In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
The vote: As you’re probably aware, the College Football Hall of Fame recently announced this year’s nominees to be considered for induction. Amongst the candidates are three USC representatives: tailback Reggie Bush (cover photo above headline), safety Mark Carrier, and offensive guard Jeff Bregel – all worthy candidates.
The vote – Part 2: While this will be another opportunity for vote induction for Carrier and Bregel – both two-time All-Americans – this will the first time on the ballot for Reggie Bush, the stripped Heisman Trophy winner, All-American, and center of continuous debate. A strong case could be made that Bush was a generational player and arguably one of college football’s all-time great running backs. He is certainly one of the most explosive collegiate players with a pigskin under his arms that the game has ever seen.
The vote – Part 3: As a member of the Football Writers of America Association, I am privileged to be a voting member of the College Football Hall of Fame. The question regarding Reggie Bush: Should Bush be voted into the HOF after he and his family were held responsible for getting USC’s storied football program tattooed by the NCAA with some of the worst sanctions in modern history – due to allegedly receiving improper benefits in his final season of participation?
The vote – Part 4: If you look at the amazing on-field exploits of Bush, this vote is an absolute no-brainer. If you take off your cardinal and gold glasses, you have to recognize and accept that Bush played his final glorious season as an ineligible player, according to NCAA rules. He simply broke the rules. No need to go over once again the penalties since they are burned into the wounded psyche of former players who remained at Troy after Bush departed to the NFL and to the massive USC fan base that had to suffer seasons of banned conferences titles and bowl games.
The vote – Part 5: Perhaps there is a judicial reason for it, but Reggie Bush never fully said he was directly sorry to his teammates, the university, or the passionate fan base that were forced to endure the draconian sanctions. Never has Bush addressed the issue so directly that it amounted to a meaningful and personal apology. Don’t be distracted by the foul play of the NCAA. If Bush and his family hadn’t been the focal point of improper benefits, this all could have been avoided. As they say, “money is the root of all evil” or something along those lines.
The vote – Part 6: After a reported ten years of USC campus excommunication, Reggie Bush was welcomed back with open arms to USC and given all the basic privileges of a superhero. Yes, “Lightening” paid the price, and it was time to move on. Recent USC high school commits said that Bush is one of the main reasons they selected USC. The legacy of No. 5 certainly lives on even to this day.
The vote – Part 7: You still have to look at what Reggie Bush meant to his team that final 2005 season and how it affected the teams that Bush, a team captain, faced. We know that the explosive one almost single-handedly beat Notre Dame in South Bend, and the winning score has been immortalized with “The Bush Push.” We know that his 513-yard all-purpose performance did beat Fresno State, 50-42, in the Coli that season. You could make a strong argument that if Bush hadn’t played, Pete Carroll’s Trojans would have likely lost to the Irish and the Bulldogs, respectively. And it may have also cost them the opportunity to play Texas in the BCS title game in the Rose Bowl.
The vote – Part 8: So, take a step back for a moment and imagine how Notre Dame and Fresno State must have felt after learning that they lost to an ineligible player that should not have been playing in the first place. Before you throw a ball full of fickle matter in my direction, how would USC fans feel had they learned that Texas beat the Trojans in the BCS title game with an ineligible Vince Young, the Longhorns’ sensational quarterback? You don’t think that the poo wouldn’t have hit the fan if it was learned that Young had been receiving improper benefits and should have been ineligible? Maybe he did, but unlike Bush, he wasn’t caught.
The vote – Part 9: Now, as far as the Heisman Trophy, it’s almost a guarantee that a winner of the Heisman gets into the HOF. It is the perspective here that Bush was an ineligible player his final season, and I don’t think he is entitled to get the trophy back because in hindsight, he shouldn’t have been on the field in the first place. You may disagree, but the award is for individual performance, which in all honestly nobody better did it better in 2005 than Bush. But then again, why should a Vince Young come in second in Heisman balloting when he didn’t get his team on NCAA probation for that specific season?
