In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
The Georgia way: With all due respect to legendary singer Ray Charles, I, too, have Georgia on my mind. You see, if you’re looking for something really big in USC recruiting – I mean SEC big – look no further than the state of Georgia. As you’re aware, the Trojans got an enormous/monster commitment last Tuesday from 5-star defensive end Mykel Williams (Twitter cover photo above with D-line coach Vic So’oto) from Columbus, Ga./Hardaway. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound stud could become instrumental in building potentially one of the great future defensive lines in the country, and you know what? This is a class of 2022 commitment that could stick.
The Georgia way – Part 2: In this day and age, it would be foolish to think that the Mykel (pronounced My-kel) Williams commitment is an absolute done deal. However, there are exceptions, and Williams could be that exception. Why? First, his dad was on the visit and reportedly gave it a total thumbs up. Also extremely important is the fact that Mykel’s half-brother, Trojans’ true freshman tight end Michael Trigg, is already enrolled at Troy and was his host. And just as important was the positive impression that Trojans’ defensive line coach Vic So’oto had on the player and his family. So, all in all, the recruiting trip couldn’t have gone much better and hence the commitment. Will it stick? Well, if any early commitment sticks, this has a chance to be the one.
The Georgia way – Part 3: Now, let’s say for the sake of a positive outlook and an optimistic cardinal and gold imagination, the Mykel William’s verbal holds true through December, and the Trojans also get the signature of class of 2021 defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau (6-5, 280) from Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic. J.T., who some say was the best player in the country last prep season. J.T.was on his recruiting visit to Troy early last week, and no question that the Trojans made sure he knew about the Mykel Williams commitment. Add the fact that J.T. has family in SoCal, and the Trojans are in it.
The Georgia way – Part 4: If J.T. Tuimoloau, who is said to be an Ohio State lean and will also visit the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon) signs with the Trojans, forgive USC fans for being giddy over the future prospect of a USC defensive line consisting of 5-stars across the board. Yes, Korey Foreman, Mykel Williams, and J.T. Tuimoloau would make any fan base celebrate New Year’s Eve early. And don’t forget Alabama defensive line transfer Ishmael Sopsher, who is waiting in the wings for the 2021 season. Again, let’s hold up a big caution sign because a lot could happen between now and the early December signing date, but it is in the realm of possibility.
The Georgia way – Part 5: The Trojans’ recruiting efforts since the arrival of such prolific salesmen like Donte Williams and the like have become more innovative and aggressive as illustrated on J.T. Tuimoloau’s recent official visit, when the stud lineman was taken on a helicopter ride overlooking the Coliseum and the L.A. area. Now that’s going the extra mile – vertically.
The Georgia way – Part 5: While attention has deservedly so been focused on the Williams’ commitment and the Tuimoloau visit, there are other Georgians still in the recruiting mix, specifically Mykel Williams’ Georgia homie, defensive end Christen Miller (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove/6-5, 290), who says he wants to become an actor. It doesn’t take a recruiting brain surgeon to figure that Miller got an eye full of the George Lucas Film School and a Hollywood tease. Miller had already taken an unofficial visit to check out the area, so the official visit became ultra important.
The Georgia way – Part 6: While the Trojans don’t have any Georgians on the current roster, the history of USC players from the Peach State run deep. While some of you might not remember all the names, many will recall the likes of All-America linebacker Chip Banks (Augusta Laney); defensive lineman Walter Underwood, linebacker August Curley, safety-corner Joey Browner and linebacker Keith Browner (Atlanta Southwest); and linebacker Jarvis Jones (Columbus Carver).
The Georgia way – Part 7: And let’s not forget other Georgians like defensive end Kyle Moore (Kathleen Houston County); offensive tackle Chuma Edoga (Atlanta McEachern); and the Imatorbhebhe brothers, tight end Daniel and wide receiver Josh (Suwanee North Gwinnett).
The Georgia way – Part 8: So, what happens -a reality check – if during or at the end of the season, Clay Helton no longer is the Trojans head coach? How will that affect the current commitments and possibilities? Well, IMHO, recruits are generally bonded to an assistant coach and not the head coach. If the head coach – like Pete Carroll – is an iconic figure, then they are the ultimate recruiting closer. If a new Trojans coach is hired and let’s just say for the sake of argument that Donte Williams, Vic So’oto, Todd Orlando, Craig Navier, and Keary Colbert are retained, the damage would probably be very minimal after a brief transition period. In fact, if a new coach had any cache or national attraction, it would probably energize a USC recruiting leap towards a Top 5 ranking to be frank.
