In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
So’oto’s turn: Obviously, new USC defensive assistant coaches Todd Orlando, Craig Naivar, and Donte Williams have made a huge impact in the current run of impressive recruiting commitments for the Class of 2021. Make no mistake about it, they are motivated, relentless, creative, and have proven their recruiting prowess, which appears to be the real deal. However, while all three coaches have certainly earned their praise, it’s the one unmentioned new coaching addition to Clay Helton’s staff that may hold the key to the biggest recruiting prize yet for the Class of 2021, and that new addition’s name is Vitale “Vic” Ta’aga Magauli So’oto.
So’oto’s turn – Part 2: With his decommitment from Clemson, defensive lineman Korey Foreman (6-4, 265/Corona, Ca./ Centennial) – considered the nation’s No. 1 recruit for the Class of 2021 – is back in the recruiting marketplace, and all cardinal and gold recruiting eyes may soon turn in the direction of Trojans’ first-year defensive line coach “Vic” So’oto, whose relationship with Foreman may become the USC X signing factor in their high-stakes pursuit of the gifted lineman.
So’oto’s turn – Part 3: It appears that Coach So’oto – who quickly sent out a “Fight On!” tweet right after Korey Foreman’s recruiting change of plans – is up to the challenge for the emerging recruiting free-for-all to get Korey Foreman’s signature in December. The prep superstar from Centennial High is scheduled to enter college for the spring semester of 2021, which adds to all the intrigue. While the Trojans are in a good position for Foreman, Clemson is clearly still not totally out of the picture, and reports are that Oregon, LSU, and Ohio State will all throw their helmets into the heavy recruiting push, as well. The important thing, however, for the Trojans is that they now have a clear and legitimate opportunity to state their case to Korey and his Foreman family.
So’oto’s turn – Part 4: It’s common knowledge that Korey Foreman’s best friend is former high school teammate Drake Jackson, who got off to a fast start at USC as a starting defensive lineman as a true freshman. Another interesting aspect of the recruiting of Foreman is the fact that Centennial’s D-line coach is Dennis Jackson, the father of the Trojans’ Drake Jackson. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to know that Centennial’s Coach Jackson will have a unique perspective how Vic So’oto recruits, coaches, and relates to his new cardinal and gold D-line players. It would only be natural that Coach Jackson would love to see a cardinal and gold future where his current Trojan football son is reunited with his current blue chip recruit along the Trojans’ defensive line.
So’oto’s turn -Part 5: No doubt Vic So’oto will receive a lot of Foreman recruiting support from his fellow Trojans’ coaching and recruiting staff but don’t underestimate what Coach Vic can bring to the recruiting table. So’oto, 32, can relate to Foreman age wise, is highly energetic, and has the NFL background to convey what he knows from his own professional experiences and can impart what it takes to get to The League. Not that Clemson or any of the other contenders can’t roll out some impressive credentials as well, but So’oto can neutralize many of the opposition’s talking points. The first-year USC D-line coach is now entering just his 4th season as a defensive line college coach, but he has been well tutored along the way not only by the NFL but also by highly respected University of Virginia head coach and defensive guru Bronco Mendenhall. A somewhat hidden gem is that despite his appearance as a young and upcoming D-line coach, So’oto has already been impressive along the recruiting and coaching trail based on his production while at Virginia.
So’oto’s turn – Part 6: To help bolster Coach So’oto’s recruitment of Korey Foreman, there are other already built-in relationship factors between the prized one and other former Corona Centennial teammates already on the Trojans’ roster. Besides Drake Jackson, other former CHS teammates of Foreman in the cardinal and gold fold include WR Gary Bryant Jr., CB Jayden Williams, and LB Tuasivi Nomura. To increase some added recruiting fodder, Foreman, Jackson, and Bryant have reportedly been working out recently together.
So’oto’s turn – Part 7: However, perhaps the biggest recruiting factor of all lies deep within Korey Foreman’s childhood psyche – he grew up as a USC football fan. Of course, we have seen this talking point before, and players have still gone elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Obviously, Clay Helton has come under tremendous scrutiny the past three seasons, which can be poison in recruiting. However, with the acquisition of an array of recruiting demons and a major perception change, it has – for the moment – turned past negatives into current positives. No doubt, those current waves of USC recruiting positives have turned down the heat on Gentleman Clay considerably. And, yes, it appears there is a legit opportunity for the Trojans to finish the Class of 2021 as one of the top 5 recruiting groups in the country, a 180-degree turnaround from last season’s recruiting effort, which needs no explanation or rehashing.
So’oto’s turn – Part 8: In summation, if Vic So’oto can get the job done with Korey Foreman, you can bet that other 5-star recruits will take notice – if they haven’t already. As we all know, recruiting momentum can be everything. The Trojans needed a chance to get back into the hunt for Foreman, and now they’ve got it. Let’s see if they can take advantage of it.
From the press box…
Heading for Miami: Congrats to former Trojans’ offensive left tackle Austin Jackson who was taken by the Miami Dolphins in the first round with the No. 18 pick. Austin becomes the first offensive line first round draft pick since 2012. Who was that last first round O-line draft pick? FYI, Jackson will currently be the lone Trojan on the Dolphins roster heading into the 2020 season.
Heading for Indianapolis: Congrats also to former Trojans’ wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. who was taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round with the 34th pick. Joining Pitt in Indy will be former Trojans tight end Xavier Grimble and safety Marvell Tell lll.
