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IMHO Sunday: Opening day

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

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

Day camping: While the Trojans catch their breath after the first full first week of spring practice, Sunday provides the Nike Football Opening Regional Los Angeles at Redondo Beach (Calif.) Union High, which will feature a large gathering of class of 2016 Trojans recruits that will include Trojans verbal and super athlete Mique Juarez (above photo), the dual-threat quarterback/linebacker from local North Torrance High.

More NFORLA: Expected to join Mique Juarez at Redondo Beach High will be big-time Trojan recruits from the class of 2016 like quarterback K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), wide receivers Tyler Vaughns and Trevon Sidney (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat), Brandon Burton (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Dylan Crawford (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), offensive lineman Frank Martin ll (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), and linebacker Lokeni Toailoa to name a few.

Last add NFORLA: And let’s not forget DB C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif./Serra), the son of former Trojans legacy DB Marvin Pollard.

The heat of the moment: Wow, it was a hot one literally and figuratively Saturday on Cromwell Field, as the Trojans concluded spring practice No. 3. However, nothing was any hotter than the placekicking competition between sophomore Matt Boermeester and junior Alex Wood, and it’s hard to tell at the moment who has a leg up (sorry, just couldn’t resist).

Hope springs eternal: Here’s hoping that senior fullback Soma Vainuku, who is seeing plenty of productive action at tailback early-on due to numbers, will be given the same opportunity in fall camp. Vainuku may turn out to be one of the surprise performers by the end of spring and at tailback, no less.

Oh boy: If super sophomore tight end Bryce Dixon doesn’t return to spring ball or the program altogether because of a student-conduct issue, Trojans fans have every right to be very concerned. With unproven junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick coming off academic issues and no other scholarship tight end available, you can bet that head coach Steve Sarkisian is feeling like you – very concerned.

Ivy League help: Although the Trojans are down in numbers at tight end, they do have a former Ivy Leaguer in walk-on sophomore Conner Spears (6-6, 240), who transferred from New York City’s Columbia University. Originally from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, you can also use an Ivy Leaguer for depth and not to mention grade point averages.

Surprises: Two surprises thus far into spring ball would be the experimentation of redshirt sophomore offensive guard Khaliel Rodgers to backup center and the impressive beginning and return of redshirt offensive left tackle Nico Falah.

The switch: For the moment, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Chris Brown is playing left guard behind sophomore Damien Mama, clearing the way for more opportunity for true freshman Chuma Edoga, who is also off to fine start.

Jenny Craig:
Trojans first-year offensive line coach Bob Connelly would like to see some of his charges lose some tonnage and become quicker and in better shape.

Redshirt recruiting: Trojans first-year head coach Bob Connelly isn’t shy in saying he would like to see his incoming freshmen linemen of the future redshirt. I have to agree with Connelly but telling a high school offensive line recruit that he is going to redshirt his first season might not sit well in the world of recruiting, as we know it today.

Sense of urgency:
One veteran player this spring that may feel a sense of urgency to make a spring statement is junior safety Leon McQuay lll. Leon had good and not so good moments in 2014, and he’ll look to leave a positive impression with the defensive coaching staff before some of those heralded incoming freshmen arrive like Ykili Ross and Marvell Tell lll.

Three’s company:
Wouldn’t that be something in the future if Leon McQuay lll battles Marvell Tell lll for a starting secondary position.

Crossing Jordan: Hold on to your lucky beads as star-crossed junior offensive guard Jordan Simmons has received some early love from the coaching staff. Simmons, who has battled a career of knee injuries, looks ready to make a statement, and he could be a real surprise as it pertains to the offensive line.

From the press box…

ID check: Man, seeing true freshman inside linebacker Cameron Smith in person begs the question: Are you sure he isn’t already a college junior? And the same could be said regarding incoming defensive back Iman “Biggie” Marshall, who is the type of defensive back size-wise that Pete Carroll would love up in Seattle. Talk about mature looking kids, that’s Smith and Marshall.

Probation free: Idaho, the Trojans second opponent next season, has announced that the NCAA has lifted its ban on postseason play, which had been assessed for failing to meet academic standards from 2008-2012.

Please retire: The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping that future NFL Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu will retire rather than cut him. If you recall, it was said here that Troy should hang’em up before he gets one too many concussions.

The mea culpa: On a recent Trojans radio broadcast, incoming All-America corner Iman “Biggie” Marshall revealed that he got the nickname “Biggie” from his “Auntie” who saw him as “a chubby baby” for a two-year-old.

The media mass: Maybe it’s because there is already so much preseason hype for the Trojans, but that was some big gathering of media for the first day of spring practice.

You are correct, sir: Steve Sarkisian was every bit correct when he totally downplayed the mounting preseason hype for 2015. Sark said the season is still six months away, and right now it is all about getting better.

The post-game show…

No more Rick: Trojans fans miss the days when Rick Neuheisel was the head football coach at UCLA. Well, Ricky is on the move again. He is now the former football analyst for the Pac-12 Networks, having taken a job with CBS to be a studio analyst on its Saturday college football pregame show. Slick Rick will also be regular on the weekly show “Inside College Football” on CBS Sports Network.

Reunited: Former Trojans backup quarterback Matt Cassel has been traded to the Buffalo Bills and new head coach Rex Ryan. It means that Cassel will be reunited with former Trojans in wide receiver Robert Woods and corner Nickell Robey.

Reunited – Part 2: It’s still hard to believe that Matt Cassel, once Matt Leinart’s backup, continues his NFL career and Leinart, as popular a Trojans as ever, is now in broadcasting.

Knight moves: From a close confidant of the famous USC Knight football family, word is former Trojans star and coach Sammy is now helping raise his daughters and is no longer involved in football. Here’s saying that Sammy should be back in football and coaching up a storm.

The final word: One respected media wag said this week that former Trojans tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen has a facial resemblance to the late, great Motown artist Marvin Gaye, but then again maybe I just heard it through the grapevine.

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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