The vote – summation: So how will I vote? Well, this may shock you, but I will vote for Bush into the College Football Hall of Fame based on his overall body of career work. He is an all-time great, no doubt, so I feel comfortable putting him in – in other words, thumbs up. However, as far as the Heisman return, it’s thumbs down. He didn’t play by the same rules as the other competitors for the award. Call it a compromise – HOF yes, Heisman no – but it won’t shock me if his No. 5 jersey is returned alongside the other USC Heisman winners in the Peristyle end of the Coliseum on game day at some point.
From the press box…
Jersey: Yes, recently committed 4-star corner Jaeden Gould from Oradell, New Jersey, who attended Bergen Catholic High comes from the same parochial school as former Trojans All-America linebacker Brian Cushing. Gould selected the Trojans over Penn State.
Texas: Yes, recently committed three-star running back De’Anthony Gatson (5-10, 200) from Newton, Texas and Newton High will be reunited with another Newton High product, running back Darwin Barlow, a TCU transfer. The new Trojans played on the same 2019 Newton team when Barlow was a senior and Gatson a freshman.
California: Yes, recently transferred former Oklahoma State quarterback Brendan Costello (6-0, 195), who will be a preferred walk-on at Troy, played his high school ball at local San Clemente High, the same school that produced former Trojans QBs Sam Darnold and Jack Sears. Costello, a former 3-star prospect, has no experience in college game action, having redshirted his first year OSU and in 2020 placing himself in the transfer portal. Costello will be eligible this season to compete for the backup role behind Kedon Slovis.
Birthday boy: On Thursday, the Trojans announced through social media that it was head coach Clay Helton’s birthday the past week. The coach turned 49 years-old or should we say 49 years-young? Gentleman Clay is beginning his 11th season as a combined USC assistant, interim head coach, and current head coach, a journey that began in 2010.
Birthday boy – Part 2: Certainly a 2021 Pac-12 title would be the ultimate birthday present for the head coach, who was originally hired to mentor Trojan quarterbacks in 2010 by former USC head coach Lane Kiffin. Helton had previously been the offensive coordinator and QB coach at Memphis. FYI, Helton began his nine-year stint at Memphis as the Tigers’ running backs coach.
Future programing reminder: Pac-12 Football Media Day will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks with all-day coverage on Tuesday, July 27. Players and coaches will be featured along with the Pac-12’s new commissioner, George Kliavkoff.
The post-game show…
Eliminated but wait: Former Trojans’ running back recruit Gavin Sawchuk (Littleton, Colo./Valor Christian), considered the nation’s No. 2 ball carrier, announced last week for Oklahoma, after having previously visiting USC. The Trojans, however, are still in hot pursuit of local 5-star running back Raleek Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), who previously committed to Oklahoma, as well.
Follow the yellow brick road: I must admit I was intrigued when I learned the Trojans were recruiting a defensive tackle named Bear Alexander (Ft. Worth, Tex./Brewer HS). If the Trojans sign the kid, they must sign two other D-linemen with the last names of Lions and Tigers, respectively. Can you imagine the social media going nuts with a Trojans’ D-line consisting of Lions and Tigers and Bear, so help me Dorothy Gale and oh my.
Pac-12 title game info: Tickets for the 2021 Pac-12 Football Championship Game in Las Vegas will soon be officially on-sale. Fans can join the Pac-12 mailing list to get access to a presale and receive all of the latest ticket sales information for title game (Sign up).
The Shirt: One of the ways to promote the upcoming football season is to purchase a spirit schedule shirt from The Bookstore, which now has the limited edition 2021 schedule shirt for sale at $24.95.
Tailgating: With fans returning to the Coliseum for tailgating and a football game, The Bookstore is selling a tailgate set, which consists of One Pagoda Tent and side panel, two SC chairs, one round table (with four cup holders), and one 3-in-1 collapsible cooler, trashcan, or hamper. You can purchase this little tailgater “bundle” set for just $449.95.
