In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
Reality check: By most reasonable standards, evaluations, and considering the results of the past two USC seasons, the 2021 recruiting class had gone exceedingly well – until four-star offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia (Orem, Utah/Orem HS), considered the No. 1 offensive lineman in the West, announced last week that he’s going to be an Oregon Duck and not USC Trojan.
From a recruiting perspective, the temporary public attention paid to the much-needed Suamataia was as disappointing as it was a shiny object diversion from the Trojans No.1 recruiting goal – signing California’s top prospect, Korey Foreman (headline photo above), the wunderkind defensive lineman from local Corona Centennial High, who reportedly may now be leaning towards the Southeastern part of our country.
Reality check – Part 2: Also considered by many the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Korey Foreman has now visited LSU and the University of Georgia and much earlier Clemson of the ACC. However, there are growing recruiting SEC headwinds that maybe Korey is leaning towards the Bulldogs. Not to prematurely push the USC recruiting panic button, but if the Trojans don’t get Foreman, it would and should raise a lot of cardinal and gold eyebrows, given that Foreman withdrew a much earlier commitment to Clemson, which brought a renewed sense of hope for the Trojans’ cause.
The picture of 5-star Korey Foreman going to the SEC would again call into legitimate question: Just what is a 5-Star recruit’s perception of the current direction of the USC program, which comes at a curious time when the Trojans have made some successful commitment inroads for the Class of 2021? And you can throw in 5-star and/or high 4-star offensive line recruits in that mix, as well.
Reality check – Part 3: It’s also no secret that with the Trojans having lost All-Pac-12 junior defensive tackle Jay Tufele to the 2021 NFL Draft, there is a big defensive line hole to fill. Whether that has any bearing on Korey Foreman’s decision remains to be seen. What doesn’t remain to be seen is the enormous pressure now on the defensive coaching staff, namely new DC Todd Orlando, first-year DL line coach Vic So’oto, and head coach Clay Helton to sign Foreman, who may be saving his final official recruiting visit for USC. Needless to say, having the last visit could be a game changer with emphasis on “could be” a game changer.
Reality check – Part 4: The big elephant in the room is the past couple of recruiting seasons, and the inability to sign the area’s No. 1 recruit. Need a memory refresher? How about former Oaks Christian and current Oregon defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux, although some say there were undisclosed recruiting circumstances. Okay, how about 5-star linebacker Justin Flowe (Upland, Calif./Upland HS), who is also at Oregon? No doubt, the Trojans new defensive staff is aware of the defensive recruiting losses of the past, so snagging Korey Foreman is a must-get recruit.
Reality check – Part 5: It would be unseemly to minimize the blow to this new USC defensive coaching staff and Clay Helton if Korey Foreman went to the SEC. If Foreman goes, what does it all mean? It could mean that Korey remains unsure of the direction of a Clay Helton program and whether it will contend for national title during his USC service. It could also mean that the SEC is so far beyond the Pac-12 in both talent preparation for the NFL and its fanatical fan base that the allure is too good to pass up? There are certainly enough Foreman questions, but only Korey can give the answers.
Reality check – Part 6: Looking for USC recruiting positives regarding Korey Foreman? Let us remind you that Korey’s best friend is Trojans sophomore standout defensive end Drake Jackson, and Drake’s dad is the Corona Centennial defensive line coach for Foreman. So, you can’t say that the Trojans don’t have some recruiting pluses in their corner. With Korey having said he will enroll in the college of his choice in January, we really aren’t all that far away from finding out his destination and the reasons for it.
Reality check – Part 7: Up until last recruiting season’s major recruiting disappointment, Clay Helton’s overall recruiting results have been marked with some outstanding but unbalanced classes. While recruiting skill players has not been a problem, the inability to consistently sign the very elite of high school offensive linemen in abundance has left many scratching their heads on more than one occasion. However, offensive line recruiting hasn’t been a complete disaster as illustrated by former offensive tackle Austin Jackson, who was a mid-first round pick in the NFL’s 2020 draft. Then there is the probability of another offensive line draft pick in junior Alijah Vera-Tucker, who announced this week that he plans to forego a potential 2020 USC season and enter next spring’s draft.
From the press box…
Another reality check: Like it or not, Oregon, which is putting together a monster O-line 2021 class, has a major ace in its offensive line recruiting deck. Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal is a former O-line coach for the Miami Hurricanes and the Alabama Crimson, which is a pretty healthy resume and selling point. For the record, Clay Helton’s forte, as he has mentioned on various occasions, is the quarterback coach by trade.
The trade out: While Trojans fans are lamenting the loss of DT Jay Tufele to the NFL, the Oregon Ducks took one on the chin when its Outland Trophy winning junior offensive tackle Penei Sewell announced he would forego the 2020 season and enter the 2021 draft. I guess in theory if and when the Trojans and Ducks meet in Eugene, the loss of DL Tufele and OL Sewell should cancel itself out. It’s a good news, bad news deal for both programs.
