The Not So Obvious – It was said in a previous O/NSO that last Saturday night's game in Arkansas would begin to answer whether the 2006 Trojans were rebuilding or reloading. It's safe to say at this point that while this team is still a work in progress, this is a squad that is reloading. Devoid of the big-play superstars of the past, Pete Carroll's boys had the workmanlike efficiency of a John McKay squad. Some might call the offense boring at times, but we found it to be a beautiful piece of gridiron execution in the second half. We must admit, however, that there were times when we actually found the Trojans' fast and furious defense more entertaining than the offense, and that isn't always such a bad thing. If the Trojans could have had a good defense at year's end last year, they might be three-time national champions today.
The Obvious – Trojan quarterback John David Booty had a successful debut in Arkansas by throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
The Not So Obvious – The impressive thing about J.D., who didn't exactly foreshow his impressive debut in practice, was that he grew during the game. In mid-week, the O/NSO received a call from former Daily Trojan sports editor and USC historian Paul Morantz and the discussion turned to John David. We both agreed that Booty reminded us of former Trojan quarterback Pat Haden in the way he dropped back to pass and his throwing manner. Maybe it's just plain coincidence that Booty and Haden are linked by wearing uniform No. 10. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
The Obvious – The Trojan offense started slowly in the first half, but really started to crank it up in the second half with a 34-point explosion.
The Not So Obvious – By design, the coaching staff kept it close to the vest. According to team members after the game, the script was basically thrown away and the offensive was given the green light by Carroll to open it up. The O/NSO thought the biggest surprise as the game progressed was just how animated John David Booty became as he gathered confidence and success. We have not seen this type of excitement during practice and John David showed exactly why his teammates voted him captain. The fact he threw no interceptions or center exchange problems was very encouraging. You could feel it in Razorback Stadium that another outstanding Trojan quarterback may be in the making.
The Obvious – The Trojans have officially lost free safety Josh Pinkard for the season with an ACL injury.
The Not So Obvious – Ironically, in last season's game against Arkansas, the Trojans' defense lost starting linebacker Dallas Sartz, who dislocated a shoulder early in the game. Sartz, who had five tackles last Saturday against the Razorbacks, turned out to be a costly loss in 2005. There are those that will argue that Pinkard's injury was a fluke situation. There are those that will argue that injuries happen in football. However, judging by Pete Carroll's comments following Pinkard's knee injury, it would be safe to assume that the coach wishes he would have pulled Josh before fate stepped in. When asked by the Times about his second thoughts on Pinkard, Carroll admitted, " Sure, we had already substituted tons of guys and we were taking guys in and out. It was such a freak deal, an unusual situation…I would love have gotten him out of there."
The Obvious – It appears the likely candidate for Pinkard's important role at free safety will go to true freshman Taylor Mays (6-4, 225), the former Washington Gatorade Player of the Year.
The Not So Obvious – Not only do you have to be a great athlete to roam the secondary as a free safety, but you also need to be a critical thinker. In an interview this week in the Riverside Press-Telegram relating to his first-game experience in before a hostile crowd in Fayetteville, Mays referred to the Razaorback fans as "those belligerent Arkansas fans yelling at you." Wow, using the term "belligerent" to describe the Hogs" faithful. That sounds like a well-educated man to me. Probably brought a smile to Dr. Steven Sample, the USC President, on the plane ride home.
The Obvious – Many believe that Willie Mays is the greatest centerfielder in baseball history.
The Not So Obvious – There is just something comforting knowing that there will probably be a Mays patrolling centerfield in the Trojans' secondary. The only thing more reassuring would be if Taylor Mays was wearing No. 24, the number worn by Hall of Famer Willie. For now, Taylor's No. 29 comes close enough.
The Obvious – In order to fill the depth void of the loss of Josh Pinkard, corner Mozique McCurtis has been moved to safety.
