One Man's Opinion - Pre Signing Day edition

Well, it's been about 3 weeks since the USC Football Team has played a game, but it has been anything but boring. As the letter of intent day draws closer, more and more rumors are hitting the various internet boards and more and more opinions of all types are showing up.

Every single day one reads about something vital to the USC Football program, whether it relates to a recruit committing, de-committing, a coach interviewing for another position or heaven forbid, about Pete Carroll possibly showing even the slightest interest in a position other than the head coaching job at the University of Southern California. About this time of year, only one thing I know of is an absolute certainty and that is simple to state. At this time, nothing is etched in stone.

With no specific game to comment about I have to wonder what is worth mentioning? Well, in this case the two biggest topics dominating the internet and newspaper articles are actual recruits who are being pursued and coaching changes that are pending or not going to take place.

First, with regard to recruiting, it is still not possible to state exactly who is going to sign with USC. Of course, with the plethora of sites available and with the various experts around such as our own (and Scout.com's own) Garry Paskwietz and Scott Schrader, those who subscribe to WeAreSC.com get as much good inside information as anyone else. To be fair, those who read the competing Rival's site, USCFootball.com are also well informed. Although many might argue differently, even those folks who read the infamous Scott Wolf's Blog, or those who dare admit to reading it, also pick up some interesting tid bits here and there, though in reality, things don't always turn out the way the posted information seems to predict.

Since recruiting is hardly a done deal, it might seem silly to comment much about it one way of the other. But what harm can come from just giving an opinion? To my eye, it looks like USC is once again set to load up on some of the top talent in the entire country. Since letters have not yet been signed, and since no official comments can be made by coaches, fans and diehards are left on their own to make some assumptions and to believe the information that is put out there. And of course, there are many well informed folks who talk to "people in the know" who also put out some rather interesting and often quite accurate predictions and information. At this time, one of the more disappointing and preliminary aspects of the recruiting scenario for USC is the apparent decision of one James Wilson to rethink his college choice. It had been assumed by many that James, one of the most highly sought offensive linemen in the country, would be attending USC. However, depending on what posted version one tends to believe or wants to believe, the young man has had a change of heart and will reportedly be attending a school that is becoming a real pain to consider for some USC fans; the University of Florida . Assuming this is actually how it all plays out, congratulations to the player and to the Gators. Personally, I have developed a real dislike for that particular program, though one must give credit where and when it is due.

Remember that this is just an opinion here. My main concern, and presumably a major concern for the USC football program now becomes numbers of offensive and defensive linemen coming into the program for next year. Assuming Wilson does not come to USC, it appears that the Trojans might end up with only 5 or 6 linemen in total, to be distributed however the coaches choose between offense and defense. The guys that seem to be coming at this time are all very talented and very much needed. The list seems to include, Everson Griffen, Kris O'Dowd, Martin Coleman, Da'John Harris, and Michael Reardon. That group is impressive, to say the least. Some might now start jumping all over me stating that I did not include Marvin Austin. Well, he might come, but he might not. And then there is the Bryant kid from Florida. Yes, he might come and he might not. The real question, to my way of thinking is where does USC stand if no other solid commits are added other than the five mentioned.

In terms of next season, I think things will be just fine. Depending on how Jeff Byers heals, and depending on Matt Spanos' status, and on the development of Thomas Herring, Charles Brown, Butch Lewis and a few others, the Oline should be ok. But notice how many ifs, there are. That is never a comforting thought, but the reality is that right now, it is a fair statement. In terms of current recruits, I am not sure how the staff looks at them anyway, at least in terms of immediate playing time. A solid guess would be that if the current guys live up to the hype and expectations, Griffen and O'Dowd might very well play next year, and it would not shock me if both play major minutes. That is not to say the others won't. I am just trying to point out that on both lines, most of the major minutes for next season should come from guys already on the team.

So why should anyone worry if only five or six linemen end up signing with SC before Fall practice starts? The reason is simple to state. It often takes linemen several years in the program to fully develop. With relatively small numbers of guys that might end up signing on the line for two consecutive years, things could get a bit sticky in the following years.

