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IMHO Sunday: Big brothers are watching

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

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

Star-stuck: After a rainy Saturday practice on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields that brought back a large number of past Trojans legends, near legends, and known contributors, Trojans head coach Clay Helton (above photo) said, “I don’t get star-struck very often when it comes to Hollywood stars, but when it comes to USC football stars I get goose bumps in a hurry.”

Star-struck – Part 2: Showing once again that he gets it, after practice and responding to the impressive turnout of former Trojans players whom he invited, Clay Helton said, “It really showed our players what a tradition of excellence that we stand for and where the bar is set. There’s so much knowledge that can be given from a big brother and they’re our big brothers.” Amen to that, coach.

Star-struck – Part 3: Commenting on having former Trojans Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen address his team, Clay Helton said, “To have Marcus talk to our team and our coaching staff to challenge us and preaching the technique and fundamentals of the game and getting back to that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up right now. I am star-struck.”

FYI: Clay Helton’s father, Kim, was Marcus Allen’s offensive line coach when Marcus played on the Raiders. Clay Helton said, “My dad told me that Marcus was the toughest player he was ever around.”

Legends Saturday: As part of head coach Clay Helton’s crusade to return the past Trojans greats to practices, those that were at practice on Saturday included such legendary icons as Marcus Allen, Sam Cunningham, Anthony Davis, Willie McGinest, Matt Leinart, J.K. McKay, and Al Cowlings.

Legends Saturday – Part 2: Also in attendance were the likes of such notables as, Keith Rivers, Mike Williams, John Jackson, Matt Barkley, Paul McDonald, John David Booty, Sam Baker, Lawrence Jackson, Shaun Cody, Alex Holmes, Terrell Thomas, J.R. Tavai, and Kyle Moore.

No kidding: According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the 2016 Trojans will play the toughest schedule in the country next season. Really? No fooling? You’re not pulling my leg? What next, the sun will rise in the East and set in the West?

Work, work, work: With just a week away before the annual USC Spring Football Game in the Coliseum, Trojans budding sophomore star defensive end Rasheem Green, who had a sack and a couple of stops on Saturday, is right on the money by continuing hone on his craft. Green said, “I have been working on my technique out here. I still have some small stuff. I formed some bad habits in high school, and I still do them here, so I am spending time with Coach KU (Kenechi Udeze) and watch film to see how I can fix things.”

The influence: According to Rasheem Green, new defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze is making a difference in his game. Green said, “He has made me pay attention to small things in my game. The small things that can help me improve as a player in the long run.”

The Clancy factor: Count Rasheem Green as another Trojans defender that says that new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has made a big impact on the defense. Green, now 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, said, “I think he (Pendergast) has made us pay attention to the small things. That’s what all the coaches are doing in trying to help us with the small things like our alignment, hands, and stuff like that, which can make us be better football players. He’s helping us play better team defense.”

Learning curve: The general feeling among the Trojans defenders is that Clancy Pendergast’s defensive streamlined system is not as challenging to learn but more effective than the recent systems of the recent past. Rasheem Green said, “I don’t think it has been too hard (to learn). It’s not impossible.”

Next man up: Trojans defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow has had his ACL surgery, and Rasheem Green knows the spotlight to deliver is now shining on him to deliver. Green said, “It’s sad that we lost Kenny, but we’re still going to play hard without him. I feel there is a lot more pressure now that we lost Kenny. As for me, I will play with the same mindset, which is to play fast and play physical.”

For all time: Thanks to his 31-yard touchdown fumble return last season in the Trojans big win over UCLA, Rasheem Green understands completely how one play can leave his mark on USC football history. Green revealed, “People still bring that up to me, and I am pretty proud of that moment.”

From the press box…

Reality check: As can be the case in spring, injuries and off-field responsibilities have somewhat muddled the actual core strength and weaknesses of the 2016 Trojans. There is only some much can glean from the players on hand this spring, so training camp August will present truer look at the Men of Troy. So keep that in mind when you try to make an educated deduction while watching next Saturday afternoon’s spring game in the Coliseum.

The Prince and the Rose: Isn’t it about time that former Trojans All-America end Hal Bedsole be named to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame? Prince Hal was a major offensive cog in the Trojans legendary 1963 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Bedsole caught two important touchdown receptions of 57 and 23 yards, respectively, on January 1.

Ducks soup: Some may be wondering why the Trojans would entertain powerful Oregon for Homecoming (Nov. 5) when usually a “patsy” is scheduled to ensure a victory to please the alumni, students, family, and friends.

Ducks soup – Part 2: The way the schedule turned out, perennial patsy Colorado (Oct. 8) wasn’t available for Homecoming because the Buffaloes were scheduled for Trojans Family Weekend.

The time limit: There has still been no announcement regarding the kickoff time for the Trojans season opener against Alabama (Sept. 3) in Dallas.

Face the music: A former respected USC linebacker told me that he couldn’t be happier that the practice music has stopped. Known for his physical style of play, this former starter said one of many negatives about playing music during practice was that “ the second and third stringers can’t hear the coaches speaking out about adjustments.”

Pete Carroll remembers: Just ask Pete Carroll what happens when recruiting in the SEC is threatened by an outsider like a recruiting dynamo like Carroll. When Carroll was having extraordinary recruiting success in SEC territory, which was established by attending high school spring practices, the SEC rose up and the NCAA quickly banned all D-1 college head coaches from appearing off their home campus during high school spring ball.

SEC strikes Harbaugh: The NCAA on Friday outlawed immediately – thanks to another SEC complaint – Jim Harbaugh’s master plan of traveling his Michigan Wolverines around the country during his college spring practice to showcase his team and program. Harbaugh has already taken his team twice to the South, and the SEC obviously felt threatened from a recruiting standpoint. That laughter and head shaking is probably Pete Carroll pointing his emotions in the direction of once-rival Jim Harbaugh.

The post-game show…

Young promise: True freshman offensive tackle Nathan Smith (6-6, 265) who graduated Murrieta Mesa High early to in order to participate in spring ball has shown some promise this spring. Yes, Smith still has a ways to go in terms of weight increase, experience, and the depth chart, but he has shown he competes.

Young promise – Part 2: Nathan Smith’s Mesa head football coach, Justin Schaeffer, recently stepped down and accepted the head coaching position at Fountain Valley (Calif.) High in Orange County. FYI, Nathan Smith is the first to receive a full football scholarship as part of his high school’s young program.

Get out of Town: Luckiest guy not in spring ball is former quarterback Ricky Town, who must have seen the writing on the wall (Sam Darnold) and figured discretion is the better part of valor, skipping town last fall for the University of Arkansas.

A Jake reminder: It sure seems to me that next Saturday’s spring game would be a wonderful opportunity for center Jake Olson to get in a snap or two.

Tripping out: A new 2016 college football rule brings a more defined interpretation of “tripping.” It used to be that it was illegal for a player to stick out his foot or leg to trip an opponent, but it was legal to trip a ball carrier. Because of leg injuries to runners over the past couple seasons, it’s now illegal to trip any opponent, including the ball carrier.

The last word: Last weekend was the annual USC Football Coaches Clinic, which featured a number of guest speakers who spoke to high school and college coaches and some USC Trojans fans. Part of the clinic was coaches and attendees viewing last Saturday’s morning practice. Among the masses was one young football coach wearing both an Arizona State Sun Devils T-shirt and hat. With plenty of potential USC recruits also on hand, it certainly appeared the coach wanted to be a walking billboard for ASU. If it was attention the coach wanted, it didn’t go unnoticed.

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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