In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
The return: The Trojans return to spring practice on Tuesday afternoon on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields, and head coach Clay Helton is hoping the remaining 12 competition days will provide more answers than questions. One answer that won’t be surfacing anytime soon will be who’s the starting quarterback – Matt Fink or Jack Sears (photos above) – for the Trojans in the 2018 season opener against visiting UNLV on Sept. 1. Call it the TBD JT Daniels factor.
The weather return: With practices this week scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (yes Friday and not Saturday) at 3:15 p.m., the Trojans will apparently be able to work on their wet weather game plans for next season, as the Los Angeles forecast calls for afternoon showers on Tuesday and full-on rain on Thursday. Friday afternoon calls for mostly sunny.
Pro Day: With rain also expected on Wednesday, USC’s Pro Day – closed to the general public – could be in jeopardy. As if there wasn’t enough anxiety for former Trojans looking to make an impression with NFL scouts, comes the possibility of rescheduling. Sam Darnold is scheduled to throw, Ronald Jones ll is expected to run, and the usual number of past and recently departed Trojans are hoping to showcase their skills or revive interest by NFL evaluators.
The destination: With the resumption of spring ball, I am intrigued with the progress of sophomore linebacker Levi Jones, who certainly has the skill level to be an exceptional player and an eventual starter.
Making a statement: Another player to also keep an eye on as spring ball resumes is sophomore wide receiver Trevon Sidney, who may be not so quietly be making a major impression as spring ball continues. Some feel that Trevon could also make an imprint on defense if given the opportunity.
Centers of attention: With senior center Toa Lobendahn caring for a sensitive knee, the “war” between backups Brett Neilon and Justin Dedich is quite a competition and will continue to be so.
Back and forth: Keep an eye on junior Dominic Davis, who came to Troy as a running back, was switched last season to corner, and has returned to tailback on offense. In the first week, Davis put on a real move on one run, which is a reminder that you can take Dominic out of the tailback picture, but you can’t the tailback instincts out of him.
On the far horizon: Class of 2020 pro-style quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) is considered the best in the country for his recruiting class ranking. The Trojans are right in the thick of his recruiting, and one reliable source told me that this kid’s off the field leadership and character matches his wunderkind athletic ability.
On the far horizon – Part 2: And if you really want to be intrigued about DJ Uiagalelei, consider this already man-child is currently listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds.
From the press box…
Still kicking: Say what you want about the professional quarterbacking career of former Trojans’ QB Matt Barkley, but he’s still drawing a paycheck from the NFL after stints with Philadelphia, Arizona, Chicago, San Francisco, Arizona (a second term), and then this weekend’s announcement that Matt has signed with Cincinnati. It’s all adding up to a very healthy NFL retirement package.
The shuffle: A lot is happening in anticipation of the NFL draft, which will take place April 26 – 28 in AT&T Stadium in Dallas. With somewhat surprising free agent signings of quarterbacks by teams that were previously mentioned as possible locations for former Trojan quarterback Sam Darnold, the plot thickens. The big money still has Sam heading off to Cleveland as the No. 1 overall selection.
It’s possible: In Cleveland and Denver, they appear to have fortified their quarterback situations with the signings of Tyrod Taylor and Case Keenum, respectively. However, it’s possible that those still have interest in Sam Darnold with the idea of letting him learn behind a veteran quarterback without putting too much, too early on his shoulders.
It’s also possible: With news this weekend that the New York Jets (from Indianapolis) have traded up to the No. 3 overall pick in next month’s NFL draft, it appears the chances increase that Sam Darnold could possibly end up in the Big Apple.
Warning signs: The on-campus Trojan powers that be should be concerned that there are prominent and longtime boosters who are still not pleased with the way the Coliseum renovation has displaced with their seating and the way it was handled.
To park or not to park: On Wednesday, there was groundbreaking for the highly anticipated George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will be built behind the closed end of the Coliseum, which begs the question of where will those that parked in that area be relocated – like VIPs and the media? If you look at the artist drawings, the museum, which is surrounded by trees and grass, just where will the public be parking for those that want to visit the Museum of Narrative Art?
The post-game show…
Decisions, decisions: If you had to make a choice of road trips, would you rather attend the Sept. 8 conference opener and Bay Area Weekender at Stanford or the following Saturday (Sept. 15) at Texas in Austin? And remember, Austin really has a ballyhooed nightlife.
The smell test: The Pac-12 finishes 1-8 in football bowl games completed this past season, and then then the basketball teams go 0-3 in the NCAA tournament. Need we comment? Well, disaster comes to mind.
Justice served: Ronald Gasser, who shot and killed former Trojans tailback Joe McKnight, was sentenced this past week to 30 years in prison for manslaughter. The sentence returns the sad memories of the shooting and let’s not talk about gun control, right? Joe played four seasons in the NFL, performing with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs after being drafted as a fourth-rounder in 2010.
Zing: Former Seattle Seahawks superstar corner Richard Sherman, who recently signed as a free agent with San Francisco, had some recent parting shots at former Trojans’ head coach and Seattle leader Pete Carroll. In a podcast, Sherman said, “A lot of us have been there (Seattle) six, seven, eight years, and his philosophy is more built for college. Four years, guys rotate in, rotate out, and so we had kind of heard all his stories, we had kind of heard every story, every funny anecdote that he had. And honestly because he just recycles them. And they’re cool stories, they’re great for team chemistry and building, etcetera, etcetera. But we had literally heard them all. We could recite them before he even started to say them.”
Zing – Part 2: The irony of the Sherman’s outbursts is some of these same comments were heard during the late stages of Carroll’s USC tenure. One thing seems certain, Carroll’s outstanding record at both USC and Seattle started to unravel based on two negative plays from each employment that have both gone down in infamy.
Zing – Part 3: Against Texas, LenDale White couldn’t gain a first down on a short-yardage play late in the fourth quarterback against Texas in the 2006 BCS Rose Bowl title game, a play that will always be remembered because Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush was on the sidelines, a bewilderment to both those inside and outside the coaching and media industry – not to mention the fan base. Carroll has never acknowledged this was a huge tactical mistake.
Zing – Part 4: In Super Bowl XLIX, Carroll elected to pass on the New England 1-yard line with the game on the line, and the ball was intercepted by the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler to win the game for the Patriots. Unlike the USC situation when Reggie Bush was on the sideline, Carroll distained giving the ball to the NFL biggest and baddest brute, how own tailback Marshawn Lynch. A headscratcher call for forever and forever and forever.
The last word: As a continuing public service, the IMHO Sunday presents the latest Coliseum website camera update: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation