O/NSO - Evaluation edition

If Pete Carroll was walking around Heritage Hall this week with a botox smile, who could blame him after learning that not only would a majority of his decorated juniors be returning for the 2007 season, but the old coach also received an early Christmas present with Thursday's announcement in Tucson that Army All-America lineman Kristofer O'Dowd would be wearing cardinal and gold next fall.

The Obvious – If Pete Carroll was walking around Heritage Hall this week with a botox smile, who could blame him after learning that not only would a majority of his decorated juniors be returning for the 2007 season, but the old coach also received an early Christmas evaluation present with Thursday's public announcement in Tucson that Army All-America prep lineman Kristofer O'Dowd would be wearing cardinal and gold next fall.

The Not So Obvious – While the news of O'Dowd was a major addition in the Trojans bid for yet another national recruiting title, the public announcements that Lawrence Jackson, Sedrick Ellis, Sam Baker, Keith Rivers, and Chauncey Washington are all planning to return for their senior year was just as exhilarating as this February's letter of intent day. With the rapid-fire announcements this week, it appears that there is some much-needed momentum heading into New Years Day and, thankfully, less "I am going to the League" speculation. Such public announcements can only increase the Trojans chances of being happy campers for their Jan. 1 rendezvous with an "angry" Michigan club and increased optimism over prospects for a run at the 2007 national championship.

The Obvious – The most "obvious" Trojan player inclined to enter the NFL draft is two-time junior All-America receiver Dwayne Jarrett.

The Not So Obvious – Just so you don't think Pete Carroll isn't the only one completely occupied with early departees, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has already gone through the same process. According to the Ann Arbor News, "Carr said he met with every senior and the Michigan underclassmen who could potentially enter the NFL Draft, presumably All-America offensive tackle Jake Long and All-Big Ten defensive tackle Alan Branch. Both Branch and Long could be top 10 draft picks. The coach wouldn't reveal anything about either player's situation, but he did say, ‘I want them to make a decision that's best for them.'"

The ObviousPete Carroll plans on providing an in-service meeting with his underclassmen about the process of applying for the NFL, both the good and the bad.

The Not So Obvious – No mention of college football's best coach having the same discussion with himself, so help me Arizona Cardinals.

The Obvious – Atlanta Falcons' GM Rich McKay is the son of the late John McKay.

The Not So Obvious – A guest on the ESPN's popular morning show In The Herd with Colin Cowherd, McKay said that one of the reasons that this year's first year players like Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush are so successful is that they are coming from programs whose head coaches have NFL coaching experience. McKay said, "With so many NFL coaches going to college and vice versa, the college game is more like pro game and the college players are much more prepared for the stuff being run in the NFL because some of the same stuff is being used at the college level."

The Obvious – Senior wide senior Steve Smith was named the Trojans' Most Valuable Player on Thursday evening.

The Not So Obvious – How painful it was for Steve to return for his senior year, but he put logic over NFL emotion and comes away the big winner in 2006. An honor more than well deserved, you have to wonder how much Steve's senior success might play into junior All-America Dwayne Jarrett's decision-making process. Maybe none at all, but for one brief moment at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Smith's well thought out decision was a shinning reminder that patience is a virtue. According to our records, Smith is the first wide receiver MVP since Keyshawn Johnson in 1995.

The Obvious – The Trojans will practice in their usual home manner, meaning that Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields will be abuzz with activity the next several weeks.

The Not So Obvious – The Wolverines will practice four times before leaving for California after final exams Dec. 22. They'll resume practicing in California from Dec. 23-25, take a break on the 26th, and continue on Dec. 27-31 per normal game-week routine.

The Obvious – One sidebar to this year's Rose Bowl is the recruiting battles between the two powerhouse programs, both past and present.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO had the pleasure of participating in a Michigan conference call on Thursday morning which included former Trojan recruit and Michigan senior All-America defensive end LaMarr Woodley. We asked LaMarr what he remembered about the recruiting war between the Trojans and the Wolverines. Woodley said, "USC was a little too far from home for me. I remember telling coach Carroll that I was going to be attending Michigan and he said, ‘If we play in the Rose Bowl, we're going to kick your butt!' and they did my freshman year. I remember that team as constantly beating on you and they constantly sacked our quarterback. They had a powerful offense and Mike Williams."

The Obvious – One of the key performers on defense for Michigan is senior linebacker David Harris.

The Not So Obvious – In Thursday's teleconference, Harris was asked to compare the Trojans and Ohio State. Harris said, " They (USC) are a couple of plays from being in the national championship. They have explosive receivers and great young backs. They will come out all fired up." Sounded like David sidestepped the question with Lloyd Carr precision.

The Obvious – Trojans' All-Pac-10 defensive end Lawrence Jackson has announced that he plans on returning for his senior year.

