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IMHO Sunday: On the mend

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

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

The best: Pat Haden (above photo) has returned home after an unspecified medical procedure, and no matter your overall assessment of Haden as Trojans athletic director, here’s hoping old No. 10 is healthy enough to finish out the academic school year.

The best – Part 2: Regarding Pat Haden’s latest medical challenge, there will be a faction of the masses that will urge or wish he take an earlier retirement than the June 30 he previously announced. However, we’re not that far from the retirement date, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise or shock that Haden will give it his best effort to finish out the original retirement date.

The best – Part 3: Given the fact that Pat Haden sent out a Twitter tweet message saying “Happy to get home today. Thx for all the good wishes! Looking forward to get back to work as soon as possible. Fight on.” The message should be taken that the old warrior has every intention of finishing out his AD term.

The outsiders: Obviously the Trojans did quite well in recruiting out-of-state players for the Class of 2016; however, if the Trojans are to rise to the level of talent and on-field expectations, they’ll need to work extremely hard recruiting California first and foremost. Unlike during the Pete Carroll era, there are a lot more aggressive out-of-area coaches like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops circling like vultures over California, and that doesn’t take into account out-of-state Pac-12 teams like Oregon, Washington, Utah and ASU.

Offense of the future: According to a WeAreSC.com story by colleague Johnny Curren, Class of 2018 quarterback commit Matt Corral says he was told on an unofficial visit that the Trojans offense would feature 70 percent shotgun and 30 percent under center. What wasn’t mentioned was the ratio of running the ball to passing the ball.

No offense: For those lamenting for the days of the USC fullback used both as a blocker, receiver, and runner, Clay Helton says that while the Trojans won’t be using a recruited fullback, they will use their tight ends as fullbacks. The question arises is do the Trojans currently have a tight end(s) that are physical enough to be an “H- back” as planned? Helton says he would like to use his tight ends like what was done effectively with former Trojan Rhett Ellison.

Rahshani in motion: For those old enough to remember a standout Trojans “H-back” tight end named Vic Rakhshani (1978-80), the former Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison all-star became a celebrity when used by coach John Robinson as a “tight end in motion” and essentially playing main blocker/receiver.

The golden throat: And nobody described “Rakshani in motion” any better than the Trojans legendary broadcasting voice Tom Kelly.

NFL combine count: The upcoming 2016 NFL Combine in Indianapolis has invited seven Trojans, including Su’a Cravens, Cody Kessler, Tre Madden, Kevon Seymour, Max Tuerk, Soma Vainuku and Antwaun Woods. It will be interesting to see how Vainuku, Seymour, Madden, and Woods fare in the competition. With Tuerk coming off knee surgery, we’ll see if Max is ready to go and give a good account of himself.

The real deal where: That may be the question as it pertains to former Trojans All-Pac-12 linebacker Su’a Cravens as he works out at the NFL Combine. Just how good of an athlete is Cravens and just what position will fit his skill set? It’ll be interesting to see how the professional evaluators see Cravens. A linebacker or strong safety, those same NFL general managers may not initially know the answer either.

The comparison: Some think Su’a Cravens could be another hybrid like outside linebacker Shaq Thompson of the Carolina Panthers, the former do-everything Washington Huskies stud.

NFL Combine uninvited: One of those Trojans surprisingly not invited to Indianapolis was defensive lineman Delvon Simmons, who had a good game in the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin. Don’t worry, Simmons will still get ample opportunities to show his stuff. There is the USC Pro Day and private workouts, as well.

Shaking the bug: No Trojan who was invited to the NFL combine has a bigger hill to climb than talented but oft-injured tailback Tre Madden. Madden was bitten more by the injury bug than any player deserved.

From the press box…

The new television: Once again, the computer through the use of a “Spreecast” recently became a USC football television show, and props to moderator Jordan Moore who kept the 30-minute showing rolling with his interview with his generally informative interaction with Trojans head coach Clay Helton.

Spreecast – Part 2: On his new offensive line coach Neil Callaway, Clay Helton said, “He’s the toughest man I’ve ever met in my life. I feel sorry for our offensive line. For the first month, they’ll hate him and for the rest of their lives they’ll love him.”

Spreecast – Part 3: On new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, “I saw what he did with guys like Devon Kennard, J.R. Tavai, Leonard Williams and how they thrived in that system, a T.J. McDonald, he (Pendergast) is a perfect fit for us.”

Spreecast – Part 4: In assessing his staff overall, Clay Helton said, “I think it’s a mix of experience and youthful energy.”

Spreecast – Part 5: On having his brother on his coaching staff, Clay Helton joked of brother Tyson, the new Trojans quarterback coach and passing game coordinator, “I’ve been mad at him my whole life because he got all the hair and a flat belly.”

Spreecast Part 6:
An interesting insight was the revelation that Trojan strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, a holdover from the Sarkisian era, has been asked by Clay Helton to change his approach somewhat in administering more football type drills into the conditioning rather than just generic body movements and conditioning. Helton said he’s been impressed and appreciative that Lewis, an award winning and nationally recognized S&C coach, was flexible and was receptive to the head coach’s requests.

The post-game show…

Toughest of the tough: ESPN’s senior staff writer Chris Low calls the Trojans 2016 schedule the toughest in the country. Low cites opening, of course, with Alabama and closing with Notre Dame pretty daunting, and comments that Utah State, the Trojans next game after Alabama, “hasn’t exactly been a pushover over the last few years.”

The second toughest: Chris Low believes that the second toughest schedule in the nation for 2016 belongs to the Oklahoma Sooners. Low writes, “They go on the road to play Houston to open the season at NRG Stadium, where the NFL’s Houston Texans play. Then two weeks later, they get Ohio State at home. Nobody else in college football faces two more challenging nonconference games in September than the Sooners.”

Overlooked: The Trojans are already recruiting for the Class of 2017, and it should be noted that Hawaiian senior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (Honolulu St. Louis), a two-way threat, was a teammate last season with 2016 Trojans signee and linebacker Jordan Iosefa.

A reminder: For all the talk of recruiting two-quarterbacks, Clay Helton continues to say he wants his quarterbacks to be passers first and ball carriers second.

IMHO: One of the most sought after prep stars for the Class of 2017 is Antioch (Calif.) High superstar running back Najee Harris, a Marshawn Lynch clone. Harris is currently committed to Alabama, but I like new Trojans running backs coach Tommie Robinson chances to make some inroads with Harris in the future, and in recruiting, “It ain’t over till the letter of intend” is signed.”

If the Trojans have any shot at Najee Harris, they’d better show in 2016 that a power running game is not just some lip service.

BTW: Ya think that Najee Harris will be watching the Trojans play Alabama on Sept. 3? Is the John McKay Center named after John McKay?

The last word: So, honestly, how many of you Trojans season ticket holders applied for Rams season tickets, as well?

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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