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IMHO Sunday: A preseason of addition by subtraction

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.

The facts: So, the Pac-12 is planning to release its 10-game conference-only schedule this upcoming week, which for the USC Trojans figures to be the probable addition of a home game with Washington State after the already announced subtraction of powerhouses Alabama and Notre Dame, and (oh-hum) New Mexico.

Then there is the subtraction of former tight ends Daniel Imatorbhebhe (NCAA Transfer Portal) and once incoming prep tight end Jack Yary (a probable Washington Husky) and the addition of recently announced tight end verbal Lake McRee from Austin, Texas.

And finally, the subtraction of local and national high school football seasons, moved from the fall to the addition of the same said prep gridiron seasons to the spring – if you call January the spring. Woah, and double woah!      

The facts – Part 2: If you’re a regular reader of the IMHO Sunday, you’re already aware that we have previously written that the best thing that could happen to Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton and the ongoing recruiting success of the Class of 2021 is if the Trojans 2020 season opener against Alabama was cancelled.

The facts – Part 3: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard all the enthusiastic banter that the Trojans couldn’t wait to play the Crimson Tide, chomping at the bit for another crack at the bad boys from Tuscaloosa. To that we say, “Careful what you wish for, it might come true.” Well, thank goodness, it’s not coming true. We’ve heard the same nonsense before the Trojans got their gluteus maximus handed to them by Alabama back in 2016, or have you forgotten that scoreboard embarrassment of (deep breath) 52-6? Believe me, that one wasn’t easy to take since – in my lifetime – the USC Trojans are historically the hammer and not the nail. But then again, these are not normal times.  

The Trojans opening game against Alabama (photo above) has been canceled, and that may be a good thing in the long run.

The facts – Part 4: At some point in the future, the Trojans will again play Alabama on the same program level. Telling it as it is, the current USC program is not on the Crimson Tide level at this point (i.e. offensive line dominance). However, they are making incremental progress based on the current recruiting Class of 2021’s surge thanks to an impressive and aggressive addition of new assistant coaches.

The facts – Part 5: As stated, now was not the time for the Trojans to play the Crimson Tide with legendary Bama coach Nick Saban, who no doubt would have had his team cranked up to play the Trojans on national television – especially after the Tide’s “disappointing” 11-2 record last season. IMHO, the Trojans probably avoided a very real disaster. And please don’t tell me you wanted to measure this season’s Men of Troy with an Alabama program hot to trot in 2020. Sure, the Trojans could have lost “impressively,” but it still would have been a loss and moral victories, IMHO, have grown way too old. Too negative? To that we say “too realistic.”  

The facts – Part 6: At this particular moment in time, Gentleman Clay’s record against ranked teams doesn’t warrant confidence that an Alabama upset was on the horizon, or did you miss last season’s games against ranked teams like Oregon, Notre Dame, and Iowa? We won’t even rehash Ohio State in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. You get the point. That’s not what you pay the head coach of the storied USC Trojans to produce or maybe that’s what making close to $5 million dollars a season gets you these days. But hope springs eternal, and maybe there will be an impressive turnaround in this bizarre season…if there is a season.      

If Clay Helton (photo above) is earning a reported yearly salary of close to $5 million dollars a season, not playing Alabama and Notre Dame could eliminate two potential losses and increasing the odds of having a undefeated season, which could advance his Trojans into CFP post-season contention.

The facts – Part 7: As for dropping Notre Dame, we actually think the Trojans had an excellent shot at beating the Irish this season in Los Angeles. But, be that as it may, it’s another personal victory for Clay Helton’s job security and for continued recruiting momentum. Now, however, comes the hard part: winning a conference-only schedule, which begins with capturing the Pac-12 South Division. It is not unreasonable to believe that the Trojans could or should go undefeated with the revised new schedule, and the Men of Troy should be favored in every Pac-12 game with the possible exception of perhaps Oregon in Eugene. Believe me, it won’t be the same Autzen Stadium if crazy Ducks fans are not allowed through the turnstiles.  