The Not So Obvious – Considering his roller coaster season, Lawrence made the logical decision to return, which should come as no shock from a philosophy major. The O/NSO has a philosophy major for a son; it's like communicating with Dr. Spock and beam me aboard, Scotty.

The Obvious – The Trojans figure to be in pretty good physical shape when they return to the practice field.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan coach Lloyd Carr says his team is also physically fit for Rose Bowl practices.

The Obvious – Trojans' junior linebacker Keith Rivers is heavily leaning towards returning for his senior year.

The Not So Obvious – If there is a question about which way Keith was leaning, his comments in the Times pretty much reaffirmed why his is one of the more mature players on the club. Rivers said, " I really want to come back and play on a great football team. You can't beat being college. I've only got a couple years to be a student under my parents' wings for a little longer." Barring a passing of brain gas, don't look for the Trojan coaching staff to be pawning uniform No. 55 for 2007.

The Obvious – For Trojan fans, there was no more agony than watching the final seconds tick down in the painful loss to UCLA.

The Not So Obvious – Count Michigan coach Lloyd Carr as one who also experienced the pain. In the Detroit News, Carr said, "To watch that game and watch it wind down certainly, the euphoria of feeling like we were going to get a chance to play in that (national title) game, then, less than 24 hours later, finding out -- it was an interesting 24 hours, I'll say that."

The Obvious – Many Trojan fans began receiving their Rose Bowl tickets this week through FedEx.

The Not So Obvious – Leave it to those Trojan fans with keen eyes to notice on the original e-mail sent to lottery winners that the communiqué also included their seat locations. For those that were happy just to see the congratulation announcement and their FedEx tracking number, it should be pointed out that if you scroll down you can see your tunnel, row, and seat number next to your Trojan ticket ID.

The Obvious – Michigan has sold all 26,000 seats allotted to them for the Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Like we've been saying, nobody cares about the Rose Bowl (yuck, yuck, yuck), except those headed for the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The Obvious – There is the perception that most Trojan season ticket holders have been provided Rose Bowl tickets, either through their support donations to the University or through the lottery process.

The Not So Obvious – Untrue according to the number of phone calls the O/NSO has received since last week's e-mail notifications, all lottery number unfortunates. One Trojan fan that has had five season tickets for a number of years called to say he was in shock that he didn't win the lottery.

The Obvious – Idaho coach Dennis Erickson accepts the coaching position at Arizona State.

The Not So Obvious – Say what you want about old Dennis and don't ask Idaho what they think of his one-season term, but the Pac-10 Conference just got much tougher. The 59-year-old Erickson once led Miami to two national titles and is a proven national product. It should come as little surprise that Erickson, who spent the previous season as Nick Holt's replacement at Idaho, was selected by ASU athletic director Lisa Love. Love knew from her cardinal and gold days of the Trojans intense desire to attract Erickson before "settling" for Pete Carroll. Forget that Dennis has been a head coach at Wyoming, Washington State and Oregon State and coached Seattle and San Francisco in the NFL. All that matters know is that he is at ASU and the man can definitely coach.

The Obvious – With Dennis Erickson now on board at ASU, just who does Stanford go after?

The Not So Obvious – It won't be Norm Chow who wants no part of the action after he's got Vince Young playing like a man just featured on the cover of SI. With Chow no longer part of the Stanford coaching puzzle, it says here that the Cardinal will come up with a more than suitable replacement (former Trojan and Giants' head coach Jim Fassel?) for the miscast Walt Harris. Pete Carroll has to be the happiest guy on the West Coast with the addition of another NFL head coach in Erickson and maybe Fassel. Let's see now, with Erickson, Oregon State's Mike Riley, and Carroll, the Pac-10 is starting to look like a miniature NFL. It could be the strongest coaching collection, at least offensively, the conference has seen in some time. You know you love the competition, Pete.

The Obvious – There are way too many post-season All-America teams out there and the honor is now diluted.

The Not So Obvious – We miss the old days of the Bob Hope Christmas Special when all the members of the AP All-America offensive and defensive teams would show up, sometimes even in their home uniforms and accompanied by their school's fight song. Maybe the time has come for the first-ever O/NSO All-America team. On second thought, cancel that idea. They'll be no hypocrisy in our little nuclear space.

The Obvious – The prevailing feeling was that if a decision was made last week, Trojan junior All-Pac10 nose tackle Sedrick Ellis would probably waived his senior year and entered the draft.

The Not So Obvious – Not so fast, my Lee Corso friend. This is one player that probably got as much attention from Pete Carroll as any player contemplating going to the next level. The O/NSO interviewed Sed for WeAreSC magazine earlier in the season and asked the question of early entry. We didn't get the impression that Ellis was convinced he was staying at that time. The injury this season may have had a lot to do in evaluating his feelings on leaving early. However, with the return of his buddy, Lawrence Jackson, Sir Sedrick says he's part of the LoJac crew for 2007. That shudder you just felt was from all the offensive centers up and down the Pac-10 map. And while we're at it, it was as smart a decision as Steve Smith's decision to return.