Tailgate games: Looking for some fun and games as you return to the Coli for the anticipated tailgating? Here’s another offering from The Bookstore. For just $499.95, you can get an SC cornhole set (with carrying case), a USC giant tumble tower (with carrying case), a Nike football to pass around, and two SC beach chairs. Wowers! Give me your credit card and let’s buy it!
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: Mr. Katz, are you disappointed that Colorado prep superstar running back Gavin Sawchuk committed to Oklahoma last week after recently visiting USC?
Caller No. 1, dude, you can’t be disappointed in something you logically didn’t expect. Let’s face it, when Trojans allowed their offense to become last in rushing in 2020 and 10th in 2019, what do you expect? If you’re a great running back, those Trojans’ rushing stats are hard to overlook or simply ignore – especially when Oklahoma has proven they can run the ball with authority while still passing the ball. If it makes you feel better, Sawchuk was already an Oklahoma lean before he visited Troy.
Caller No. 2: Greg, do you think now that running back Gavin Sawchuk has committed to Oklahoma, the Trojans have a better recruiting chance with Raleek Brown of Mater Dei?
Caller No. 2: I guess you can hope that Brown reconsiders his commitment to Oklahoma, but don’t bet the farm on it. Honestly, the Trojans are paying the recruiting price by exhibiting little to no running game the last two seasons and certainly have had big issues recruiting quality offensive linemen in numbers, as well. Until that gets corrected, you’ll probably have to rely on transfers and 3-star commitments. I don’t see this as a negative comment but a realistic one, I am sorry to say.
Caller No. 3: G-Katzman, there have been some great commitments this last week, and the staff has really produced. Your take, please.
Caller No. 3, ah, hold down the overall enthusiasm. No doubt and no question that the defensive side of the ball has more than held its own in recruiting. They deserve all the accolades, especially Donte Williams. And, yes, also deserving recognition is D-line coach Vic So’oto and safety coach Craig Navair. However, no matter how you slice it, we have still not had a commitment from a highly ranked offensive prep lineman (see Erik McKinney’s story link below) – although it appears the recruiting effort is there. How much the Air Raid offense without a running game is affecting offensive line recruiting is an unknown, but it is certainly a conversation piece.
Caller No. 4: Coach, should I be so frustrated that we can’t seem to recruit great high school running backs and linemen?
Caller No. 4, you can be as frustrated as you want; it’s up to you. Take comfort that many Trojans fans feel your pain. Recruiting is relationships and the ability to sell a product through evidence and credibility. When USC was cranking out All-America running backs and standout quarterbacks, it was much easier to recruit great prep offensive linemen. They go hand in hand. Running back prospects want an offensive line that allows them to run, and linemen want great running backs and quarterbacks to motivate their blocking. Both running backs and O-linemen want a balanced offensive system. Right now, the USC offensive philosophy is still challenged in those areas.
Caller No. 5: Sir, I know that usually your last question and answer have to do with something outside of USC football. However, could you please tell me if you could schedule a game or two in the future on the road, who would you like to see the Trojans play?
Caller No. 5, sure, we can deviate from the norm. If I could schedule a road game or two, I would like to see the Trojans play at Michigan’s “Big House” and/or Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Field. I think those would be great fun to attend, especially since I have not been to either one for a football game. I can tell you covering a game at Ohio State was great fun when the Trojans last played there under Pete Carroll, and watching a game at Nebraska was a blast. Maybe USC AD Mike Bohn will read this response and make those desires come true. I can dream, can’t I?
The last word: It’s with a heavy heart that we pass on news that the brother of our late beloved WeAreSC publisher, Garry Paskwietz, Clark Paskwietz, has recently passed to glory. Our thoughts, prayers, and emotions go out to the Paskwietz family during this very difficult time. We thank Kathy Paskwietz, mother of the Paskwietz family, for passing along a picture of her son, Clark, who now reunites with Garry in cardinal and gold heaven.