replacements have shown talent and we still believe that, while there is yet an officially announced pecking order, for O/NSO money, we like C.J. Gable (consistency), Allen Bradford (eye opening, bruising talent), Emmanuel Moody (improving week to week on when to use those moves) and Stafon Johnson (talented but undefined) in that freshmen order. Of course you never know how any of these young performers will do (hint: fumble, blitz pick-up, etc.) when they are in front of ravenous, massive stadiums like Arkansas and television cameras identified as ESPN and ABC.

The Obvious – In terms of shake and bake in "space," freshman back Emmanuel Moody has brought out the most rave reviews.

The Not So Obvious – Moody, who is majoring in communications and would like to eventually become a pastor, told the O/NSO this week that his running style has not changed from his transition from Texas schoolboy All-American to a college tailback. However, Emmanuel revealed, " The big difference here is that the college game is so physical. Every hit is a physical hit. I just try to stay focused. My running style is to try avoiding being tackled. I try right now to take advantage of every opportunity. The coaches here have no tolerance for mistakes and that's why USC is No. 1. That's why I love being here. They just want to be the best and no mistakes." Oh, and the 2005 Parade All-American also said the largest crowd he has played before in high school was 15,000. He admitted he has never been nervous in front of fans, but that he didn't know what to expect playing in front of a sold out 70,000 stadium in Fayetteville.

The Obvious – Forget about the tailback spot and linebacker starters and the kickoff candidates, we find a very intriguing battle going on at left guard between sophomore Jeff Byers and junior Drew Radovich.

The Not So Obvious – After Thursday's spirited practice, the O/NSO had a chance to chat with offensive line coach Pat Ruel about the left guard competition. Ruel said, "I'll know more about both players after the Arkansas game, but I have a good idea who is going to start in my head. The competition is kind of interesting, as both work hard. I am looking at their footwork and, of course, film." When asked about which lineman in his unit has jumped out in camp, Ruel said Drew Radovich, without hesitation. Asked to compare the strengths of Radovich and Byers, Ruel said, "Drew is more fluid in his footwork and Jeff is a high energy guy who is a great finisher. Of course, I want all of our linemen to finish their blocks like Sam (Baker) and Ryan (Kalil)."

The ObviousPete Carroll does not like his spring game, The Trojan Huddle, to be televised because the competition might decide to use it as a scouting advantage.

The Not So Obvious – Linebacker Keith Rivers told the O/NSO the Trojans have not only been studying last year's game film with the Razorbacks but have also been dissecting the televised Arkansas spring game, which gives the Trojans some inkling of the new UA spread offense. Rivers also said, "You watch film and remember last year's game and the tendencies of their offensive line last year. They've gotten better and we have to remember that their offensive line likes to cut block a lot and their backs are fast." Keith also was quite pleased to say he is completely healthy and healed from last season's lingering right hamstring pull.

The Obvious – It is never too early to check the weather forecast for game day in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – As of Thursday evening, weather for game day calls for a high of 87 with isolated thunderstorms. The low will be 63, so you might want to bring a coat (lol). There is currently a 60% chance of precipitation.

The Obvious – Arkansas takes great pride in their facilities and their fan support.

The Not So Obvious - So upset was coach Houston Nutt over his team's recent scrimmage performance, Nutt told the Arkansas Traveler," You've got people spending their valuable time coming out here in the hot humidity and you're on the greatest grass field, and you don't respect your home. That's a tough message we're going to send." You don't think old Houston got in that "hot humidity" comment in hopes of sending it back to Pete Carroll's lads, do you?

The Obvious – Judging by last Sunday's scrimmage, the biggest thing learned was that fan interest in the Trojans, despite the star-power loss of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and LenDale White, hasn't put a damper on enthusiasm.

The Not So Obvious - Considering that the open scrimmage was held on a Sunday night at 7:45, it was quite stunning to see 15,000 fans ready to go. The scrimmage itself provided enough highlights to keep the interest and people seemed to leave the Coliseum with complete satisfaction from the experience. Based on Sunday night's attendance, it is conceivable that if the open scrimmage been held on Saturday night, it might have at least equaled last year's attendance that some have placed at close to 20,000. Of course we could say we shouldn't have been shocked at Sunday night's turnout, considering all six Trojan home games are being promoted as sellouts.

