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IMHO Sunday: Victory lap

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

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

Men of the hour: Steve Sarkisian and his staff deserve all the recruiting flowers and bouquets for their fantastic accomplishments in securing the class of 2015, which has been ranked No. 3 by ESPN and No. 1 from various other services. Now all Sark and his staff need to do is translate the talent into wins, so help me Pat Haden.

CFP recruiting playoff: If the 2015 College Football Playoff had a Final Four in recruiting, according to ESPN’s final rankings, the seeds would be No. 1 Alabama vs No. 4 Clemson and No. 2 Florida State vs No. 3 USC.

For the record: Four Trojans were named to the prestigious 2015 Parade All-America first team. The chosen four include offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, linebackers Porter Gustin and John Houston Jr., and corner Iman Marshall.

Still impressive: Before the days scouting services, the Parade All-America team was considered a high school player’s highest post-season honor. It’s still an honor today. The fact that three members of the first-team defensive team are Trojans is quite a coup.

One that got away: Well, Stanford-bound wide receiver Trent Irwin (Newhall, Calif./Hart), a Parade All-America, didn’t exactly get away because the Trojans elected not to pursue him, but it says here that he was certainly good enough to play at Troy, so help me Bobby Chandler. And if you don’t know who Bobby Chandler is, you need to do some Trojans history homework.

IMHO: There have been so many great USC recruiting classes over the decades that it would be a disservice to declare 2015 the best ever. However, on paper, it’s obviously an extremely talented group. Is it the best ever in Trojans lore? In my 53 years of watching or covering USC football recruiting, I am not prepared to say that this class is the all-time best, but time will eventually tell on the field and in future NFL drafts.

Judgment call: Let’s not forget that even as great a recruiter as Pete Carroll didn’t get every player he pursued; however, Carroll’s 2003 recruiting class that featured the likes of All-Americans Reggie Bush, Sam Baker, Ryan Kalil, Steve Smith, and Sedrick Ellis is probably the modern day benchmark for all current and future USC coaches. Yes, and there a number of others in that class that made their presence felt, so help me LenDale White, Lawrence Jackson, and Terrell Thomas.

Roommates: After his announcement, Porter Gustin said that he and fellow Trojan commitment Osa Masina were roommates during the U.S. Army All-America Game in San Antonio. Porter, who is also a standout baseball prospect, said that having Masina as a roommate wasn’t a factor in his decision, but you can bet it sure didn’t hurt. It will be interesting to see if they are roommates when the Trojans open camp in early August.

A nice surprise: So, how many of you were mildly surprised that Utah linebacker Porter Gustin still signed with the Trojans after visiting Ohio State last weekend? It was said here that once the Buckeyes came calling with Urban Meyer (former head coach at Utah) all bets were off. According to Gustin’s dad, Ohio State and Meyer were very impressive, but apparently not impressive enough based on the Wednesday’s signing day.

Internet tension: Early in the week, there was some speculation that Long Beach Poly corner Iman “Biggie” Marshall might not be headed for Troy. In checking with a reliable source, I was told that Marshall going somewhere other than USC was “a biggie lie,” a cute response and not a personal reference not to the Trojans highly touted corner.

Calm before the storm: With the Trojans and Alabama nearly unanimous being ranked as having the top two recruiting classes in the country for 2015, that 2016 season opener in Dallas between these two storied programs just became a hotter ticket…if that’s possible.

The deadline: We’ll see how much a factor Wednesday’s signing day success has in motivating Trojans fans to renew their season tickets with the late February deadline. The Trojans ticket department thinks so, as they sent out an immediate marketing email pumping the Trojans recruiting success and urging USC fans to renew their season tickets.

Pac-12 power: As great a recruiting class as the Trojans had, a number of Conference competitors also had very impressive recruiting talent. Off the cuff, UCLA, ASU, Stanford, and Oregon really helped themselves and took a backseat to nobody.

