O/NSO: Draft edition

Like the circle of life in Disney's Lion King, the circle of USC Trojan gridiron life for Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, and Ryan Kalil concludes its amateur status beginning Saturday morning at New York City's Radio City Music Hall with the NFL draft while Sunday morning at Carson's Home Depot Center, the budding amateur spotlight intensifies at Scout.com's high school evaluation combine.

The Obvious – Like the circle of life in Disney's Lion King, the circle of USC Trojan gridiron life for Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, and Ryan Kalil concludes its amateur status beginning Saturday morning at New York City's Radio City Music Hall with the NFL draft while Sunday morning at Carson's Home Depot Center, the budding amateur spotlight intensifies at Scout.com's high school evaluation combine.

The Not So Obvious – The theme for this weekend's professional and amateur "Love-In" might as well be "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." For departing amateur Trojan stars Jarrett, Smith, Kalil, and probably Dallas Sartz, hopes are that Big Apple love will direct their professional destinations into one big "Hakuna Matata." Of course, nothing is ever the way it seems after the NFL commissioner gives his opening salutation and just ask Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart what happens when teams are "on the clock." Nobody, however, will be "on the clock" Sunday in Carson when Trojan verbals as lineman Matt Kalil of Anaheim Servite, linebacker Maurice Simmons of Compton Dominguez, and receiver Chris Polk from Redlands East Valley strut their stuff at the Home Depot Center, but the life of the recruiting clock begins ticking considerably louder and so will the flow of college recruiting love despite Thursday's NCAA ban on text messaging between coaches and players, which beings in August.

The Obvious – The NFL draft will "kickoff" from famed Radio City Music Hall on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. (PDT) on ESPN.

The Not So Obvious – No, the Rockettes won't be there, but there will be the usual Mel Kiperettes talking machines. Former Trojan quarterback Sean Salisbury, once the national quarterback prep sensation out of Vista Orange Glen, will represent the Cardinal and Gold family on ESPN's coverage. We still remember when freshman Salisbury, on his first day on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field in 1982, was strutting around like a senior and would talk and talk and talk and talk like a Heisman winner. It certainly isn't surprising that he made his way into a successful broadcasting career on ESPN. He may not have been an All-Pro quarterback with Seattle, Indianapolis, Minnesota, or San Diego, but Sean was never shy about giving his opinion on any subject.

The Obvious – Although it was difficult for most Trojan fans to watch Matt Leinart twist in the draft wind last year, many players admit it has been their lifetime goal to be invited by the NFL to New York City to be on TV as a first-round draft pick.

The Not So Obvious – If you take heed from the 49'ers Vernon Davis in ESPN magazine, the whole experience can drive you neurotic. Davis said, "In the greenroom, at Radio City, you get your own table with a special phone. There were cameras everywhere, which made it tough-especially for a guy like (Matt) Leinart. We all noticed how he was dropping in the draft. We could tell he was upset. You have no clue where you'll get taken. I visited with the first seven teams to pick, but I knew the highest I'd go is the Jets. They could have used me but didn't take me. Then Green Bay passed. I was bummed. But my grandma helped keep my spirits up. She kept telling me to hold her hand. When the 49'ers were up at No. 6, I was so nervous. Then, finally my phone rang. I just started bawling. I picked up the phone and heard Norv Turner ask, ‘How would you like to be a 49er?' I was still crying when Mike Nolan got on. He said, ‘I hope those are tears of excitement.'"

The Obvious – A few experts that believe that the Trojans could have three first-round draft picks in Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, and Ryan Kalil.

The Not So Obvious – ESPN's Mel Kiper is one of those who says it's a possibility. There seems, however, to be a growing interest over which Trojan receiver, Dwayne Jarrett or Steve Smith, will be chosen first and in what round. Kiper told ESPN radio's Colin Cowherd this week that Smith being picked before Jarrett is a real "possibility." As usual at this draft time of the year, there's the usual dispensing of information, both informative and misinformation. It has created a firestorm of conflicting opinions over the pecking order of the two Trojan All-Americans.

The Obvious – The most publicized of the Trojans potential high draft choices is two-time All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett (6-4, 219, 4.55), a former 2003 Parade All-America recruited by the Trojans out of New Brunswick High in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The Not So Obvious – The following publications have predicted Dwayne's draft status - ESPN (1st round), Sports Illustrated (1st round), CBS Sportsline (1st round), Fox (1st round) and Scout.com (2nd round). Some say Dwayne will end up with either the Dallas Cowboys or the San Diego Chargers. Concerning Dwayne, Fox Sports Peter Schrager writes, "The USC career record holder for touchdowns and receptions laid eggs both at the combine and at USC's Pro Day. During the latter, Trojan linebacker Dallas Sartz ran a faster 40, as Jarrett clocked in with embarrassing 4.67 and 4.62 40 scores and was less than impressive in quickness drills. I'm not quitting on the Jersey boy yet, though. After filling their holes at safety and offensive line (Ken Hamlin and Leonard Davis), the Cowboys have no real "pressing" immediate needs. If there's any position they'll look to upgrade it, it's at receiver, where Terrell Owens is 34 and Terry Glenn is 33. Dallas has the luxury to take a bit of a risk in this spot. Just a bit weird to consider a guy who scored 41 touchdowns caught 216 balls in three years at college — a ‘risk.'"

