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IMHO Sunday: USC – Still the NFL’s No. 1

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles

The leader: Despite what was a relatively small number of USC Trojan football players selected in the 2019 NFL draft (4), the Men of Troy’s storied gridiron program remains the all-time number of NFL draftees (509), the most of any school.  It is also the fifth consecutive year that the cardinal and gold have had at least four players drafted and the 15th time in the past 17 drafts.

Draft consistency: The Trojans and Michigan are the only schools with an NFL draftee every year since 1939. Although the Trojans did not have a No. 1 draft pick this cycle, the Cardinal and Gold is tied with Ohio State for most NFL first round picks (81) and tied with Notre Dame for most No. 1 picks (5). Troy and Oklahoma are the only schools with the draft’s top selections in consecutive years.

Despite not having a first round draft selection in 2019, the Trojans remain tied with Ohio State with the most first-round draft picks (81). Heisman Trophy winning tailback Charles White is shown above scoring a touchdown against Ohio State in the 1977 Rose Bowl Game.

A guide reality: One of the toughest things to do when creating the 2019 USC Trojans’ football media guide is just who should be on the cover? Normally, the player(s) you put on the cover are your best bets for seasonal stardom and perhaps NFL draft status. However, no matter how hard the Trojans’ sports information department works to get the right players to be on its cover – with probable input from the coaching staff – they can’t predict if that will translate into post-season honors and/or NFL selection draft status in late April. Choosing players for a cover is not an exact science.

A guide reality – Part 2: The 2018 cover picture on the Trojans’ football media guide included OL Toa Lobendahn, DB Iman Marshall, S Marvell Tell lll, head coach Clay Helton, ILB Cam Smith, OLB Porter Gustin, and CB Ajene Harris. However, when the NFL draft finally concluded on Saturday after beginning the process on Thursday night, only Marshall, Tell, and Smith were selected, and even they didn’t go ahead of non-cover boy Chuma Edoga, the Trojans’ right offensive tackle who was taken in the third round by the New York Jets.

Picking players to be on the cover of the USC football media guide doesn’t always translate into NFL success. On the cover of the 2018 media guide (left to right) is OL Toa Lobendahn, DB Iman Marshall, S Marvell Tell lll, head coach Clay Helton, ILB Cameron Smith, OLB Porter Gustin, and DB Ajene Harris. Of the six players, only Marshall, Tell, and Smith were drafted.

A guide reality – Part 3: Again, don’t blame the 2018 cover boys’ eventual draft status on the USC “SID” department. You never know what’s really going to happen in a season and how that will translate into the NFL draft pecking order. However, it does bring up some interesting questions, and the first one would be how could offensive tackle Chuma Edoga be so inconsistent and at times undisciplined during the regular season yet be drafted ahead of the “cover” boys? However, Chuma looked very impressive during the post-season workout circuit/combines and the Senior Bowl, and how could that be? Inquiring minds want to know.

Drafting Chuma Edoga (Jets R-3, 92pk): Hey, look who will be protecting Sam Darnold again in the future, and do ya think that Sam gave the Jets’ brass the thumbs up to draft his former Trojan OL teammate? Nobody ever questioned the physical ability of Edoga, but there were always the questions of dedication to the game and his lack of discipline as in excessive holding and procedure penalties. However, there are rumors that Chuma did not get along with former Trojans’ O-line coach Neil Callaway, and that the former Georgia prep star lost his focus. As stated, Chuma had an impressive Senior Bowl experience, and it really opened eyes of NFL scouts. Now we’ll see if he opens eyes of the New York Jets faithful. We’ll guarantee one thing, if Chuma goes on a “holding” for “false start” spree in the Big Apple, he’d better be wearing earplugs.

Trojans’ offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, drafted in the third round by the New York Jets, will be asked again to protect his former teammate and 2018 No.1 draft pick, QB Sam Darnold.

Drafting CB Iman “Biggie” Marshall (Ravens R-4, 127pk): Biggie was the third Trojan cornerback drafted in the past four years, joining Kevon Seymour (2016) and Adoree’ Jackson (2017).  He is only the second USC player ever drafted by the Ravens, along with RB Javorius Allen (2015). So, welcome, Mr. Marshall, to the birthplace of Babe Ruth, home to gothic poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe, and Ray Lewis physical football. We have said it here that “Biggie” is more a strong safety than a corner. If Marshall goes on to have a good career as a safety, it will certainly make those Trojan fans nod their collective heads that the former LB Poly stud was a strong safety all along. Yes, Iman has improved his play, but how much better would he have been at SC had he been moved to strong safety earlier in his career? The intrigue here is if the Baltimore moves him to strong safety at some point.