And now from the press box…

No fooling: Okay and now that the dust has settled, let me chime in with the Pete Carroll call in the Super Bowl. Yes, it was the worst call I’ve ever seen for a Super Bowl and I’ve seen every Super Bowl. Ask yourself this question: What would John McKay have done?

Make no mistake about it, Pete Carroll is a great coach and has proven it at both the college and professional level. What makes Carroll great isn’t that he has a wonderful defensive mind. I don’t think Pete will be ever confused as an offensive genius along the likes of Tom Landry, Hank Stram, or Bill Walsh. However, what takes Carroll to the top shelf is that he is a fantastic leader and that can overcome other limitations.

IMHO – Part 2: Carroll wouldn’t be the first coach to play defense on himself as it pertains to a pass at the 1-yard line. Trojans fans can attest to first-hand knowledge with some of Carroll’s underlings. What was mindboggling other that the fact the ball should have obviously been given to Marshawn Lynch was that if you were going to pass, why would you not throw at least a fade or have Russell Wilson have the option of pass or run. We can all agree on that.

The explanation: In talking to NBC’s Matt Lauer, Pete Carroll told the Today Show host that the infamous play-call on the end of the Super Bowl is the right call just not the right result. In the immortal words of former President Bill Clinton, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Trojans nightmare revisited: Seattle’s Russell Wilson’s interception at the New England goal line reminded some Trojans fans of the goal line interception thrown by former quarterback Rob Johnson against UCLA in 1993. The Trojans, coached by John Robinson, drove to the UCLA three-yard line with 1:16 remaining and UCLA up 22-16. After trying to consecutive runs, Johnson rolled to his right and threw the pigskin into a crowd, and Bruins DB Marvin Goodwin picked it off. Painfully, the game was for the Rose Bowl bid and the Trojans fell short.

The post-game show…

Spring ball: It was announced at the conclusion of Steve Sarkisian’s recruiting press conference that spring practice would commence on March 3 and run through April 11. And the bonus treat for the 15 days of spring practice? Practices on Tuesday and Thursday would be at 4 p.m. and the Saturday practices at 11 a.m. Yes, the public is invited.

Spring game: In case you haven’t heard, the spring game will be Saturday, April 11, at 3 p.m. in the Coliseum and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

Pro day: The annual USC Pro Day will be held Wednesday, March 11, on campus. The intriguing aspect of Pro Day is learning of the true heights, weights, and 40 times as measured by the NFL scouts. The bench press is especially revealing because some reputed strongmen don’t always impress and some of the lesser-knowns actually surprise.

Pro day – Part 2: Another interesting aspect to the “tryout” day is just how many free agent Trojans players from the past are still chasing the NFL dream.

Early signing period: There are a number of reasons why an early signing period is not a good idea. For a college head coach, if a player signs early, he will be locked into that program, so if a college coach finds somebody better or wants to “blue or grey” shirt a player, it could get ugly.

Early signing period – Part 2: An early signing period for players could boomerang if a college head coach or the position coach is fired or leaves at the end of the season.

All-State: The following incoming Trojans from the class of 2015 were named to the overall 36th annual Cal High All-State first-team: TE Tyler Petite (Campolindo, Moraga), C Cole Smith (Mission Viejo), DL Rasheem Green (Serra, Gardena), LB John Houston (Serra, Gardena), LB Cameron Smith (Granite Bay), DB Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly), and first-team All-Purpose selection WR/KR/DB Ykili Ross (Poly, Riverside).

Frankly Franklin: Former Trojans defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who was the DL coach with the Miami Hurricanes, has taken a similar position with the Oakland Raiders, now under the leadership of former Trojans All-America linebacker Jack Del Rio.

The final word: I should have known better, but I, too, got caught up in some recruiting Internet rumors that had Utah linebacker Porter Gustin headed for Ohio State. Never again…until next signing period.

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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