Little fanfare: Sports Illustrated’s college football preseason special used to be something to look forward to before the season. To show you how times have changed, SI has combined the NFL and college forecasts into one very unimpressive edition. For the record, SI has the Trojans ranked No. 16 in the country with a picture of defensive tackle Jay Tufele. At the time of printing, SI wrote the obvious: Troy’s biggest question mark is the offensive line.
Little fanfare – Part 2: For the preseason record, Sports Illustrated selected Clemson as its No. 1 team followed by Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia. Oregon was ranked No. 9 and ASU was No. 20.
On the air: I will be a guest on the highly popular Harvey Hyde “USC Trojan Talk” radio show (KSHP 1400AM) this Thursday, Sept. 17, at 6:05 p.m. PST. You can also listen by going to KSHP.com, click “listen live”, and you can receive the broadcast anywhere around the country and the world. The show will be repeated on Saturday morning, Sept. 19, at 11:05 am PST on station KMET 1490AM, or you can go to KMET.com and click “listen live”, which is also worldwide.
History in Deep South: With all the social and racial tension currently in our country, on Saturday ESPN GameDay had a very good retrospective of how the Trojans changed the face of Southern football when the integrated Trojans and running back Sam Cunningham destroyed the majority white Alabama Crimson Tide of coach Bear Bryant, 42-21, in Birmingham on Sept. 12, 1970. If you missed it, click or paste on the link below and watch the ESPN video history lesson.
The post-game show…
Herbie speaks: In a recent switch of picks, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit made an on-air prediction that Florida would now win the SEC West because Georgia QB Jamie Newman has gone to the NFL early with JT Daniels now appearing to be the replacement. You can read between the lines on that one.
Herbie speaks – Part 2: Herbstreit said, “I really felt Georgia all along, but I think with (Jamie) Newman being out, and opting out, and JT Daniels stepping in, I’m going to go with Kyle Trask (Florida QB). The reason I looked at Florida as a team that maybe can’t get through that schedule is because of what they picked up in the West.”
The surprise: Are you shocked that former Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner has been named the starting right tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
The surprise – Part 2: Zach Banner’s Steelers open their season on Monday night at the New York Giants and guess who might be lining up opposite Mr. Banner? It could be former Trojans teammate Leonard “Big Cat” Williams, who will be starting along the New Yorker’s defensive line.
More quacks: In case you might have forgotten, former Trojans big wide receiver Devon Williams will be eligible if and when the Trojans next play Oregon.
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: GK, how much of an effect do you think the SEC is having on Pac-12 recruits?
Caller No. 1, it’s hard to debate that the SEC isn’t have an impact on the Pac-12 football footprint. It’s not how many players an Alabama, Georgia, or LSU get from our area, but it’s whom they get. Until the Pac-12 can beat SEC teams or at least get into the CFP post-season, it’s going to be tough sledding. And let’s not forget Clemson of the ACC, which has been tapping into the very best of SoCal.
Caller No. 2: Gregger, I noticed that former Trojans recruit and current Oregon linebacker Justin Flowe is not listed on the Ducks 2020 roster. What gives?
Well, I also noticed that as well, but I am told that Justin was taking summer school classes and was not participating in spring ball. Apparently, the updated 2020 Ducks roster hasn’t been released. For that matter, the updated USC roster hasn’t been released either. If there is a Pac-12 season late in the fall or right after January, I am sure you will see the necessary updates.
Caller No. 3: Mr. K, if JT Daniels starts for Georgia, what are your thoughts?
First, good for JT. He is living a charmed life with getting the quick waiver of eligibility from the NCAA and then expected Bulldogs starter Jamie Newman deciding to go to the NFL. JT will have a strong Bulldogs team to protect him, but there has always been a question of his courage in the pocket and his mobility. It will be intriguing to see how JT handles the physical defensive line rush of the SEC. My one question: Will he be playing with the “SC” tattoo still on his leg?
Caller No. 4: Sir, if given the choice for this very odd season due to COVID-19 and had to make a choice between playing UCLA or Notre Dame at the end of the season, whom would you select?
Good one, Caller No. 4. Let me put it to you this way. I find UCLA more of a nuisance than a challenge at the moment. As for the Irish, now this is a true measuring stick because even a below average ND team is generally better than a good UCLA team. When USC plays Notre Dame, it’s a battle of royalty. When the Trojans play UCLA, it’s like babysitting.
Caller No. 5: Katz, if you had to pick between Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, make your call.
First, let’s take out the religious meaning of Christmas and concentrate on presents. So, with that in mind and probably upsetting family and those around me, I will go with New Year’s Day. After all, what better present than the Trojans playing in the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl, especially if I am covering the game and sitting with my media friends in the press box? Heck, I’ll even watch the parade…if the Trojans Marching Band is marching down Colorado Blvd.
The final word: Can you believe that we’re already into September and there is no West Coast college football? Understandable but still unbelievable.