The facts – Part 8: So, with the announced departures of Alabama, New Mexico, and Notre Dame, it’s Pac-12 title or bust, IMHO. If the College Football Playoffs actually take place after this season, and they elect to expand the format to include conference champions and the Trojans can’t get that accomplished because they couldn’t beat probable North Division champion Oregon, it won’t get any easier than that in the future. In other words, it’s all there for the cardinal and gold taking in 2020.

Many USC fans are hoping that the recent cancellation of the Irish game (photo above) in Los Angeles still might have a chance of being played.

From the press box…

The Yary mystery: At first, it seemed like it couldn’t be true. Incoming freshman tight end Jack Yary, son of legendary USC All-America offensive tackle Ron Yary, and USC have reportedly parted ways? Here’s what we know. Jack Yary reportedly always wanted to go to USC. Ron Yary always wanted his son to go to USC. Clay Helton and his staff have always wanted Jack Yary to come to USC. So what happened?

The Yary mystery – Part 2: If it’s not a football issue, what could it be? That opens a can of rumors, but in time something will leak out. What we do know is that on Jack Yary’s Instagram there was a picture of himself in a Washington Huskies uniform with the words “The Future!” So, for the time being, it looks like young Yary is heading to Seattle, but who knows at this point? Stay tuned.

There is still quite amount of conjecture and mystery surrounding why former incoming tight end Jack Yary (photo above – No. 7) has switched from being a Trojan and then showing himself on his Instagram as a Washington Husky.

So long, Daniel: Well, it would be easy to say the NCAA Transfer Portal strikes again, but with the news last week that sixth-year tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe has elected to enter the Portal and our reaction is “Whatever.” The whole situation had grown old, and it was time for both parties to move on.  

So long, Daniel – Part 2: Don’t blame Clay Helton for the Imatorbhebhe or the Yary moves. The coach went overboard to make sure that Daniel and Jack were part of the team. The Trojans, however, are well stocked at tight end, and it remains to be seen if the tight end position will even be a major part of the offense. We’ve heard the promises of using the tight ends in the past, so we’ll leave this subject under “We’ll see about that.”

There is nothing to indicate that Trojans head coach Clay Helton (photo above by Jordon Kelly) did anything wrong in the apparent transfers of tight ends Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Jack Yary. Helton was very high on both players being part of the 2020 Trojans.

Fielding the question: It has been reported that former University of Arizona starting linebacker Tony Fields is looking to transfer, and the Trojans have reached out. Why another linebacker? Because Fields is really good, has extensive Pac-12 experience, and has the maturity to match it. If Fields does come to Troy, he won’t be sitting on the bench. It wouldn’t be shocking if the former Las Vegas Desert Pines High star ended up starting for the Trojans.    

The post-game show…

Delay of Game: As you may already be aware, the start of high school football games in California will be delayed until January, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced last Monday. It’s not surprising, and it was the right thing to do. IMHO, we’re not sold there will even still be a prep football season in January because we could still be at the mercy of the coronavirus.

Delay of game – Part 2: The Los Angeles CIF City Section and CIF Southern Section both announced this past week that football practice would begin Dec. 14, with games beginning on Jan. 8. Under the newly announced CIF calendar, the last section football game is scheduled for April 10, with one week for regional bowl games on April 17.

Delay of game – Part 3: For USC fans, attention will now turn to prep players that have already made a Trojans’ verbal commitment. For players like quarterbacks Miller Moss and Jake Garcia, both have indicated they have interest in enrolling early for the spring semester. If the Trojans season is moved to January and knowing the cardinal and gold need a third quarterback behind Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink, it would be an added enticement for both signal callers to arrive early and compete. At worst, of course, would be participating in spring practice if it comes to that.

With the announcement by the CIF that high school football games won’t be played until early January, will Trojans’ quarterback verbals Miller Moss (photo above) and/or Jake Garcia forego their senior high school seasons and enroll at Troy for the spring semester?