From the press box…
Media Day back to normal: The Pac-12 announced on Thursday that the 2021 Pac-12 Football Media Day will be held in-person on Tuesday, July 27, at the W Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles.
Media Day back to normal – Part 2: The Pac-12 Media Day one-day event will again feature all 12 head conference coaches and two student-athletes from each university, as well as all 12 athletics directors and representatives from the Pac-12 Conference staff, including Commissioner George Kliavkoff, Senior Associate Commissioner of Football Operations Merton Hanks, and Vice President of Officiating David Coleman.
Workouts closed: FYI, for those many readers that were hoping for reports regarding the players workouts this summer and leading up to training camp, USC issued the following: “Required summer workouts by current and incoming student-athletes in which USC personnel are present are closed to the media.”
Workouts closed – Part 2: More info: “Summer voluntary workouts (PRPs) organized by student-athletes during the month of July in which no USC staff members are present (except athletic trainers) that are held on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields or Cromwell Fields are closed to the media because those facilities currently are not open to the public.”
Workouts closed – Part 3: Final info: “No shooting (video or still) is allowed of Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field or Cromwell Field workouts.”
Camps cancelled: There are also no USC football camps (Rising Stars, etc.) scheduled this summer because COVID-19 protocols remain in effect on campus, and there are new NCAA regulations allowing on-campus evaluations of prospective student-athletes outside of camp settings.
Sun Deviled: The story that broke last Tuesday that Arizona State is under NCAA investigation for allegedly hosting prospects during the recruiting dead period, which lasted from March 2020 to June 1, 2021, is disturbing when you also consider the alleged transgressions were during the coronavirus pandemic. This is a major deal, which could have some very severe consequences. How severe? How about if ASU decides to plead guilty and proposes sanctions on itself like declaring that they will not be eligible for next season’s division and conference championships and no post-season bowl game – just for starters.
Sun Deviled – Part 2: To get deeper into the potential fallout, with the new and current transfers rules in place, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see some major ASU out-bound transferring. Now, how many of you thought about the transferring of some of the best ASU offensive linemen to Troy? Bottom line: ASU is potentially in deep poo poo.
Welcome home: The Trojans announced last week that this fall the Coliseum will be operating at 100% fan capacity. That’s the good news. Now let’s see if the 77,500 seats come close to being full. Now we’ll get to see the reality of the rumored reduced season ticket numbers and whether fans will feel comfortable without social distancing and masks. It should be noted that only digital ticketing will be accepted at the turnstiles, which means you gain entrance with your cell phone app. How will that affect the scalping industry outside the Coli?
Let’s go bowling: According to Athlon, the Trojans will play in the post-season against Indiana in the Las Vegas Bowl, which could be very interesting when you consider that former Trojans’ tailback Stephen Carr should be running the ball for the Hoosiers.
The post-game show…
On the run: You just knew that once the Trojans lost running backs Marqise Stepp (Nebraska) and Stephen Carr (Indiana), the offensive staff would be looking hard at both high school recruits and transfer portal running back possibilities. Last week, it was the transfer portal that helped replenish the running back position as former USC recruit and former TCU running back Darwin Barlow made it official that he was transferring to Troy. Yes, he’s another Texan (Newton, Texas) and another 3-star coming out of high school.
On the run – Part 2: So why did Darwin Barlow leave TCU after two seasons with the Horned Frogs? Well, TCU brought in former 5-star running back Zack Evans, and Barlow’s playing time was reduced, so you can’t blame him for leaving the Fort Worth campus.
Transfer conga line: In case you weren’t counting, the addition of Darwin Barlow gives the Trojans eight portal transfers. The others include safety Xavion Alford (Texas), tight end Malcolm Epps (Texas), running back Keaontay Ingram (Texas), wide receiver K.D. Nixon (Colorado), defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher (Alabama), safety Chris Thompson Jr. (Auburn), and wide receiver Tahj Washington (Memphis). All but Sopsher are originally from Texas.
The rivalry: We all know one of the biggest college rivalries in the country is The Iron Bowl, which features Alabama and Auburn, so we’ll keep an eye on former Iron Bowl rivals Ishmael Sopsher from Alabama and safety Chris Thompson Jr. from Auburn, who are now playing on the same defensive side of the ball for the Trojans.
