By Greg Katz – WeAreSC
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
Orange County POY: Trojans incoming freshman quarterback Sam Darnold (above photo) from San Clemente (Calif.) High was officially named the 2014 Orange County Player of the Year at Saturday’s Orange County All-Star Game luncheon at the Astor Classics Event Center in Anaheim.
The OC pipeline: Sam Darnold, who appeared yesterday the Astor Classics Event Center even taller and heavier than his listed 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, joins a long list of former Trojan quarterbacks from one of Southern California’s hotbeds of high school talent. Perhaps you’ve heard of the names Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, and Rob Johnson?
Sam’s club: Among his accomplishments last season, Sam Darnold led the San Clemente (12-2) to the Sea View League title and a runner-up spot in the CIF-SS Southwest Division. Sam also was the CIF offensive player of the year for the Southwest Division.
Center of attention: At Saturday afternoon’s Orange County All-Star Game luncheon, the guest speaker was former six-time Pro Bowl center Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Rams. Smith, who now coaches at Orange Coast College, told the large gathering there is one favorite player who stands well beyond all the others he played with including “Sweetness,” Walter Payton. Smith revealed, “My favorite player is my son, Cole, and I told him that after his first snap in Pop Warner.” Cole is a highly regarded Trojan incoming freshman from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High who is expected to be the cardinal and gold center of the future.
FYI: Doug Smith is also a former USC coach (1993-97). Although having an offensive line background, Smith was hired by John Robinson during Robbie’s second tour of coaching duty to instruct the Trojans defensive line.
Recruiter’s confession: During Doug Smith’s coaching time at USC, he was in charge of Orange County and was heavily recruiting a tight end out of Huntington Beach (Calif.) High by the name of Tony Gonzalez. Smith told the audience at the OC All-Star Game luncheon that he formed a tight bond with the future NFL and College Football inductee, but Gonzalez was lost to the Trojans because the multi-sport athlete wanted to play basketball and the Trojans basketball coach at the time felt Gonzalez wouldn’t have the time to play enough basketball because of the crossover of scheduling between the two sports.
FYI: The Trojans men’s basketball coach at the time of Tony Gonzalez’s recruitment was Hall of Fame coach George Raveling. According to former Raveling associate head basketball coaching assistant Jack Fertig, “We had pretty much written him off because of how good he (Gonzalez) was in football. As far as which sport would scholarship him, it didn’t matter because NCAA rules dictate if a student-athlete plays football and any other sport, he counts toward football. (If the s-a plays basketball and any other sport – besides football – the scholarship counts toward basketball).”
For the record: Playing basketball his senior season at Huntington Beach High, Tony Gonzalez, who was also the 1993 Orange County High School Athlete of the Year along with golfer Tiger Woods, was the Sunset League MVP and averaged 26 points per game. He eventually played both football and basketball at Cal where as a junior year he played in 28 basketball games, averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, as the Bears made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Millions of reasons: If you still wonder if former Trojans wide receiver Nelson Agholor should have gone pro early, he can give you $9.377 millions of dollars reasons he should have departed to the NFL.
Millions of reasons – Part 2: And did we mention Agholor’s $5.1 million dollars signing bonus, as well?
Hail to the chief: Trojans athletic director Pat Haden on the strong Trojans 2015 draft: “Playing in the NFL is a great job if you can get it. We know that one of the reasons students come here is because we have such a rich tradition of not only graduating our players, but also putting more in the NFL than any other school in the country. It is wonderful to chase that dream as long as you are not precluded from realizing other opportunities as well.”
More Haden: On the new USC Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Jones, the former Trojans quarterback said, “Some of the names may not resonate with our younger fans, but if you look at someone like Jimmy Jones, who was an African-American quarterback here in the late 60’s and early 70’s, one of the very first in America, and the success that he had here and in his career.”
See more defense: I think that a major key to the Trojans 2015 defense will be the play of senior corner Kevon Seymour. With the expectations that Adoree’ Jackson will be shutting down his side of the field, teams will test Seymour early and often. If the former John Muir High star plays his cards right, his season could elevate him into a must-see NFL prospect.