The Not So Obvious – From high school at San Diego St. Augustine to his brief Trojan career, McCurtis has fought the injury bug. "Zeke" missed both his junior and senior seasons at St. Augustine due to torn knee ligaments and had a strained abdominal muscle in his first year with the Trojans. A one-year starter at Grossmont Community College, the new Trojan safety is returning to his old JC safety position where he had 30 tackles, 10 deflections, and two interceptions in helping lead his team to an 11-1 record. The fact that the USC history major played safety at Grossmont gets the Trojans a leg up in patching up a hole in the secondary fabric.
The Obvious – 710 ESPN is the new radio flagship station for the No.3-ranked Trojans
The Not So Obvious – So, you wish you could replace Pete Arbogast as the Trojans play-by-play announcer for just one play? Well, 710 ESPN is having a contest on the station in which some lucky fan will get to call the second half kick-off of the USC/Notre Dame game at the Coliseum on Nov. 25. The station will be taking audition tapes and has anybody informed Mr. "How Do You Do" Arbogast?
The Obvious – It appears that the current No. 2 fullback is senior Mike Brittingham, a former walk-on from Santa Ana Foothill High.
The Not So Obvious – Looks like we need to do a little Mike Brittingham investigation work. A former All-CIF DivisionVI first-team selection, Big Mike (6-1, 210) is not only competitive on the field but also in the classroom where the business major carries a B- average. Last year No. 30 was a key member of the special teams and this year, with desire and the injury to Brandon Hancock, he could be evolve into a key member of the offensive. Football has a family history for Mike as his great great grandfather Louis Sumner lettered in football at Wisconsin in 1891-92.
The Obvious – A number of freshmen played at Arkansas, not unexpected considering this has been a staple of the Pete Carroll philosophy.
The Not So Obvious – One member of the star-studded freshmen class that got playing time at Arkansas was nose tackle Alex Parsons. Recently, Parson's Woodbridge High coach, Rick Gibson, had a chance to visit with his former star and told the Irvine World News of Alex's college football educations. Gibson said, "They (USC) are playing a 3-4 scheme. He played some of that here as a senior. Because of his quickness, I think he is going to be a very good at it for USC. But right now at 260 pounds, he probably needs to get a little bigger. I didn't know if he would be ready this quickly. But he has already showed he can play at that level. He (Parsons) said it has been an eye opener, but he enjoys what he is doing He is also doing the punt and punt return coverage. He is going to be playing as a freshman so that is a huge thing."
The Obvious – There continues to be a battle at left guard between Drew Radovich and Jeff Byers and Saturday night's game allowed both players to show this could be a season-long battle.
The Not So Obvious – Byers stood out in the second half in leading the blocking for freshman tailback C.J. Gable. Joltin Jeff made two sensational downfield blocks for Gable on one second-half play, and both blocks were of the vicious variety. When offensive line coach Pat Ruel talks about finishing a block, nobody on the offensive line does it better than the former Gatorade National Player of the Year from Fort Collins, Colorado. After Saturday night' s game in Fayetteville, Byers sat on curb just outside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium with his parents sharing a large pizza and showing none of the violence that transcends his play on the field. Nothing like a cheese pizza to return one from the high intensity of a season opener.
The Obvious – After the Arkansas loss and the poor performance by Razorbacks' quarterback Robert Johnson, freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain has been moved into the starting role for Saturday's game with Utah State.
The Not So Obvious – After the Trojans win, the injury to Josh Pinkard and the impressive kicking performance by Troy Van Blarcom, transfer kicker safety David Buehler is now working full time at safety this week at Howard Jones Field.
The Obvious – Trojans fans can't wait for the home opener against Nebraska, especially for those that love to come to the Coliseum to fire up the traditional tailgating experience.