The Obvious – Everybody on Sunday evening seemed to be in a dress rehearsal countdown, including Dr. Art Bartner's Trojan Marching Band.

The Not So ObviousThe Trojan Marching Band was in preparation mode and even sat in the seats in the closed section of the end zone in order to prepare for their seats in the Sun Deck in the peristyle end zone. FWIW, with the artificial crowd noise being piped onto the field, it was very difficult to hear the band on the sidelines.

The Obvious – One of the most talked about issues on the message boards was a letter sent out by Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, the Trojans band director, discussing the positives of the band's move to the Sun Deck.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO saw the letter in the band office to verify its contents. Yes, Bartner has turned any potential negatives into positives. However, the most important item to us was when the good doctor wrote "As another plus for students, all of the seats previously occupied by the band (on the north side of the Coliseum) will be dedicated to student seating." If this is indeed the case, bravo to those decision makers for keeping the idea that college football is still about students.

The ObviousThe Bookstore was abuzz this week with the start of school and the need to buy books.

The Not So Obvious – Leave it to The Bookstore to get ready for the big game in Fayetteville. Apparently in a move to simulate conditions, a visit to a crowded bookstore brought out a very "heated" atmosphere complete with humidity.

The Obvious – The WeAreSC dinner at the Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro next Wednesday evening is sold out.

The Not So Obvious – One of the guest speakers this Wednesday is Orange County columnist Steve Bisheff, who recently came up with a recent column gem by writing that freshman tailback Allen Bradford has been labeled by Trojan starting quarterback John David Booty as "a beast." Bisheff wrote that if both are in a game together, they could be referred to as "Booty and the Beast." Did the O/NSO mention that Bisheff and your friendly columnist had the same journalism teacher at Alhambra High, the legendary Ted Tajima? And, yes, we were both sports editors for The Moor many, many moons ago.

The Obvious – The Trojans used Sunday night's scrimmage to polish up their pre-game schedule. as well as mock game experience.

The Not So Obvious – So it was exciting as usual when the 2006 Trojans came running down the tunnel to take the field, and it was also exciting to see a 1979 Trojan All-American joining the enthusiastic stampede. Oh to see Brad Budde, USC's first Lombardi Award winner, back in uniform would have been cardinal and gold heaven. Budde came storming down the tunnel with that jet-black hair and those blue eyes showing game intensity. When Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel needs to show a young lineman what a Trojan immortal looks like, Brad Budde fits the bill completely. Yes, old No. 71 still looks like a he could pull out on 28-pitch and level the opposition.

The Obvious – The Galen Events Center is scheduled to open in the fall.

The Not So Obvious – There was a time many, many years ago that a few Trojan football games were shown on closed circuit television in the Sports Arena. Word comes from Carol Dougherty, USC senior associate athletic director, that Trojan fans are in for a treat for USC road games and perhaps selected home games at the new Trojan venue. First, Dougherty said that plans call for the Galen Center to be open on all football game days, home or away. For away games, the center will show the games on the arena's 22-square-foot video screens. Fans will be able to sit in the seats, be part of the game experience, and concession stands, naturally, will be open for business. There is also a possibility that sold out home games may also be shown at Galen. The Trojans home game against Arizona State Oct. 14 will allow fans a chance to visit the Galen Center before the 5 p.m. kickoff. FYI, tours will be available, and concession stands and the merchandise store will be open at 10 a.m. that day.

The Obvious – The Trojans are on the semester system and are now in the classroom.

The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks are on the semester system and are now in the classroom.

The ObviousBarry LeBrock is a former anchor on the now defunct Fox SoCal Sports Report.

The Not So Obvious – LeBrock is author of a new book called The Trojan Ten which captures the ten most significant games that "changed" the course of cardinal and gold history. Naturally the book, which has a foreword by Athletic Director Mike Garrett and lists at $22.95, is filled with interesting facets of each of the ten games that LeBrock lists as a benchmark. We looked through the book, which has 272 pages, and found it to be interesting and we'll leave the further opinions to you, our knowledgeable subscribers.

The ObviousChapman University in Orange plays college football at the Division 3 level.