The Obvious – Last season was a domino effect when it came to a mass exodus of Trojan underclass players.

The Not So Obvious – The main message sent by this year's group of returning junior players is a combination of seeing what happened to players like former offensive guard Fred Matua and the fact that their core group of teammates were returning. Matua had stated that his "boys," (Leinart, Bush White, Justice, etc.) were leaving and besides family considerations, made it that much easier to depart Heritage Hall.

The Obvious – In his team's crushing 43-0 triumph over Chaparral in the CIF Inland Division final, Norco linebacker and Trojan verbal Jordan Campbell recorded 16 tackles, four sacks, and an interception. four sacks, 16 tackles and an interception.

The Not So Obvious – Any more "stars" in the Scout.com bucket to add to this kid's resume? Sure, Chaparral High won't be confused for Orange Lutheran, but once again Campbell provided observers with the type of intensity that has compared him to former Trojan All-America safety Troy Polamalu. We've have had the pleasure of talking with Jordan and what a class kid this one is. Coming from a Trojan family, Jordan is slated to come to Troy as a fullback, but he certainly has made a statement this year with his linebacking acumen. Better put on some "shades" because this prep star's future at Troy looks to be very bright.

The Obvious – UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of his battle with the Trojans after a tumultuous hit by Trojan linebacker Rey Maualuga along the Trojans' sideline.

The Not So Obvious – You know, one of the shockers of the UCLA game was the fact that after seeing that hit over and over and from a couple of angles, most observers couldn't believe that Cowan came away from the near lethal blow unscathed. Just goes to show you what adrenaline will do in a fierce struggle. You can bet that Michigan quarterback Chad Henne will be well schooled by his coaches to stay as far away as possible from the human terminator that is Rey Maualuga.

The Obvious – The final Pac-10 standings were as follows: (1) USC, (2) Cal, (3) Oregon St., (4) UCLA, (5) Oregon, (6) ASU, (7) Wash. St., (8) UA, (9) Wash., and (10) Stanford.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to the season in the Pac-10 media poll, the predictions were as follows: (1) USC, (2) Cal, (3) Oregon, (4) ASU, (5) UCLA, (6) UA, (7) Oregon St., (8) WSU, (9) Stanford, and (10) Wash. Perception versus reality? The Trojans and Cal were right by the media and perception money. The big overachiever was Mike Riley's Beavers (Perception No. 7 to Reality No. 3) and the big underachiever was Mike Bellotti's Ducks (Perception No. 3 to Reality No. 5).

The Obvious – Orange Lutheran defeated Edison for the Pac-5 CIF title 30-20.

The Not So Obvious – Orange Lutheran is a fine club and it will be of great interest to see how the Trojan career of quarterback Aaron Corp unfolds. A great leader and a good head on his shoulders, the O/NSO thinks it's anybody's guess just how good this kid will be. He kind of reminds us a little bit of Matt Cassel and that ain't too bad a place to start, so help me New England Patriots.

The Obvious – Despite all his greatness, Trojan coaching legend John McKay never had a school named after him to our knowledge.

The Not So Obvious – There is a move afoot to name a new high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bo Schembechler High School. It's a grass-roots movement to name a public school for a man that never worked in the school district. However, Schembechler's son, Shemy, did attend a local public high school as opposed to attending a private school. Shemy, who attended Ann Arbor Huron, is giving the idea thumbs up.

The Obvious – A 2005 Tournament of Roses study estimates the Rose Bowl delivers around $370 million into the Pasadena-area economy, mostly out-of-towners who need hotels, food, souvenirs, and transportation.

The Not So Obvious – Although the Tournament of Roses loves to see the Trojans as part of the mix, the reality, according to Rose Bowl CEO Mitch Doeger, is a Trojan appearance lessons the profits by $20 million because there is no need for the obvious such as hotel, cars, food, and you get the picture.

The Obvious – Since his departure to the NFL, the Trojans have been looking for the next Shaun Cody at defensive tackle.

The Not So Obvious – Although most would agree that if the Trojans could sway Washington D.C. defensive tackle Marvin Austin to Los Angeles, it would go a long way to replacing the Cody legend. However, it would not shock us a bit if Orange Lutheran's Michael Reardon fit the Cody description, even if the current party line is that of an offensive tackle. Both Cody and Reardon have big motors, both played defensive end in high school, both were capable of playing tight end, and both were tough on a basketball court. Oh, and both were about the same size as prep seniors, give or take an inch.

The ObviousAnd finally, tis the season to do all your holiday shopping as the days dwindle down to that famous night when that "bearded fellow" does his annual road trip.

The Not So Obvious – As for the O/NSO, we are busy wrapping our annual O/NSO Holiday List edition for all those connected in some form or another with the Cardinal and Gold. So if you will excuse me, there still a lot of wrapping to do by next Friday and just where is that darn Scotch tape when you need it?

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