The Not So Obvious – In a recent edition of Westways, an AAA publication, USC alum Wally Lott and family was featured in a story on tailgating at Trojan games. Lott, who owns a dental practice in Torrance, has his own strategy and menu for Trojan tailgating. Lott told Westways, " We get there four or five hours early, and we have a great party." Lott's advice is to pre-plan the menu and arrive early. He says not to forget a satellite dish, present as many cardinal and gold roses as possible, and have a Trojan helmet signed by a Heisman winning backs like Marcus Allen, Mike Garrett, and Charles White. As for the menu, bring assorted cheeses and fruits, a honey-baked ham, pasta with pesto, and chardonnay.
The Obvious – Many Trojan fans never attended the University of Southern California.
The Not So Obvious – In Westways magazine, tailgater Wally Lott says, "Sure, it's easier to feel a bond with a school you attended, but some of the friends who come along with us (tailgating) are really rabid fans, more so than I am, and they never went to school here."
The Obvious – There is no doubt fans in the SEC take their football very seriously.
The Not So Obvious – Upon returning to our Fairfield Inn in Springdale after the Trojans whacking of the Razorbacks, a young girl was working the front desk at about 1:00 a.m. She looked like she was ready to unload emotionally. Wearing an Arkansas football shirt, the O/NSO asked her if she had watched the game. She said, "You don't want to hear what I think." After some intense prodding, she finally unleashed. The Southern belle said, "I can't believe how we got humiliated. I called my brother and we must have talked on the phone for a half hour. Here we have five guys from Springdale High like Mitch Mustain and they don't play them." Her rant went for ten minutes. Now that's a fan. We've got to wonder how happy she must be today knowing that Mustain will start at quarterback for Arkansas this Saturday against mighty Utah State.
The Obvious – Senior offensive right tackle Kyle Williams took some heat during the Arkansas opener for allegedly being in an illegal formation three times.
The Not So Obvious – According to the Daily News, offensive line coach Pat Ruel said that Williams was flagged thrice because sophomore right guard Chilo Rachal lined up incorrectly three times, forcing Williams to step back into an illegal formation. Apparently there was quite a meltdown by Ruel over the repeated formation offenses by Rachal and apologies all around to Big Kyle.
The Obvious – As mentioned in our Arkansas review last weekend, Trojan running back verbal Broderick Green of Little Rock was in attendance during the Trojans' victory over the Razorbacks.
The Not So Obvious – Broderick told the O/NSO his team, Pulaski Academy, opened with a 57-47 victory on Friday night. Broderick, who carried the ball 25 times for 160 yards and no touchdowns, seemed to embrace talking with WeAreSC and the O/NSO. The prep specimen says he is 6-foot-1 and 230-pounds and told the O/NSO that he is "not a soft commit" and that he is "100%" for the Trojans. Broderick said it takes him about 2 1/2 hours to drive from Little Rock to Fayetteville. The probable prep All-American says he would like to take his USC official recruiting trip for the Notre Dame or UCLA game. When informed that the UCLA was an away game, he seemed just as excited over the chance to see the Trojans have at it with the Irish. Thanks to the Trojans' pounding of the Hogs, Broderick might be feeling even better about his verbal, despite the ribbing he takes in his home state.
The Obvious – One of the more valuable members from last year's Trojan team was fullback David Kirtman, who was cut last weekend by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Not So Obvious – On the other hand, for all his challenges, former Trojan defensive tackle Manny Wright has now been placed on the non-injured reserve squad by the Miami Dolphins. There is a reason why players refer to the NFL as "Not For Long." It remains to be seen how much longer the Dolphins will support Manny.
The Obvious – The Trojans showcased three of their four freshmen running backs to the nation last Saturday evening.
The Not So Obvious – We still love C.J. Gable (12c/51 yds, 4.2 ave.) because he proved his talents at the very outset of the game. The Sylmar Stud showed big shoulders in starting and not turning the ball over, despite some early pounding by the aroused Razorback defense. C.J. showed relentless drive for a 195-pounder and nerves of steel for a freshman. Charging right behind Gable was Emmanuel Moody (7c/58 yds/8.3 ave.), who has really come on the past couple of weeks. Emmanuel demonstrated in Fayetteville that he passed his exam in learning to hit the holes quickly and then using his vast assortment of moves. Allen Bradford (5c/13 yds./2.6 ave.) didn't get the carries or the holes to display his talents, but nobody questions his future. All three were nicely rewarded for their work with a touchdown each. Each freshman his own style that can be incorporated into the offense, but the real question is what happens when Stafon Johnson catches up with this trio?