The Not So Obvious – The daughter of the O/NSO made her "debut" at Chapman University when we helped her move into her dorm on Tuesday morning. Turns out one of her two roommates attended Holy Name Academy in the Seattle area and their "brother" school was Seattle O'Dea High, alma mater of Trojan freshman safety Taylor Mays. Upon hearing her roommate's revelation that she had spoken a number of times with Mays, the O/NSO daughter revealed she had gone to Irvine Woodbridge High, alma mater of Trojan freshman defensive tackle Alex Parsons, and had been in class with Parsons. Naturally the conversation turned to USC football and poor Chapman U., the Division 3 program just can't escape the tentacles of the cardinal and gold.

The ObviousAthlon is a sports publishing company specializing in previews of football, basketball, and baseball.

The Not So Obvious – Athlon Sports, too, has a new book about the Trojans entitled Game Day - Southern California Football. The book, which is listed at $24.95, highlights the 100 years of Trojan football with a foreword by Manfred Moore, a tough fullback from the John McKay era.

The Obvious – There is still concern about the Trojans' defensive front line.

The Not So Obvious – The concern centers around the Trojans ability to mount a pass rush. However, in the practices we have observed, there has been a pass rush and John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, and Mike McDonald have been under duress on a number of occasions. We think the one question that is a legitimate one is more along the lines of defending against the rush inside the ends. The reality is nobody really knows what to expect until the defense goes against the first-team of Arkansas. One thing we can say, running away from the Trojans will be disaster because of the Cardinal and Gold speed, speed, and more speed.

The Obvious – As mentioned before, there are a number of books on Trojan football that have come out in August.

The Not So Obvious – Another book coming out in September is USC Trojans: College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty. Author Steve Travers presents evidence that the Trojans have surpassed Notre Dame as the greatest ever college football tradition. At a list price of $27.95, Traversargues his case with Trojan national championships, gridiron stars and coaches, and bowl records. Travers even covers Trojans in the Super Bowl, Pro Bowlers, and Hall of Fame selections. The book includes full color photos for emphasis.

The Obvious – More than a number of fans last Sunday evening were curious in watching the "unofficial" 3-4 defense that Pete Carroll says is not a 3-4 defense.

The Not So Obvious – While this unofficial 3-4 defense really frees the linebackers to use their speed, the one fault of it is against a running team that instead of four down linemen, Nick Holt's defensive line tries to control the attack with three defenders. Just how Lawrence Jackson and Chris Barrett perform will be of great interest. Sedrick Ellis, who will be featured in an upcoming issue of WeAreSC magazine, will be asked to clog the middle. With Arkansas having a traditionally strong rushing attack under Houston Nutt, we may find out early where the Trojans' stand during the early going of the season.

The Obvious – A number of folks thought that Sunday night's scrimmage was a confidence builder for the offense.

The Not So Obvious – Although the front line offense came out smoking against the scout team, it would have really sent out a red flag had the offense not looked dominating against a grab bag of talented newcomers, third-team folks, and walk-ons. The fact that quarterback John David Booty looked as good as we have seen him this camp was a positive. Based on the numerous practices we have seen, we aren't ready to say the offense is a "done deal" but still a work in progress. The O/NSO can say the offense looked more fluid that we have seen, although we still get a little anxious the wider and longer the quarterbacks roll out.

The Obvious – Junior Michael McDonald is considered the Trojans third-string quarterback.

The Not So Obvious – Having watched McDonald through last Sunday's scrimmage, there is no doubt in the mind of the O/NSO that the son of All-American Paul is quite serviceable. The kid has shown poise, brains, and ability and, at times, just as efficient as the other two highly publicized talents.

The ObviousRyan Powdrell appears to be a fullback that will go to tailback on short yardage or goal line situations.

The Not So Obvious – You know, we just love Powdrell in that he knows his role and is very capable of having a huge effect when called upon. Both Powdrell and Allen Bradford give the Trojans a dimension that could ease the loss of LenDale White.

The Obvious – Freshman tight end Anthony McCoy (6-5, 240) may be as impressive a freshman as the Trojans field this fall.