The CFP Protest: Most folks are glad that current Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is leaving at the end of the mouth, but as much as I think it was time for him to go, I strongly agree with him on something he said on Friday. In regard to strongly supporting the proposed expanded 12-team post-season playoff, Scott believes that all Power 5 conference champions should be automatically advanced to the playoffs. In its current proposal, there’s no guarantee for automatic qualification from any conference, which, IMHO, is asking for needless big trouble down the line.
In a statement, Scott said, “The Pac-12 supports expansion of the CFP and believes that the Autonomy Five champions should annually qualify for the CFP. We greatly appreciate the work of the CFP sub-committee, as well as the thoughtful and productive discussions amongst the management committee this week in Chicago. We now look forward to reviewing the expansion proposal more thoroughly with our members, student-athletes, partners and other key stakeholders.”
The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: The inaugural edition of the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl will be played Dec. 18 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the comedian announced on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last Wednesday night. To the shock of no one, the game will air on ABC, which is the network of his show.
The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl – Part 2: Kimmel’s bowl game will feature the vaunted Mountain West champion against the Pac-12’s No. 5 bowl selection. You can bet the game will get plenty of exposure on Kimmel’s show the week of the game.
The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl – Part 3: Kimmel wasted no time in injecting some comedy into his name being the title sponsor of the LA Bowl. The comedian said, “On December 18, my dream of being forever enshrined alongside orange, rose, cotton and peach comes true.”
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: Mr. IMHO, how do you think recruiting is going in the early going?
Caller No. 1, it appears that the coaching staff is on fire as June has rolled around and official visits are being taken. While it is very encouraging to see many of the top national and local players on campus and even committing, it’s still way early in the process and besides, many of the “stars” have not officially visited the Trojans’ competitors (Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Clemson etc). If the staff has a shot at signing the 5-stars and 4-stars who have committed or thinking of doing so, the ultimate selling point will be how the cardinal and gold do during the season. Visits and social video productions are great, but it’s what eventually happens in the fall that counts.
Caller No. 2: Greger, any chance the Trojans can sign an elite running back for the Class of 2022?
Caller No. 2, hey, the Trojans just got a portal transfer in former TCU back Darwin Barlow. Happy now? Working against a backdrop of last place in Pac-12 rushing in 2020 and 10th place in 2019, the Trojans did have on campus recently the likes of five-star Oklahoma commit Raleek Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) and four-star ball carriers Gavin Sawchuk (Littleton, Colo./Valor Christian) and Jovantae Barnes (Las Vegas/Desert Pines). Sign any one of them and that would be impressive.
Caller No. 3: Katzman, still no word how offensive line recruiting is going?
Caller No. 3, It’s no surprise that the Trojans staff is pouring in its efforts to get Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive man-child lineman Earnest Greene (6-5, 330). Like the other positions, the Trojans staff is bringing in some of the very best offensive linemen that want to visit, and that was illustrated recently when five-star offensive lineman Devon Campbell (Arlington, Tex./Bowie/ 6-3, 310) was recently on campus. Again, this staff is giving it the effort, but again it comes down to what these recruits see of the Trojans during the regular season.
Caller No. 4: G-Kat, is there a particular home game that you are looking forward to in 2021?
Caller No. 4, I think the big game this season at home will be when the Trojans host Utah on Oct. 9. This will be a true indication how the team stacks up in the South Division. With the critical game at ASU coming early in November, this game will dictate where the Trojans will be in positioning themselves for a repeat of a Pac-12 South Division title. Keep in mind, over the decades, Utah is 1-9 in L.A. and has never won at the Coliseum.
Caller No. 5: GK, we all have celebrities that many of us went to high school with. Do you have a celebrity from your high school that many have known?
Caller No. 5, Well, I guess when it comes to everyone, I would say people of my Baby Boomer generation might recognize the name of Cheryl Tiegs, who was two years ahead of me at Alhambra High. She, of course, became super famous as a model, and she was once on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. You may be shocked to hear this, but Cheryl had a lot of competition at our school when it came to beauty and attractiveness. For those of you that remember Kam Nelson, she was a popular AHS student who was on the covers of Teen Magazine and was a co-host on local TV L.A. rock and roll dance shows.
The last word: And to take us off the air, a Happy Father’s Day and Happy Heavenly Father’s Day to all dads wherever you are. In honor of this special day, below is the heartfelt climax of the movie Field of Dreams when Ray finally has one last game of catch with his ghostly father.