From the press box…
IMHO: I saw Jimmy Jones play his entire USC career. Jimmy deserves the recognition for being in the Trojans Hall of Fame, but honestly, how can Jones get in and two-time African-America offensive tackle Marvin Powell not? It’s dumbfounding.
For the record: Jimmy Jones (1969-71) will be forever remembered for his desperate heave into the end to Sam Dickerson against UCLA in 1969. That game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass to Sam Dickerson with 1:32 remaining is an all-timer. For the record, Jones was never an All-American or an All-Conference selection in his USC career but did have some unbelievable moments in his career for game-wise and historically.
For the record – Part 2: As a sophomore, Jimmy Jones, who ended up playing professionally in the CFL, did lead the Trojans to a 10-3 win in the 1970 Rose Bowl against Michigan. The winning TD was a Jimmy Jones to Bobby Chandler 33-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter against the Wolverines. Chandler was named the Rose Bowl MVP.
For the record – Part 3: Jimmy Jones had his HOF moments, but let’s remember one of his best moments came at the beginning of his career when he lead his 1970 Trojans to that historic 42-21 victory over Bear Bryant’s “all-white” Alabama team in Birmingham.
Remember 1969: Jimmy Jones was overshadowed by the legendary Trojans defensive front, the Wild Bunch. Head coach John McKay’s team featured a number of superstars that would go on to the NFL including All-Americans Clarence Davis (tailback), Sid Smith (offensive tackle), Jimmy Gunn (defensive end), and Al Cowlings (defensive tackle).
Last add Jimmy Jones: For those that wonder what happened to Jimmy after his playing days, he became a minister, coach, counselor and broadcaster back in his hometown of Harrisburg, PA.
The pressure game: Given the history of the running back position, nobody will have more pressure or expectations heaped upon him in 2015 than junior tailback Justin Davis.
Fantasy football: So how many “touches” will super sophomore Adoree’ Jackson have per game? You can start the bidding with six on offense.
Seat locations: The Trojans are continuing their intensive drive to give season ticket holders the opportunity to change their current location. A word of advice, season ticket holders, be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
HOF recognition: Not just because I am a member of the media, but I like that USC recognizes non-athletes as part of its Hall of Fame. WeAreSC’s Steve Bisheff is a member for all the coverage he gave the Trojans as a beat writer for the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. This year, former Sports Illustrated writing legend Joe Jares will be inducted, although it should also be noted that Joe once played on the Trojans freshman basketball team.
Remembrance: I can still recall when current Trojans starting offensive guard Viane Talamaivao was still a senior-to-be at Corona (Calif.) Centennial and was attending a Nike camp at Redondo Beach High. I interviewed him and he was really down that the Trojans weren’t really recruiting him like he deserved or should have.
Remembrance – Part 2: Well low and behold a coaching change, an Alabama offer, Viane committing to The Tide, and finally the Trojans coming to their senses and the rest is history. It’s all smiles now on Viane’s face when he puts on that USC helmet.
The post-game show…
John Law: Trojans fans that travel to South Bend for an USC/Notre Dame game on a regular basis will be sad to learn that Indiana State Police officer Sergeant Tim McCarthy, who cautions all fans regarding road safety between the third and fourth quarter of games at Notre Dame Stadium, has retired from his safety public address role at Notre Dame Stadium.
One of a kind: For 55 years, Tim McCarthy used wit, wisdom, and a generous supply of puns to get his point of safety across. Over the years, Trojans fans have had some real belly laughs and groans when McCarthy delivered his vaudeville humor.
McCarthyisms: “If you drive when you’re blitzed, you might get sacked.”
McCarthyisms –Part 2: “Drive like a happy doctor – have lots of patience.”
McCarthyisms –Part 3: “No one relishes a pickled driver.”
The process: Legendary Trojans head football coach John McKay had a plethora of All-Americans, but never forget that they didn’t just come that way. They were developed by great coaching staffs.
The final word: And a special cardinal and gold Happy Mother’s Day to all.