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IMHO Sunday: Say it ain’t so

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

No denying it: Somebody knows. Kenechi Udeze (photo above)? Clay Helton? Clancy Pendergast? Lynn Swann? All four? There are currently extremely hot rumors that Trojans’ defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, who has turned out to be a tremendous D-line coach and recruiter for the Trojans, apparently interviewed with the San Francisco 49’ers this past week. And worse yet, Kenechi may be on his way to the Bay Area. If true, something may be rotten in Denmark or should we say the John McKay Center. If not, somebody come out and say that it’s just another mind-numbing Internet rumor. Udeze to the 49’ers seems to make no sense or maybe it actually does. Nobody seems to be denying it, and that’s the scary part. Why? Career advancement, so soon? Maybe.

No denying it – Part 2: Make no mistake about it, the potential loss of Kenechi Udeze, a former Trojan All-American defensive end on the 2003 USC National Champions and successful USC D-line coach –would be a major hit. All assistant coaches are replaceable, just not the really good ones, and Kenechi has become a really good one. If the rumors are true, let’s hope that cooler and smarter heads prevail. It’s one thing to lose running back Deland McCullough after one season to the NFL; it would be quite another matter for the Trojans to lose one of their own to a rumored assistant-to-the-assistant 49’ers D-line coaching job.

No denying it – Part 3: The timing of this current rumor comes in crunch time of recruiting, and the Trojans are expected to bring in – for the second consecutive recruiting – a tremendous D-line group of youngsters, with much credit to Udeze. It’s hard to believe that this all points back to head coach Clay Helton…if all of this is true. Helton hired Udeze when Kenechi was considered an inexperienced risk, but Helton’s gut told him that Udeze could be a diamond in the rough. And that has turned out to be very true.

D-Day: Well, just another week and half and Wednesday, February 7 will be here, which means the “regular” National Letter of Intent signing day. For the Trojans, who had a very nice start in the “early” signing period, the remaining blue-chippers on the board are a cross between the committed and the still unknown. While nothing is 100 percent certain in recruiting until the ink dries on the dotted line, the bluest of the blue, explosive Mater Dei WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, is about as certain as you can get other than quarterback teammate JT Daniels, who will be joining his favorite target if he completes a challenging spring semester at Mater De. You can hold your breath but pardon me for exhaling. Both are a wrap.

The confidence game: Although others are in his recruiting game, it would not be a shock but rather a surprise if Amon-Ra St. Brown’s…yet Mater Dei linebacking teammate, Solomon Tuliaupupu, didn’t become a Trojans, as well. Solomon is said to have had a very positive recruiting visit.

A linchpin: The long recruiting battle for exceptional Mission Viejo (Calif.) High DB Olaijah Griffin is starting to look cardinal and gold, or at least that’s the word down Mission Viejo way. Having had an admitted great time on his official visit, it didn’t hurt that Olaijah’s dad had some glowing remarks regarding his son’s official USC visit. Griffin is the type of signee that would greatly help the Trojans crack the Top 10 of most people’s national recruiting lists. Another great DB that is said to be on the verge of being a Trojan is La Mesa Helix’s Isaac Taylor-Stuart, and what would a USC roster be without a member of the Helix High Scotties on it?

Linchpin – Part 2: And while we’re on the discussion of superior corners, don’t discount Anaheim (Calif.) Servite CB standout Julius Irvin, son of former Rams’ corner LeRoy Irvin, being a Trojan in the future. Never discount the genes and apparently the Trojans haven’t.

Better to receive than to give: One of the continuing recruiting tug-a-wars is for big wide receiver Devon Williams, who is currently committed to Oregon. Maybe he’ll still be an Oregon Duck, but there’s a lot of chatter that the Trojans have made him think, thanks to a great recent official visit.

The mystery man: It’s no secret that the Trojans would love to add offensive linemen to the team, and no offensive lineman in the West has more people guessing than Utah’s Penei Sewell, the giant from Desert Hills High. At least publically, nobody seems to have a foolproof sniff on where Penei is headed. One thing for certain, if Sewell becomes a Trojan, he’ll be given every opportunity to compete as a freshman.

From the press box…

The survivor: Thanks to Philadelphia’s victory over Minnesota in the NFC title game last Sunday, former Trojans’ and Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor will become the 111th Trojan to play in a Super Bowl, with this year’s titanic being played in Minnesota next Sunday, Feb. 4. Congrats to Nelson and Go Eagles!

Progress report: As a continuing public service, the IMHO Sunday will include the Coliseum website camera for our weekly IMHO to keep y’all visually informed. https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation

The dedication: The Trojans and the Coliseum will officially kickoff the renovation of the Grand Old Lady on Monday at 11:30 a.m. with a private ceremony in the peristyle end of the historic venue. Among the dignitaries in attendance on Monday will be USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Athletic Director Lynn Swann, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA City Council member Curren Price, and, of course, the Trojan Marching Band.

State of Troy: In his newest State of Troy release, which he discusses the Coliseum renovation, athletic director Lynn Swann said, “We have a great opportunity to renovate the Coliseum. Thanks in part to a very large group, starting with our President Max Nikias, the contractors, architects and builders, our former athletic director Pat Haden – who has been a vital part of this – our development team, and the Coliseum staff, all those people and our wonderful, generous supporters have pulled it all together to raise the money and make it work, so we can get started on time. That is a major accomplishment.” A major accomplishment will be if skeptical and angry USC fans will be persuaded the Coliseum renovation was not a major disappointment once it’s completed.

State of Troy – Part 2: Continuing his assessment of the Coliseum renovation, Swann said, “This is all part of the continued growth of the university, but it’s also going to create a great home field advantage and game day experience for our players, students, alumni and fans. When football does well, not just in terms of wins and losses, but financially, it is the foundation of our athletic department. We have set ourselves up to have great success for a long period of time.”

The State of Troy – Part 3: In discussing the Trojans’ football offseason, Lynn Swann said, “The offseason is always a planning stage. Our stage is set by who we recruit and who is coming in. The early signing period has made this year a little bit different and forced our coaches and recruiting department to adjust. We have a good group of young men already signed up, and we are waiting to see what happens on National Signing Day (February 7). In our long-range plan to compete for championships year after year, Clay Helton continues to move that forward.” The big line is “Clay Helton continues to move that forward.”

The post-game show…

Great promotion: I recently received a San Francisco Giants 2018 season promotion where Alaska Airlines will be handing out 2-for-1 flight vouchers to four selected Giants’ road games. A few years back, Jet Blue was offering a similar promotion or discount for USC road football games.

Great promotion – Part 2:
For the record and should an airline bestow such an offer for the 2018 USC road games, the road games for next season include Stanford, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, and UCLA. Okay, the UCLA game isn’t really a road game, but I guess you could fly out of a surrounding Southland airport and land at LAX to recreate a road game.

A uniformed tradition: So, when do the rumors begin about the Trojans wearing an alternative uniform for a 2018 home game? Hopefully, not while I am alive. Did I just curse myself?

The last word: So, who will be the next Trojan defender to wear the sacred No. 55?

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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