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IMHO Sunday: Early signing test

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

The moment of truth: This Wednesday thru Friday’s early football signing period will illuminate how much recruiting damage control or just plain damage has taken place since the end of a 2018 forgettable season, the controversial announcement of Clay Helton’s return as USC’s head coach, and all the assistant coaching firings and hirings.

Rules of engagement: We’ll repeat our first recruiting commandment: If a recruit has always wanted to be a USC football player and get a high valued degree from the university, that recruit will sign on Wednesday. However, there should not be panic if high-valued recruits elect to wait to the traditional February signing day. It’s all about the dotted line, no matter which signing window you decide.

Rules of engagement – Part 2: Using our recruiting rule commandment, it appears that the Trojans will receive the signature of College of the Desert defensive end Daytona Jackson (6-5, 270), who has been a lifelong USC fan. Originally a Colorado commit until the firing of the Colorado staff, Jackson’s actual dream offer came when Clay Helton and seven numbers of his staff flew into the Coachella Valley to make their pitch to the 23-year-old. Apparently, the Trojans’ coaching staff was preaching to the choir. Jackson, who would be a candidate to replace Porter Gustin’s predator position, was also recruited hard by UCLA and recently cancelled visits to Florida and Nebraska.

The debut: One of the early tests for new Trojan assistants Kliff Kingsbury (OC/QBC), Mike Jinks (RBC), and Chad Kauha’aha’a (DLC) will be on the recruiting front. We’ll see if these late additions to the staff have an effect for this week’s early signing period. Who will sign? Who will wait till February? Who will come? Who will not come? Under normal Trojan circumstances, this week would be one of excitement and anticipation, but there is nothing normal right now, so there is excitement accompanied by some very real trepidation.

The debut – Part 2: Obviously, Clay Helton along with athletic director Lynn Swann are in the midst of reshaping the Trojans’ coaching staff and the program in general, so we’ll see how the recent events from the season plays in recruits’ minds. One of the keys to watch for Wednesday’s early signing period will be which players signed will enroll in the spring semester and be eligible to participate in spring practice.

A big question: With still no official word that Greg Burns will be the Trojans new secondary coach, you can bet the first to know will be the current Trojan secondary recruits, especially with this week’s early signing days. It will be intriguing to find out if the hiring of Burns, who was with the Trojans and Pete Carroll during the 2003-05 seasons, has an effect with current Trojan secondary recruits.

A matter of adjusting: So how does the Kingsbury hire affect the recruiting of the tight end position? Some say that Kingsbury’s does not use a tight end, but the Trojans have a couple of current recruiting verbals in Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco’s Jude Wolfe and Orange (Calif.) Lutheran’s Ethan Rae. Kingsbury has been known to adjust to his talent, so that is probably good news for Wolfe and Rae and the Trojans’ offense.

Recruiting rebirth: Before the Kliff Kingsbury hiring, Trojans’ recruiting on the offensive side of the ball was unsettled. However, the hiring of Kingsbury was definitely a shot in the arm in terms of recruiting and that may prove out during this week’s early signing period. In fact, for players like Mater Dei High’s multi-talented receiver Bru McCoy (photo above), the Kingsbury hire is probably music to him and his family. We may find out this week.

Recruiting rebirth – Part 2: The big recruiting key won’t be the offensive skill players but the offensive line. The Trojans suffered a real set back when San Juan Hills offensive lineman Sean Rhyan, long considered a Trojan lean, committed to UCLA. However, now that there is stability and a spotlight on an expected exciting offense, we’ll see if Rhyan’s verbal sticks. In the case of Sean Rhyan, the Trojans will hope he won’t sign in the early December signing period, but it’s probably a longshot at best.

The big picture: Don’t know about you, but there should be concern about the offensive line recruiting. It’s been all too quiet, which in this day and age is a hard thing to keep quiet. It doesn’t matter how many great skilled players you recruit, in the end it will only be valuable if there is a superior offensive line to execute the offense. Then again, maybe Trojan fans will be in for a pleasant surprise when the fax machines cool down. All eyes will be on apparent offensive line coach Tim Drevno who has been recruiting offensive line prospects.

So long: Mike Goff, who helped coach the USC offensive line the past couple of seasons, has been hired by new Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton – brother of Clay and former Trojans’ QB coach – as the new offensive line coach at Western Kentucky. Goff assisted current interim offensive line coach Tim Drevno late this season after spending some time with the defensive line. Goff spent 12-years as an offensive lineman in the NFL.

From the press box…

The Hall truth: If you grew up in the golden age of sports writing in Los Angeles, the name John Hall was iconic. John passed away last Monday at the age of 90, and we had the great honor of knowing him both at the Los Angeles Times and at The Orange County Register. Known for his great daily columns and his “The Hall Truth,” John loved USC football and was quite close with legendary coach John McKay. When you met John Hall, it didn’t take long to understand how much he loved USC. Personally, he treated everybody like they were his best friend and never “big-timed” anybody. He was real. His personality was larger than life, and he had an unforgettable deep gravelly voice. They don’t make’em anymore like the great John Hall, truly journalistic royalty.

The Hall truth – Part 2: In 2003, John Hall was elected to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. I can just hear John chuckling and saying, “Not bad for a Stanford grad.”

The latest: As a little recruiting distraction, here’s the latest real time camera on the Coliseum renovation project: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation  

On the ballot: The Pro Football Hall of Fame recently announced the modern-era semifinalists for its 2019 class, which includes former Trojans All-America offensive tackle Tony Boselli. Other semifinalists include Ed Reed, Sam Mills, and Zach Thomas, and coaches Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson.

Getting started: With the Trojans not playing in a bowl game and the Trojans probably putting in a new offensive system, could the spring practice start date might come earlier than usual?

The post-game show…

Expand: We’ve harped on this over and over. However, once again there is CFP debate over a 4-team or 8-team playoff. Say what you want, the argument to expand to eight teams is clearly reasonable and gaining steam, so help me Georgia and Ohio State.

Uncomfortable: I can still see the faces of Clay Helton, JT Daniels, and Cameron Smith change when after the Notre Dame game during their post-game media session the Irish team was going crazy in the locker room right next door. The noise level was so loud it almost drowned out the answers the three Trojans were trying to communicate.

Reservations: With no bowl game to attend and no travel bills to pay for Trojan fans this year, you might want to look into reservations for next season’s Notre Dame Weekender. As a reminder, the USC/ND game is being played a week earlier (Oct. 12) than the usual third week in October. This change was to accommodate the ACC football schedule.

It’s official: Although you see it at a high school or junior college game, it was unusual to see the ACC game officials that worked the USC/ND game leave the Coliseum still in uniform. Guess they didn’t want the fans waiting outside the Coliseum to notice them. Yes, they were accompanied by security.

The last word: Take a deep breath, the bowl season is upon us and no (sigh) Trojans. However, on Saturday, the Las Vegas Bowl was played and featured next season’s 2019 Trojans’ opening opponent, the Fresno State Bulldogs (12-2). Looking like the better team, the No. 21 Bulldogs defeated Arizona State, 31-20, which played without star receiver N’Keal Harry. Harry elected not to play in order to save himself for the upcoming NFL combines. FWIW, Fresno State will give the Trojans all they can handle in Troy’s season opener if Jeff Tedford remains the Bulldogs head coach.

Greg Katz
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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