Heading for Pittsburgh: Former Trojans 2019 inside linebacker and captain John Houston Jr. has signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to a Houston tweet: “Undrafted free agent. The opportunity I need is here and for the taking. Built for it and nothing will stop me from getting. Thankful for the opportunity @steelers #BelieveinGodPlan,” Houston’s career has been marked by questions of his best linebacking position – inside or outside. Many felt that his body type was not physical enough to play inside and that with his speed he should have been an outside linebacker all along. With that in mind, it should be interesting to see where the Steelers plan to play John. Houston will be joining former Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and offensive tackle Zach Banner in the Steel City.
The irony: Remember when the quarterback debate was once whether JT Daniels or Jack Sears should be the USC starter? Who would have thunk that entering the 2020 season, one or both quarterbacks wouldn’t be in the Trojans’ program? With Sears having already left what seems like ions ago and Daniels having put his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal, you just never know.
The big winner: As mentioned previously, if JT Daniels leaves USC before the 2020 season, the big winner is Matt Fink, who would assume the No. 2 role behind Kedon Slovis. You can expect Fink to see action in 2020 season…if there is one.
The dominoes effect: If spring ball hadn’t been cancelled, how many Trojans might have followed JT Daniels into the NCAA Transfer Portal? I think with the new defensive coaching staff and schemes, some players on the defensive side that might have had thoughts about entering their name in the NCAA Transfer Portal will probably stay put. And with the current national health situation, there’s another reason not to pull up stakes.
The post-game show…
Not For Long: Yep, they aren’t kidding when they say that the NFL actually stands for “Not For Long!” Just ask former USC all-star wide receiver Marqise Lee who was recently released by Jacksonville, the team that originally drafted him. Don’t feel too sorry for Marqise; he was picked up by the New England Patriots, signed a one-year contract, and the rich get richer.
The announcement: Don’t know about you, but I am curious to find out who will be named the new USC Marching Band director who succeeds Dr. Bartner. You talk about replacing a musical Heisman Trophy winner for the ages; those are some enormous shoes to fill.
Trivia and real estate: BTW,if you said that the last USC first-round NFL offensive line draft pick for the Trojans was Matt Kalil in 2012, you win the prize! Speaking of Matt, the fan impressive property to ride out the off-season, spending $3.812 million on a gated estate in Pasadena, records show.
Real estate – Part 2: Matt Kalil, a former Pro Bowler who is currently a free agent, is a homegrown southlander. The Trojan great was born in Corona, played high school football at Anaheim Servite, and was an All-American at Troy in 2011 before being drafted the following year by the Minnesota Vikings.
Real estate – Part 3: For those that have interest, Matt Kalil’s house has a 5,450-square-foot floor plan, which includes five bedrooms and seven bathrooms. Out back, a column-lined patio overlooks the tree-covered grounds complete with a swimming pool, pool house and grassy perch with mountain and golf course views. Now, it should be said that our experiences with Matt and his family have always been first class and done with first class. On a personal note, all the good things that have come to Matt and his family have been well deserved, well earned, and good for him and them.
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: Greg, now that Korey Foreman has opened up his recruiting, how much of a factor is Foreman’s Clemson tattoo on his arm going to affect his recruiting? Well, JT Daniels has a USC tattoo on his leg, and it hasn’t stopped him from entering his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal.
Caller No. 2: Katz, do you think that LSU linebacking commit Raesjon Davis from Mater Dei could open his recruiting like Korey Foreman? In recruiting, anything is possible. No doubt that at some point Foreman and Davis will talk. It is always a major challenge to out-recruit Ed Orgeron, but it becomes a daunting task to wrestle away one of “O’s” commitments.
Caller No. 3: Coach, do you think if Donte Williams was the Trojans lead recruiter for linebacker Justin Flowe saga a recruiting season ago, do you think Flowe would have been wearing the cardinal and gold today? Well, I think the Trojans would have had a much better shot at the nation’s former top prep linebacker, if Donte would have been with the Trojans. However, there was such negativity in the program last season, even a recruiter like Donte Williams would have had his hands full. Now, if Flowe was part of the Class of 2021, I think the Trojans would have been in excellent shape to sign him.
Caller No. 4: GK, the CDC is predicting that the coronavirus will be worse this winter. Do you think that puts the nail in the coffin for the 2020 college football season? Well, I am on record as saying there won’t be a college football season this fall. All this “second wave” of the coronavirus talk bolsters my original comment that there would be no season. If the CDC is right, there might not be a fall or winter college semester as we know it. I think everything will be online. Can you play a college football season online? Maybe Clay Helton and Nick Saban can play each other through the use of a video game.
Caller No. 5: Mr. Katz, in your lifetime, is the coronavirus the worst event you’ve experienced? Well, I’ve lived through the Kennedy(s) and Martin Luther King assassination, the Vietnam War, the Challenger Explosion, all the Middle East wars, but this coronavirus takes the No. 1 position because it is global, has left us with unimaginable massive deaths, and political fallout and division around the world. For senior citizens that love their Trojans and sports, it’s a lost year of life on a mortal calendar that is running out of seasons.
The final word: In a world that is anything but normal, it really was refreshing to see the NFL draft come off in the normal calendar month of April. Seeing Austin Jackson and Michael Pittman get selected was exciting even if they couldn’t be on a stage and had to use a video conference from home. At this point, we’ll all take as many positives as we can get.