The Obvious – Former Trojan All-American and NFL performer Keyshawn Johnson earlier gave his advice to Dwayne Jarrett to return to Troy for his senior year.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of Key, you'll be hearing a lot more on Saturday as Mr. Johnson is part of ESPN's draft coverage team. Of Key's participation this weekend, an ESPN executive producer told USA Today, "He's the closest thing to Charles Barkley – quick, opinioned, funny, smart, a show-stopping type."

The Obvious – Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith have been caught in middle of the Mike William's shadow, a shadow that seems to question just how good are Trojan receivers heading into the NFL.

The Not So Obvious – According to Dwayne Jarrett in an interview with USA Today, No. 8 had plenty to say about the Mike Williams comparison and stereotype. Dwayne said, "I told (NFL personnel) the only thing we (Jarrett and Williams) have in common is we went to the same school. It's unfortunate it (Williams career) didn't work out the way he wanted, but his situation is totally different from mine. We have to let everyone know that it is a myth about USC receivers. We can break the curse with a good rookie year."

The Obvious – The most intriguing potential Trojan high draft pick is wide receiver Steve Smith (6-0, 197, 4.45), a former 2002 Parade All-American recruited by the Trojans out of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California.

The Not So Obvious – The following publications have predicted Steve's draft status - ESPN (1st round), Sports Illustrated (1st round), CBS Sportsline (1st round), Fox (2nd round) and Scout.com (2nd round). Some say Steve is headed for the Chicago Bears. SI's Don Banks says, "It would be one of the biggest first-round stories of the year if Smith went ahead of Dwayne Jarrett, the more celebrated of the two ex-Trojans receivers. But the Chargers could use a burst of speed in their receiving game, and that's not Jarrett's strong suit."

The Obvious – The third likely high draft selection for the Trojans figures to be center Ryan Kalil (6-3, 299, 4.97), a former 2002 All-CIF Southern Section first-team selection recruited by the Trojans out of Servite High School in Anaheim, California.

The Not So Obvious – The following publications have predicted Ryan's draft status - ESPN (1st round), CBS Sportsline (2nd round), Fox (2nd round), and Scout.com (2nd round). Some say Ryan will be selected by the Baltimore Ravens. ESPN's Mel Kiper says, "Ryan Kalil should be a late first round or high second round pick," while Scout.com writes, "We've reported several times the Browns would consider moving up from their second-round selection (#4 in the second round and #36 overall) to get up into the late part of round one in order to acquire USC C Ryan Kalil. More teams are becoming interested in Kalil and the asking price for moving up may be a little steep for Cleveland." Pro Football Weekly's Draft Guide says that Ryan has the potential to be "great" and " a Pro Bowl center."

The Obvious – A likely second day NFL draft selection for the Trojans will be linebacker Dallas Sartz (6-5, 235, 4.69), a former 2001 Super Prep All-Farwest selection recruited by the Trojans out of Granite Bay High School in Granite Bay, California.

The Not So Obvious – Most publications forecast a second day drafting and seventh round selection for Mr. Sartz. PatriotsInsider.com writes, "The buzz surrounding Sartz's workouts at the Pro Day and at the Combine, is that he could work his way into the first day of the Draft. With a thin crop of outside linebackers available in April's draft, the Patriots are one of a group of teams interested in finding athletic players who can play multiple positions in their system. Sartz may be one of those players and because of his strong performances he may command a higher draft pick than in years past."

The Obvious – There are those that would argue that if former Trojan defensive back Eric Wright been in the Trojan secondary the night the Cardinal and Gold played Texas in the national championship, Pete Carroll would already have his third national championship.

The Not So Obvious – Finishing his career at UNLV, Wright is up for NFL drafting and despite an alleged seedy past, a number of NFL teams are high on his future. Concerning that past, which included accusations of sexual assault and police finding more than 100 Ecstasy pills in his apartment, Wright has reached out to NFL teams to explain his 2004 situation. The former Trojan corner told USA Today, "I just wanted to convey to them (NFL teams) that I did make bad decisions but nothing that made me a criminal, and they can see that."

The Obvious - The Trojans are expected to be highly visible in the 2008 NFL draft.

