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IMHO Sunday: Spring practice – We ready

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

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

So it begins: Although there have been small glimpses of what the Clay Helton era might or might not be, it figures in the 15 days of spring practice – beginning Tuesday – the layers of questions and intrigue will begin to be peeled away, as Helton and his staff present a “redesigned offense” and a “return” to a Clancy Pendergast (above photo) defensive scheme. In the immortal words of Dr. Spock, “Fascinating, captain.”

The intrigue: There are enough stories lines from the quarterback competition, defensive line scenarios, fresh schemes, new coaches, early freshmen arrivals, redshirts, and a general atmosphere to be one of the more interesting spring practices in recent memory or at least since Steve Sarkisian arrived in 2014.

Sign of the times: It should be interesting to see if Clay Helton and new offensive coordinator Tee Martin retain those multiple and “amusing” offensive billboards along the sideline that helped signal in information. If there are no signs being presented, then real change is in the air, so help me Oregon Ducks.

The match-ups: If you get the opportunity, I’d suggest you watch the offensive and defensive linemen do one-on-one battle against each other. With the fanfare that first-year, old Southern warhorse offensive line coach Neil Callaway has received and knowing that first-year defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze learned much of his craft and intensity from former Trojans defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, there could be more fireworks on the practice fields than a Fourth of July celebration.

Tackling the issue: One of the first things I’ll be looking at is where new offensive line coach Neil Callaway positions up returning All-Pac-12 offensive tackle Zach Banner. If Banner lines up at left tackle, where does that leave Chad Wheeler, who started at left tackle until a personal issue left him off the Holiday Bowl roster?

Tackling the issue – Part 2: If Zach Banner opens this week at left tackle, it figures sophomore Chuma Edoga will be at the right tackle spot, which he started in the Holiday Bowl.

SRO: It may not be as pronounced on this week’s first two practices, but when next Saturday rolls around, the general public figures to show up in numbers for the 10 a.m. practice. No word yet if fans will be allowed to watch from Dedeaux Field, which is a much better sightline than watching from the sideline.

Off week: As a general reminder to fans, after this week’s opening three days of spring ball (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), the Trojans will break for spring vacation and return back to “work” on Tuesday, March 22.

The Coli: The Trojans are scheduled to grace the Coliseum turf just twice during spring practice. The first scheduled workout in the Grand Old Lady will be Saturday, March 26, at 10 a.m. The second appearance by the Cardinal and Gold will be the spring game.

It’s official: The annual USC spring football game is set for Saturday, April 16, in the Coliseum at 3 p.m. If you’re not a season ticket holder, tickets are $10. If you are, you’ll get complimentary tickets. Because Clay Helton is now in charge, it will be interesting to see what changes – if any – will be in effect for the spring game.

The Trojans family: Trojans head coach Clay Helton has repeatedly talked about the “Trojan Family,” so it will be interesting to see how much interaction he has with fans during spring. Former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll made major public relation inroads during spring ball by going out of his way to say hi to the Trojans faithful.

Numbers game: On the first day of practice, how times will the word “Alabama” be spoken by fans and onlookers and don’t think the players don’t have the Crimson Tide in the back of their minds.

Pro Day: The USC Pro Day, another chance for eligible Trojans to show their stuff in front of NFL scouts, will take place on March 23 at 10 a.m. on Cromwell Field. The event is not open to the public.

From the press box…

The scoring average: It appears that when the Trojans hit the spring practice field, they will be implementing a resigned offense. Last season’s USC offense averaged 33.9 points per game.

The scoring average – Part 2: The national scoring average in college football increased to a record 29.65 points per team in 2015, according to official numbers compiled by the NCAA for CBS Sports.

Batter up: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh served as the Detroit Tigers’ first base coach during a split-squad game last Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. Okay, Dodgers, Clay Helton awaits your call from Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

Timing is everything: Are you surprised to learn that former Trojans corner Kevon Seymour ran an official 40 time of 4.39 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis? Many Trojans fans are still wondering why he played less than he did.

IMHO: I am here to tell that you that the two most physically looking specimens at last weekend’s The Opening Regional Los Angeles were defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman), who is committed to Ohio State, and Trojans running back soft commit Stephen Carr from Fontana (Calif.) Summit.

The bug: As quick a player as I saw at The Opening Regional Los Angeles was tiny but explosive wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey (Corona, Calif./Centennial), who reminded me of Trojans late wide receiver Kevin “Bug” Williams. If the Trojans could land Lindsey – lightening in a bottle -, the USC offensive would have a unique weapon.

The post-game show…

The Holy Trinity: According to Footballscoop, Trojans offensive administrative assistant Lenny Vandermade has been named offensive coordinator at Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic, which means he will not only compete in the uber-talented and brutally tough Trinity League but competing against his alma mater, Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Say what: This past week, Bleacher Report reported that Trojans tight end Caleb Wilson, son of former Trojans defensive line coach Chris Wilson, is transferring to crosstown rival UCLA.Apparently, there was no way to stop the transfer to UCLA since the kid was technically a USC walk-on and would receive a scholarship from Westwood. The only question is when will the Trojans ever see a Bruin transfer to USC, so help me Rod Sherman.

Vacation plans: If the Trojans make it to the College Football Playoff National Championship this season, it will be played on Jan. 9, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

The dreaded: FYI, the 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl is set for Friday, Dec. 30. Plan accordingly.

Thinking ahead: If the San Diego Chargers do eventually build a new football stadium near the waterfront in the same vicinity as the convention center and Petco Park, it figures the Holiday Bowl will have a new home for its game, as well.

Thinking ahead – Part 2: If a new San Diego Chargers football stadium is built in the aforementioned waterfront area, I can think of worse things to that to eat in the Gaslamp Quarter before heading over to the Holiday Bowl.

Surprise, surprise: I will admit that I was surprised that former Trojans All-Pac-12 linebacker Su’a Cravens did just 16 bench reps along with a 27-inch vertical leap. And he has yet to display a 40 time for NFL scouts. Of course, all that counts are the numbers that he produces on a football field.

In memory: Sorry to hear of the passing of former Trojans quarterback Rudy Bukich. I remember as a very young boy my dad listening to the radio in Los Angeles and hearing about Bukich. It was really one of the first names I recall for a USC football player, so “Rifle Rudy” will always have a place here. I also remember watching him on black and white television as part of the 1963 NFL champion Chicago Bears. After football, “Rifle Rudy” became a real estate developer.

The last word: With Sunday’s announcement that Peyton Manning is expected to officially announce his retirement from the NFL on Monday, did you know that Trojans offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Tee Martin was the quarterback that replaced Peyton Manning at Tennessee?

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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