Trojans DB Iman Marshall is taking his talents to Baltimore as the Ravens fourth round pick.

Drafting S Marvell Tell lll (Colts R-5, 144 pk): Marvell is the fourth Trojan selected by the Colts since 2010, joining Kevin Thomas (2010), Khaled Holmes (2013) and Zach Banner (2017). When healthy, Marvell has a lot of NFL potential. Some say his senior season didn’t rise to his 2017 performance. The rap is that Tell needs to get stronger. The feeling here is that he will get physically stronger, and it’s only a matter of time. Having played in Indiana against Notre Dame twice, Marvell may find the life style in Indianapolis to seem more like a big city compared to quaint South Bend. Then again, Indianapolis is, well, Indianapolis, although Tell should have connections for Indianapolis 500 race tickets if he isn’t spending the off-season back in L.A.

Former Trojans’ safety Marvell Tell will be making tackles next season for the Indy Colts.

Drafting ILB Cameron Smith (Vikings R-5, 162pk): Cam is the first Trojan drafted by the Vikings since Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison in 2012. Just on shear dedication to the game, Smith should get the benefit of the doubt and apparently the Minnesota Vikings have no doubt. Cam fits into the Vikings’ legacy of hardworking players that play every day like it’s their last. Smith, a Trojans’ 2018 team captain, is tough against the run, but the question is physical ability in pass coverage. Scouts see him as a hard-nosed, two-down linebacker who can make a roster but needs to get better in coverage. However, one word of advice, Cam, make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing, and get used to the locals asking a SoCal guy, “Cold enough for ya?”

Former Trojans’ inside linebacker Cameron Smith will take his physical brand of football to the upper Midwest and next season will play for the Minnesota Vikings,

Free Agents no more: It didn’t take long after the conclusion of Saturday’s draft for former Trojans’ center Toa Lobendahn and guard Chris Brown to sign as free agents with the Jets and Chargers, respectively.

Center Toa Lobendahn has signed as a free agent with the Jets, which mean he, too is back with his former quarterback, Sam Darnold. The Jets seem to becoming USC Trojans East.

The free agents – Part 2: For 2018 media guide cover boys Toa Lobendahn, Porter Gustin, and Ajene Harris, not being chosen in the seven rounds of the draft was a short-term blow to the ego. However, free agency quickly kicked in after the completion of the draft as Lobendahn – as mentioned – was soon signed by the Jets on Saturday afternoon while Ajene Harris let it be known via a tweet Saturday night he was going back to Philadelphia although there no mention of a free agent signing. Tailback Aca’Cedric Ware will give it his best try after being an unsigned but invited participant to the Washington Redskins’ camp. However, no word as of late Saturday night the immediate futures of OLB Porter Gustin, TE Tyler Petite, DL Malik Dorton, OL Jordan Austin, and DB Isaiah Langley. Best of luck to all.

Tailback Aca’Cedric Ware has been invited as a free agent to the Washington Redskins’ camp.

Last man up: For those that follow such things, the last player selected in the 2019 NFL draft was ironically former Trojans’ tight end Caleb Wilson, who finished his playing career at UCLA. It means that Caleb will be honored at a future Newport Beach (Calif.) banquet as Mr. Irrelevant, honoring the last player taken in the draft.

From the press box…

Portal reversal of fortune: Maybe it only seemed that the Trojans were contributing to the controversial NCAA Portal Transfer Program, and it was just a cardinal and gold one-way street. However, on Friday, former Tennessee starting offensive lineman Drew Richmond announced on his social media site that he will be a grad transfer to USC and be eligible immediately. Richmond still has to finish his undergrad UT BA degree, but that shouldn’t have an effect in the final process. The former SEC performer plans to get a master’s degree from Troy in social entrepreneurship. 

A portal transfer – Part 2: Having seen Drew Richmond in person during one of the Trojans’ spring practice sessions, we can personally say he is one huge O-lineman (6-5, 325). However, a bit of caution, the offensive line at Tennessee last season was considered one of the nation’s worst, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Drew, once a highly recruited national prep prospect, won’t be a welcome addition. He adds depth to a position and unit in need. The transfer has not been officially announced by the Trojans’ athletic department.

The Trojans are confident that portal transfer OT Drew Richmond (Tennessee) will challenge for a starting position or add much needed depth to an offensive line that has a lot to prove.

The analyst: Newly named Fox College Pregame Show and former Trojans’ tailback Reggie Bush great gave the Los Angeles Times his first big opinion on Clay Helton’s uncertain future. Bush told the Times, “They have to win the division. This is a put-up-or-shut-up season for them, especially for Clay Helton. I’m looking to see drastic improvements. People have to be held accountable and players have to be held accountable. They have to create an environment there where players really understand the tradition of winning that came before them.” We can all agree with Reggie with that one.