The Not So Obvious – Most draft publications are already predicting that Trojans' All-America offensive tackle Sam Baker and All-Pac-10 linebacker Keith Rivers will be Top 10 selections in 2008. One publication has Sammy as the third pick in next year's entire draft.

The Obvious – The Home Depot Center in Carson will entertain many of the finest prep football players in the West on Sunday morning.

The Not So Obvious – Twenty of the prospects in attendance at the Home Depot Center have already given commitments and so far, eight of the top 100 players in Scout's Hot 100 will be in attendance.

The Obvious – There has been some fun speculation as to the better offensive lineman in the SoCal area – Servite's Matt Kalil or Moreno Valley Rancho Verde's Tyron Smith.

The Not So Obvious – Kalil is expected to participate on Sunday but Smith did not indicate whether he was going to attend. It's always good to watch prospects a number of times, and the O/NSO is intrigued in watching Corona offensive lineman Max Mariner-Tuioti (6-3, 290), a player that could be scooped up by the Trojans if he has a series of good camps.

The Obvious – Mid-Major All-American placekicker Brad Davis (6-0, 170) from Davidson College is transferring to Troy as a graduate student.

The Not So Obvious – With a national championship in the offering, Pete Carroll is taking no chances with the kicking game. Davis is from Danville, Pennsylvania, and attended Bloomsburg Area High. What's the big deal? Well, he did not play football in high school but was a standout soccer player, having scored 61 goals in 61 games. Brad's father ran track at Colgate. In 2006, he hit on 91% of is field goal tries. He was 4-for-4 between 30-39 yards and 2-for-2 between 40-49 yards. The largest crowd he kicked before in 2006 was 8,112 at VMI. FYI, he wore No. 94 at Davidson and currently that Trojan number is available.

The Obvious – Third-year sophomore running back Michael Coleman has requested and received transfer papers.

The Not So Obvious – Really so sad. Michael, once a prep phenom as the 2004 consensus Inland Empire Back of the Year at Arroyo Valley, he seemed to suffer one hip injury after another after showing freshman year promise. It was well chronicled early about his difficult teenage past and his perseverance to rise above it all through athletics. In O/NSO interviews with Michael, he was a true gentleman. We wish him the best.

The Obvious – Former Taft High football coach Troy Starr, who was the prep mentor to Trojans Jamere Holland, Steve and Malcolm Smith, and Gregg Guenther, has been hired as the director of football operations for longtime buddy Urban Meyer at Florida.

The Not So Obvious – The fact Starr and Meyer have known each other for over 20 years and both hail from Ohio makes this hire comprehensible. Of course, Meyer has to believe he can make inroads into SoCal because of Starr's knowledge of the Southland. Don't count on it, Urban. As long as one Pete Carroll is at the helm, such hires will have little meaning. However, what does have meaning is the comment by Starr in the Times about working for Meyer. Starr said, "He's the best coach in America." Hmmm. Ya wonder if that comment will reach Mr. Competition up on the second floor of the Trojan football offices in Heritage Hall?

The Obvious – The Trojan faithful are beside themselves with anticipation over the arrival of quarterback transfer Mitch Mustain and even some members of the media are calling him the "future."

The Not So Obvious – Excuse me, but while the O/NSO is intrigued and even advocated for the arrival the former Arkansas Parade Magazine Player of the Year, has sophomore Mark Sanchez done something that warrants a washed up veteran's reputation? If John David Booty history tells us anything, it's that Sanchez will have the inside tract in 2008 like John David did in replacing Matt Leinart. If Mitch can beat out Mark in competition, may the best man win. In the opinion of the O/NSO, the only thing lacking in the current Sanchez resume is the opportunity, which builds confidence to run the first unit in a real game with real meaning. Me thinks John David Booty can relate to that.

The Obvious – The Trojans open the season at home against the Idaho Vandals on Sept. 1.

The Not So Obvious – With yet another first-year coach thanks to the departure of loyalist Dennis Erickson, Idaho rookie coach Robb Akey finds himself trying to make a quarterback decision with three candidates. With senior Brian Nooy, junior Luke Tracy, and redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle appearing neck and neck, Enderele has made a good impression of late in scrimmage action. The winner of the quarterback competition, of course, will gain the right to open the season in the Coliseum against Pete Carroll's vaunted defense. You call that a reward for winning the quarterback competition?

The Obvious – And finally, no matter where Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, or Ryan Kalil are drafted on Saturday, you can pretty much bet they will have much of their financial future secured just by playing the game they so dearly love.

The Not So Obvious – And for those Scout.com combine participants on Sunday, they will enter the next phase of their dream, which they hope will culminate like Jarrett, Smith, and Kalil. Yes, it's a long road from Carson's Home Depot Center to New York's Radio City Music Hall, but if you can do it, you have certainly earned the right to sing out a couple of bars to the Circle of Life and hollar out "Hakuna Matata"!


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