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IMHO Sunday: Kingsbury: “It will be open competition”

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

Let’s get ready to rumble: In a recent ESPN interview regarding USC quarterbacks JT Daniels, Jack Sears, and Matt Fink, Trojans’ offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Kliff Kingsbury (photo above) on the record said, “I am excited to have a competition this spring and see who emerges. It will be open competition. I want to see how everybody handles my system, see how they pick it up, and play within my system.”

Let’s get ready to rumble – Part 2: Of course, the biggest question regarding Kliff Kingsbury’s open competition is what happens if the Trojans’ new offensive coordinator picks a quarterback that is different than what Clay Helton thinks? JT Daniels may indeed emerge as the best quarterback, but IMHO this spring practice competition is going to be far more intense than last fall camp. In fact, what dominoes might fall if Daniels isn’t named the starter? Bottom line: Let the best man win, and what will be will be.

It’s official: As you have probably read, Clay Helton has completed his football staff for 2019. The new staff’s first order of business will be to see if they’re able to raise the recruiting profile of the Class of 2019, which has drawn some criticism because of the lack of 5-star players in the early signing period. However, the rumors on the street are that at least two 5-star players – and there could be more – are expected to sign with the Trojans in February, so put away the wrist-cutting materials for now.

Offense is on a Kliff: During his recruiting press conference with the media, Clay Helton was asked about the offense the Trojans would be running in the fall, and without hesitation Helton said it would be Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive system, leaving no doubt with a terse answer: “Yes.” Really, did Helton have a choice? Given his situation at the moment, nobody will be rooting harder for Kingsbury’s offense to succeed than the Trojans scrutinized head coach, especially with that killer of a six-game gauntlet to open the first half of the 2019 season. Now, about that defense…

What’s Bru-ing: As you probably are now aware, nationally acclaimed wide receiver Bru McCoy (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) apparently did not sign his national letter of intent during the early signing period this past week. Not to worry Trojan fans, if you have read or heard McCoy’s recent comments or seen wearing a USC sweatshirt during a FOX interview, it would be one of USC all-time recruiting misses if he signed anywhere but with the cardinal and gold, especially with Kliff Kingsbury as the new OC and a chance to reunite with his former Mater Dei quarterback teammate JT Daniels.

What’s Bru-ing – Part 2: The reason that 5-star WRs Bru McCoy and Kyle Ford (Orange, Calif./Lutheran have asked for privacy regarding their letter of intent status is to make the announcement on national television during the All-America Bowl on January 5 in San Antonio. The prestigious all-star game, which will again be televised on NBC and shown at 10 a.m. on the West Coast, could give the Trojans’ football some positive exposure when the two blue-chippers are expected to announce they will be playing for…USC.

What’s Bru-ing – Part 3: In case you hadn’t heard, the All-America Bowl was formerly known as the U.S. Army All-America Game. The Army has decided not to sponsor the event, but a new event sponsor was picked up and the game is now called the All-America Bowl sponsored by American Family Insurance.

All-America Bowl:
Trojans early signee DL Drake Jackson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) is on the West roster as are Trojans recruiting targets WRs Bru McCoy, Puka Nacua (Utah) and Kyle Ford, OL Enokk Vimahi (Hawaii), DB Noa Pola-Gates, and DB Chris Steele (Calif.). It should be noted that Kyle Ford (Calif.) will not play in the game due to rehabbing from ACL surgery.

Assured: Because OC Kliff Kingsbury generally runs a 4-side receiver set, there was some fear that this would basically eliminate the Trojans’ tight end position as we know it. Jude Wolfe (St. John Bosco) and Ethan Rae (Orange Lutheran), were given assurances that their talents would not be wasted if they came to Troy. They signed on Wednesday and were given confidence by Kliff Kingsbury that he adjusts his offense to match the talent.

The great OL fear: There was every reason to believe that one of the great fears was that the Trojans would be left holding the bag as it pertains to offensive linemen. Newly named offensive line coach Tim Drevno has been under some growing scrutiny regarding offensive line recruiting. Based on Wednesday’ early signing, the Trojans still have some recruiting work to do with offensive line numbers and quality. However, the Trojans signed a couple of players who should provide a good foundation in well decorated offensive tackle Jason Rodriguez (6-6, 325) and under-the-radar guard Tilini Livai (6-3, 300), a native Hawaiian.

From the press box…

The challenge: If you were already a member of the Trojans’ secondary, a recruit having just signed, or still under consideration, the return of new secondary coach Greg Burns is a step in the positive direction Although Burns has had a lot of stops along the way, he has plenty of experience and having worked under Pete Carroll at USC in the early Carroll glory years is certainly a plus. Burns focus must now be to form a relationship with DB Chris Steele, the talented one from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. If Burns can sway Steele to remain local and play for the cardinal and gold, it will be a major coup.

Keary on: It would have been shocking if former Trojans’ star wide receiver Keary Colbert – who had done some big-time duty recruiting the past several weeks – didn’t get the wide receivers coaching job. In fact, if Keary didn’t get the job, we might have had to have a congressional investigation.

Intrigue: So, are you happy with the finalized 2019 coaching staff? It would be hard to imagine that more coaching changes are on the horizon; however, if the NFL did come calling, would current DC Clancy Pendergast jump at the chance? Until further notice, Clancy has not assigned himself a defensive position to coach.

Intrigue – Part 2: Apparently word has come from high on high that all Trojan football coaches will recruit, which is quite obvious when you see those tweet pictures with DC Clancy Pendergast now actively recruiting. Clancy is rumored to distain recruiting, but it’s all hands on deck when you go 5-7 and don’t go to a bowl game.

Coach of the Year: An argument that Clay Helton and Lynn Swann make in moving on from a 5-7 is what Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has done since he faced bouncing back from a difficult season. This past week, Kelly was named the AP Coach of the Year in leading the Irish to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the CFP semi-finals. So, I presume that we should expect that if Kelly is the model for the Trojans, Clay Helton will – in time – replicate Kelly’s 2018 undefeated team, become AP Coach of the Year, and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Right?

The post-game show…

Pathetic: As if last Pac-12 bowl season couldn’t get any worse, the “Conference of Champions” is now 1-9 in the last two bowl seasons and still counting. With ASU taking the gas against an impressive Fresno State club, next up for the Pac-12 to seek redemption is the Cheez-It bowl, as Cal will takes on TCU on Wednesday at Chase Field in Phoenix. Kickoff is 6 p.m. PST on ESPN.

Seeing is believing: Speaking of Cal, in a conversation with a very knowledgeable USC football person, we both couldn’t believe that Cal could score 15 points and STILL beat the Trojans 15-14.

Another caution flag: BYU hammered Western Michigan 49-18 in the Potato Bowl on Friday afternoon, which is significant because the Trojans will visit BYU in Provo next September 14. The Cougars finished this season at 7-5.

Planning ahead: For those that need to do some 2019 calendar additions, the Trojans’ 2019 homecoming game will be Oct. 19 against Arizona, and Family Weekend will be Nov. 2 against Oregon.

High five:
Congrats to former Trojans’ defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and offensive tackle Tyron Smith on making this season’s Pro Bowl Game. Both have been named starters.

The last word: With the early signing day now history, here’s the latest real time camera view on the Coliseum renovation project: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation  

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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