The analyst – Part 2: Bush asked about fellow FOX analyst and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer as a possible Helton replacement, the once Heisman Trophy winner said, “We’ll definitely be recruiting him. What makes you think we won’t be recruiters? Nothing is off the table.” FYI, the “we’ll” Bush is referring to is FOX analyst and former Trojans’ quarterback teammate Matt Leinart.

Urban speaks: Asked about his coaching future, Urban Meyer said, “I believe I’m done, but I’ve also learned to just live in the moment. I love what I’m doing, and I hope I do this for a long time.” And haven’t we heard that before from the coach?

Former Trojan tailback and new FOX college football analyst Reggie Bush says that Clay Helton (above left) has to produce this season and if he doesn’t, he and Matt Leinart, also a FOX college football analyst, will make an effort to recruit FOX analyst colleague Urban Meyer (above right) to be the Trojans’ new head coach. Meyer, however, claims he is done with coaching, Helton and Meyer met in the 2017 Cotton Bowl dominated by Ohio St. 24-7.

Bulldogs update: Fresno State, the Trojans’ opening 2019 game opponent, lost eight of its 11 starters for the 2009 season. Head coach Jeff Tedford said following the Bulldogs spring game that he had not decided on a quarterback but could name one sooner rather than later.

Bulldogs update – Part 2:
Regarding his quarterback situation, Jeff Tedford said, “It’d be good to have someone who can assume that leadership role in workouts and so on and so forth.” Three quarterbacks are looking to replace departed Marcus McMaryion. Those candidates to start against the Trojans are senior Jorge Reyna, who started the spring at the head of a competition with redshirt freshmen Ben Wooldridge and Steven Comstock.

The post-game show…

TMB history: Congratulations to India Anderson who has been selected as the 2019-2020 Trojans Marching Band drum major. She will be the first female drum major for the Spirit of Troy. Check out Dr. Arthur C. Bartner’s announcement:

Trojan legends celebration: We enjoyed our Friday evening by attending the inaugural JuJu Foundation’s “A Tribute to Trojan Football Legends” at the downtown Los Angeles Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The coat and tie gala, presented by former Trojans’ receiving great JuJu Smith-Schuster with proceeds going to JuJu’s foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles, honored former Trojans’ legendary offensive tackle Anthony Munoz and longtime radio voice Pete Arbogast.

Trojan legends celebration – Part 2: One of the “live” auction items up for bid at the JuJu Smith-Schuster banquet was a USC at Notre Gameday Experience in South Bend. Included in the auction package was round trip airfare for two to South Bend, hotel accommodations for four days and three nights in South Bend, and two lower level mid-field tickets to the game. To be honest, we stay in South Bend for two nights (Fri.&Sat.) because the game kickoff is 7:30 p.m. and trying to get back to Chicago deep into the night is just too much. However, four days in South Bend could be a challenge although it sounds like you fly into South Bend Airport on Thursday and depart on Sunday, which isn’t bad at all. However, for those that like to party hardy, most USC fans stay in Chicago for the obvious reasons. If that’s not your thing, the South Bend experience could be a good one. BTW, the starting auction bid for the South Bend experience was $3,500 – just a drop in the bucket, right?

The Hall of Famer: It was great at the Trojan Club of San Diego dinner to be seated at the same table as Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Ron Mix, the Trojans’ former All-World tackle (1957-1958-1959). Ron played professionally with the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Legendary Trojans’ offensive tackle Ron Mix at the Trojans Club of San Diego.

Thank you: A special thank you again to the Trojans Club of San Diego for inviting WeAreSC publisher Erik McKinney and your humble columnist to last Monday night’s annual spring dinner with special guest Graham Harrell, the Trojans first-year offensive coordinator. Erik was the moderator of Coach Harrell, and the coach was his usual entertaining self, and his answers to the audience questions were particularly well received. In case you missed it, here is the two-part WeAreSC podcast of Erik’s interview with Graham and the audience question and answer period. Just click below and enjoy: https://wearesc.com/wearesc-podcast-graham-harrell-qa/

The turnout: There were close to 100 Trojans boosters that were in attendance at the Trojan Club of San Diego dinner, and it was quite touching that the club had a banner made and displayed near the podium in honor of late WeAreSC publisher Garry Paskwietz.

The Hall of Famer – Part 2: Adding to the legend of Ron Mix, Ron is a member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame, was an 8-time All-AFL and 9-time All-NFL star. Born in L.A., Mix grew up in Boyle Heights but ended up attending Hawthorne High School, which is also the home of some rock and roll group of note, or have you not heard of The Beach Boys?

The last word: Here’s the latest real time Coliseum renovation camera view: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation

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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