Obviously there are several counters to the above rationale. First and foremost, things are not yet done. Who is to say that Pete and his staff won't still come up with one or two valuable kids who will be on that practice field come August? We have all seen it before. Three names that quickly come to my mind are John Drake, Will Poole and David Buehler. None of that trio was around on LOI day, yet all three came in and had a major impact on the program. Another counter to the concern is that next season, without a doubt, SC will load up on both sides of the line and take that to the bank. I agree. If necessary, I have no doubt that the staff will load up with up to 8 or 10 total linemen if the balance of the recruiting dictates that is needed. I am concerned, however, whether those guys would be able to help out on the lines at a high level from early on. Of course, the addition of one or two talented JC guys in any future group could help alleviate the worry, though we have seen that lately, getting JC kids is more and more difficult, though not impossible, from an academic standpoint.

This very weekend, some very impressive and important recruits are on the campus. How will it all work out and who will actually sign with the Trojans? Only time will tell. With regards to Joe McKnight and Donovan Warren, I am sure there are many who might feel that this and that is a done deal. To that I say terrific. I hope it all works out in a way that favors USC. This is not a democratic article and I am not wishing well to all teams. I am a diehard SC Honk and always will be. Thus, whatever is best for USC, is obviously what I hope comes to fruition.

And how about the coaching situations themselves? Man, to even mention that Pete Carroll may have been so much as interested at looking at some other position draws the ire of many. It does not matter how close he may or may not have come to signing with this or that team, or what his real interests may or may not have been. The reality is that Pete Carroll is going to be the head football coach at USC next season. For those who feel that he will be at SC for many many years to come, congratulations. I hope you are correct. For those who say that other coaches are telling recruits that Carroll is going to go back to the pros and he is not being straight etc, etc, I say--dah! What would anyone expect SC's rivals to say? I mean does anyone expect Urban Myer, a guy I personally feel is more likely to be in the NFL before Pete Carroll, to tell recruits that Pete Carroll is a great guy, USC is a great program, and it would be a great choice?? Give me a break!

As for recruits needing assurances that a coach or staff will be there for the long run---that can be a pipedream. Few things in coaching are stagnant. Change is the name of the game. I honestly feel a coach can look a recruit in the eye and tell that recruit that he intends to be there for a long time and actually mean it. Yet I also think that coach could end up gone in a very short time anyway. That is the world of coaching and athletics. A recruit needs to understand that coaching changes happen and they do not always mean anyone was deliberately telling lies, though I suspect that any good coach has been known to stretch the truth, so to speak.

As for the USC assistants and the offense in particular, it looks like less change is in the immediate future than might have been predicted even a short time ago. After reading numerous posts about Sarkesian and Kiffin both being gone for next year and questions asking who Pete will bring in, etc etc, it looks like both Kiffin and Sarkesian may still be at USC next year. Of course, that is not a given either. More positions will likely open up elsewhere, though I suspect that few lateral moves are being contemplated by either of them.

Is their return a good thing or a bad thing? I won't answer that question, though it certainly has been discussed on the boards umpteen million times. I will say this. I personally would like to see what the USC offense will look like if Pete Carroll decided to duplicate his actions of the second half of the Rose Bowl. Unless Pete was not telling the truth, he publicly stated that he took the reigns off in the second half and told the guys to pass it and open things up. I personally heard Coach Carroll say just that and the results were amazing. In the second half of the Rose Bowl, and in the final quarter of the comeback against Oregon State, the USC offense was awesome. It looked as potent as the prior year's edition that had Leinart, White and Bush, to mention a few. Just check back and see just how many points the USC juggernaut put up in those three quarters! That is not an opinion,that is a fact.

So the questions loom. Who really did what with the offense for most of the 2006 season and what does the future hold. I think all would agree that Kiffin and the offense in general took lots of heat at various times this past season. At no time was the problem more amplified than after the 9 point production against the Bruins. Yes, that game was a stinker from an SC standpoint. Whether or not it is really on Kiffin and Sarkesian, as well as on the players lack of execution, to be sure, is an answer we will never get. I have to admit that personally, I am not positive what to think. But now that the season is all over, and now that I have seen Kiffin and Sarkesian get offers from others, I have decided the following. I actually think that both are high powered guys, but neither can do what the head coach won't allow. My honest guess is that if Pete Carroll were to really turn the offense over to the guys the way he apparently did to a larger extent when Chow was around, the SC offense would have looked and will look much more prolific and much more like what we had seen in the years before they took over than it did in the UCLA game this year. Others disagree, I am sure of that. But that is why this is called an opinion.


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