The Not So Obvious – McCoy, out of Fresno Bullard, may not get the repeated chances of a tailback or the throws of a quarterback, but boy is this kid a stud and a half. His 20-yard Sunday TD grab was just a repeat that we have seen over the past three weeks. The question about his "motor" has been out there since his prep playing days, but up to this point, No. 86 has more than made his mark. The kid is so athletic that if he dedicates himself, he has superstar written all over him. His athletic grabs and fearless mentality tells us that he is going to see playing time as soon as Fayetteville.

The Obvious – Running back Desmond Reed certainly was a crowd favorite during Sunday's scrimmage.

The Not So Obvious – It's one thing to be a crowd favorite and get the sentimental vote, but Reed is looking anything but like a charity case of adulation. No. 22 may not be all the way back, but when we watched him run past us on the sidelines on route to a 60-yard punt return touchdown, the O/NSO can finally say he's back enough to make a difference. He uses brains, determination, and heart to overcome whatever loss of speed to this point. No doubt, he is the feel-good story of camp, hands down.

The Obvious – The Coliseum concession stands were open for last Sunday's scrimmage.

The Not So Obvious – You can talk about the lines for hot dogs and drinks, but the most impressive line was the Kettle Korn line, which also had a line long after the scrimmage concluded. Nobody seemed to care about the line after the scrimmage and plastic bags were offered for two size selections at $4 and $5. The $5 bag was much the better "deal," larger and being promoted that way by the vendor.

The Obvious – Many Trojan fans on the way to Sunday night's scrimmage took the Harbor Freeway and got off on the Martin Luther King exit to the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Those fans that were coming in from the west found unusual "New York City" sight. There was a fella at the end of the off-ramp who attempted to wash you windows while you waited at the light. We could see the disaster coming as one car decided to let the washer do his windows at the red light. Needless to say, the light turned green and the washer wasn't done. It became of symphony of automobile horns from behind. If you have been to The Big Apple, you know this happens around the city. The difference is those washers in Manhattan is that it usually gets it done in a New York minute. Apparently the Martin Luther King washer needs some East Coast seasoning to get the timing right.

The Obvious – A good number of Trojan public verbals were in attendance last Sunday including the likes of Marc Tyler, Chris Galippo, Martin Coleman, D.J. Shoemate, and Samson Szakacsy.

The Not So Obvious – For those that worry of a potential Trojan tailback logjam which could re-effect running back Marc Tyler of Oaks Christian, Tyler was in attendance wearing a Trojan jacket and a USC shirt underneath, so you can all relax now. Need more evidence? Hope you checked out the picture of Tyler by WeAreSC's super photogmaster Joe Andras in his scrimmage pictorial. BTW, Servite's Chris Galippo was sporting a new "buzz cut" in apparent anticipation of his upcoming senior season with the Friars. Most of the seniors-to-be were on the press box side of the Coliseum field and appeared to have formed their own little "Future Trojan Club."

The Obvious – Backup quarterback Mark Sanchez and starting fullback Ryan Powdrell both attended Mission Viejo High.

The Not So Obvious – At one point in Sunday's scrimmage, Sanchez connected Powdrell for a 4-yard scoring play. The O/NSO can say that the scoring toss was "Mission" accomplished.

The Obvious – The Trojans are recruiting El Camino wide receiver Kayne Farquharson, who is currently a Miami Hurricane verbal.

The Not So Obvious – Farquharson, who is from the Miami area, was standing on the press box sidelines of the Coliseum on Sunday and wearing a Trojan No. 4 home jersey. Hurricanes or Trojans, maybe? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The Obvious – And finally, next week begins our O/NSO twice-weekly seasonal columns.

The Not So Obvious – Barring a Fayetteville thunderstorm, the O/NSO will again appear on Friday mornings with our game edition and early Sunday evenings with our game review. The O/NSO is pleased to inform you, good subscribers, that we will be at all home and away games to give you our first-hand, in-person analysis of each week's opponent From the game itself, the pre and post-game atmosphere, the simple things that make college football unparalleled, especially Trojan football, we dedicate the spectacle of college football to our loyal readers. Now if you will excuse the O/NSO, we've got to check the luggage tags, recheck the flight reservations for Fayetteville, and make sure all the liquid items fit neatly for those long Skycap lines.


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