The Obvious– It's a rhetorical question when asking how Trojan fans liked the performance of new starting senior fullback Ryan Powdrell.
The Not So Obvious – So how many of you held your breath when Powdrell was lying on the ground after violent collision on special teams? Running backs coach Todd McNair loves this kid and last Saturday's production will likely increase that love. Ryan is such a threat as a runner and a receiver that if he can stay healthy with all the pounding, we will go out on a limb and say he could garner some All-Pac-10 support in December. Take him on his early merits this year and we believe he has a shot for a job on Sunday. Of course, he needs to stay healthy in a position that can be hazardous to your health.
The Obvious – Nebraska is expected to be 2-0 after they dispense with mighty Nicholls State this Saturday in Lincoln.
The Not So Obvious – With the Trojans game against the Cornhuskers sold out for month and with both teams figuring to be undefeated, tickets on good, old StubHub are going anywhere from $65 to $1530. Don't get too excited by that $65 spot because many of the low items are based on an auction. In other words, those prices are expected to rise considerably.
The Obvious – After Saturday night's big win against the Razorbacks, if there was going to be any doubts that all Coliseum home games would be sold out, the 50-14 Trojan win erased them all.
The Not So Obvious – Checking the official on-line Trojan ticket sales site, although it says that Nebraska, Washington, Cal, and Notre Dame are sold out, further investigation showed that the purchase page saying "There are no events or items on sale at this time." Translation: The Oregon game is sold out, as well.
The Obvious – Trojan junior linebacker Keith Rivers has been named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.
The Not So Obvious – The gifted junior from Lake Mary, Fla., had a team-high eight tackles, five solo, forced one fumble and recovered another that set up a USC score. So much has been expected from Keith the past two years and the combination of good health and return to a middle linebacker's spot in the hybrid 3-4 defense has gotten the speedy one off to a "Richard Wood" start. Yep, Keith looked very much like "Batman," the Trojans' first three-time All-American. Roaming sideline to sideline, the Rivers' "potential" looked more like the Rivers "reality" in Fayetteville.
The Obvious – The big ABC TV Game of the Week is Saturday evening when No. 1 Ohio State (1-0) visits No. 2 Texas (5:00 p.m., PDT).
The Not So Obvious – While you're waiting for that one and if you were fortunate enough to miss Thursday night's Oregon State's (1-1) humiliating 42-14 loss at undefeated Boise State (2-0) on ESPN, Saturday will give you a chance to make some other Pac-10 evaluations. Pac-10 Saturday begins with "Ty is on a streak" Washington (1-0) at "We don't have a QB" Oklahoma (12:30 p.m.,ABC); "This is our national opportunity" Arizona (1-0) at "This is our year" LSU (3:30 p.m., ESPN2); "We wear Trojan colors" Minnesota at "Shocked and Humiliated" California (4:00 p.m.,TBS); "We could be good" Oregon (1-0) at "We'll pop your bubble" Fresno State (7:00 p.m., ESPN2); and "White" Rice at "Big Ben" UCLA (1-0) (7:00 p.m., FSN Prime Ticket). All times are Pacific Daylight Time
The Obvious – In order for the Trojan coaching staff to hit the road recruiting both locally and nationally, the Cardinal and Gold will hold a 6:30 a.m. today (Friday).
The Not So Obvious – Okay, so how many of your friends decided they needed to do an early Friday morning "tailgate walk-thru" and drove to Howard Jones Field before the rooster crowed? Don't be surprised if you see some RV's with red Lincoln plates. It's never too early for those Nebraska Cornhuskers, you know, to be coming our way.