Delay of game – 4: Then there is the Kory Foreman (Corona, Calif./Centennial HS) factor. A defensive end, Foreman, who is the nation’s consensus top recruit regardless of position, said last Monday that if he has to choose between playing his high school senior season in the winter months as opposed to entering college early, the blue-chipper tweeted out: “If they make me choose between my senior season or going to college … please believe I’m headed to my first camp .. no questions asked.”

Delay of game – Part 5: Now, if it’s eventually announced that college football actually starts games in January, the Kory Foreman recruitment figures to be a heavier lean to the Trojans than it may already be, especially with Kory knowing he could play as a freshman alongside his former Centennial High School teammate and best friend Drake Jackson. No doubt the thought of Kory playing with buddy Drake for two USC seasons would be a real incentive to sign with the Trojans.  

Delay of game – Part 6: With the prep season being moved to January, the big question is whether the Trojans have enough roster spots open for those prep stars that want to come in early? Might the NCAA make roster number exceptions given the coronavirus circumstances? The current college roster limit is 85 scholarships. Another unknown is if the college football season is moved to January. How many Trojans seniors and underclassmen would forego their final USC season to enter the NFL’s April draft?

With the coronavirus crisis still a major issue, how might it affect college football and recruiting? Would the NCAA (photo above) increase college football rosters from its 85 scholarship limit?

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Greg, do you actually think that college football will start in January or is it still a baseless rumor? Well, Caller No. 1, whenever you have this much money at stake and it means so much financially to the universities that play football at the D-1 level, those universities will do almost everything not to lose the big bucks. I suspect that if there is any chance to have a season and cash paychecks, winter is a viable option. If there’s going to be a CFP post-season, all the conferences will have to agree on moving the entire D-1 level to the winter. CFP expansion is still a possibility especially if there are reduced regular season games.

Caller No. 2: Mr. Katz, with all the uncertainty of the college football season and the calendar changes in so many states for high school football, will it create a real recruiting mess? The colleges will figure it out, but it will be challenging not knowing which players on their own rosters will need to be replaced. It will also take a lot of projecting and communicating to figure out everybody’s plans. Throw in how high school players will be evaluated and not just in games, but what about the various prep football camps that may have to be cancelled in the future? It could be a real mess.

Committed USC football players from the Class of 2021 like DB Prophet Brown (photo above) have already decided to forego their senior high school season, which has been rescheduled for early January. Prophet is expected to attend USC in January.

Caller No. 3: Coach, do you think that the postponement of the California high school football season to January will have a bigger effect on the high schools or the colleges? This is somewhat like the previous question, but it’s still an excellent question. I think it could be a dominoes effect for both. If the college football season is also moved to January, it’ll probably affect college rosters for players eligible for the NFL spring draft. For high school talent, the thought of coming into college for a season that might be played in January or later would be awfully enticing if a prep player actually thought he’d be able to play in a real college football game instead of just participating in spring practice.     

Caller No. 4: GK, I always look forward to information coming out of Pac-12 Football Media Day. When are they going to have the media day and where? First, the where. If there is a media day, it’s already been announced it will be a digital meeting, meaning it’ll be a streamed media conference. As to when, the Pac-12 probably will not give a date until the conference-only schedule is announced.

USC sports information director Tim Tessalone (photo above in middle) is awaiting word on the future date and time of the virtual Pac-12 Media Day, which he will then forward along with the Pac-12 the information to the media that covers the Trojans.

Caller No. 5: Katzer, are you cheap or are you a big spender? LOL. As my late mother used to say, “Greg, if you want it and can afford it, buy it.” Mom believed, as did dad, that you can’t take it (money) with you, so if I see something I could afford, I usually go for it. I’ve never had a problem with credit card overspending or debt. As an old-age bachelor, I don’t have to argue, debate, or justify with a partner whether I should buy something. Been there and done that. I have what I now call “true freedom” of spending, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

The final word: If there is a college football season, will television try to insert virtual crowds in the stands of empty stadiums like they are doing for baseball?

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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