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O/NSO: Early positives from the early signing period edition

The Obvious: The Trojans’ early signing period is now completed, and the analysis certainly has drawn a plethora of varied opinions, many lamenting that at the midway point of the recruiting season, the results aren’t yet at the satisfaction level of most USC recruiting aficionadosbut could improve noticeably during the “traditional” February signing day.

The Not So Obvious: Because the recruiting bar for USC is so justifiably high, conclusions are the Class of 2019 has been perceived as a potential bummer. That being said, the truth is that a select group of players the Trojans signed this week are very good, perhaps even outstanding, but there are some significant question marks. So, with this in mind, the O/NSO has reviewed this early signing class and looked for positives where some would point to negatives. Here’s looking at the glass half full with a handful of players being “first” in Trojans’ recruiting history.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DB Briton Allen (6-0,185/ Orlando, FL/IMG Academy).

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have a good track record with players whose last name is Allen, or haven’t you heard of Buck Allen or some guy named Marcus Allen, who also entered USC as a safety. Can Briton play running back?

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DL Dejon Benton (6-3, 285/ Oakland, CA /Pittsburg).

The Not So Obvious: Say, in its glorious history, the USC football program has never had a player with the last name of Benton. However, after deeper investigation, there’s no truth to the rumor the mustard served in the Coliseum is Dejon. Oh, you say it’s spelled Dijon. Ah, that could be a problem. Maybe Benton’s nickname on the team will be “Mustard.”

The Obvious: The Trojans signed RB Kenan Christon (5-10, 185/ San Diego, CA/Madison).

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have been looking for another speed tailback like former great Ronald Jones Jr. It might take a miracle to find another, but when the first six letters of your last name are C-h-r-i-s-t, one should expect some divine intervention when you have just one safety to beat.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DB Trey Davis (6-0, 185/ Federal Way, WA/Federal Way/ photo above).

The Not So Obvious: Now here’s a player that has a Trojan legacy already built in. Prior to his arrival, there have been 18 previous Trojan football players with the last name of Davis, and two were named Joe Davis.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DL Nick Figueroa (6-5, 275/ San Bernardino, CA Cajon/Cal Poly/Riverside CC).

The Not So Obvious: How can this kid not be a star? After all, when your last name is the same as the famous street that runs parallel to both the University and the Coliseum, you gotta be a player, right? Of course, it would help if the Trojans would go out and sign a player with the last name of Exposition. Imagine two starting defensive ends named Figueroa and Exposition.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed LB Ralen Goforth (6-2, 225/ Long Beach, CA/St. John Bosco).

The Not So Obvious: A no-brainer here. The kid’s brother, Randall, played safety at UCLA, so you know the Trojans must be getting the better of the two. After all, we all know that linebackers are tougher than safeties, right?

The Obvious: The Trojans signed punter Ben Griffiths (6-5, 230/Melbourne,Australia/Richmond Tigers).

The Not So Obvious: The first thing the O/NSO did upon learning that Ben had officially been put into the Class of 2019 was play “Down Under” by Men at Work. Next, I immediately went to have dinner at Outback Steakhouse – the Australian themed eatery. Upon waiting for my order from the “barbie” was the thought that the Trojans, to the best of our knowledge, have never had a 27-year-old punter. Lastly, how would I begin a conversation with Ben, “What’s up mate?” or “What’s happening, bloke?”

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DL/OLB Drake Jackson (6-4, 260/Corona, CA/Centennial).

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have had a nice history of defensive linemen named Jackson, or have you already forgotten DE Lawrence Jackson and his brother Malik? Yeah, we know, Malik transferred out and made a name for himself at Tennessee, but we’re trying to turn negatives into positives.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed OL Tilini Livai (6-3, 300/ Torrance, CA/Narbonne).

The Not So Obvious: You have to like a kid that transfers from the Big Island of Hawaii to get bigger exposure in Los Angeles. And it worked! Tilini was named the Los Angeles Times All-City Offensive Lineman of the Year. Guess the bad news, however, is that his Narbonne teammates Jonah Tauanu’u, a major Trojans offensive line recruit and Los Angeles Times City Section Player of the Year, signed with Oregon.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed WR Drake London (6-5, 205/ Moorpark, CA/Moorpark).

The Not So Obvious: When the O/NSO thinks of a player who has a name like Drake, we – because of our age – immediately think of a former USC wide receiver named Ron Drake, who played on the 1967 national champions. If this Drake is as good as the 1967 Drake, the Trojans will have a good one. BTW, the Trojans have never had a player whose last name is London. Go make your mark, kid. No, we didn’t forget offensive line road grader John Drake. And how many teams like the 2019 Trojans will have two players with the first name of Drake?

The Obvious: The Trojans signed WR Munir McClain (6-4, 210/ San Juan Capistrano, CA/ JSerra Catholic).

The Not So Obvious: This kid has to be good as well as tough considering he had 40 receptions for 659 yards (16.5 avg.) with 10 TDs in 2018 after missed the first half of the season while recovering from a 2017 knee injury.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed OL/DL Gino Quinones (6-3, 280/ Ewa Beach, HI/Saint Louis).

The Not So Obvious: This kid has already made history without ever stepping onto Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field. There has NEVER been a Trojan letterman whose last name starts with the letter “Q.” Admit it, you didn’t know that. Now go stump your friends.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed TE Ethan Rae (6-5, 240/ Anaheim Hills, CA/ Orange Lutheran).

The Not So Obvious: Did you know that Ethan will be the second Rae ever to play for the USC Trojans? The first one? Well, quite an honor because the first one was Mike Rae, the starting quarterback on the 1972 National Champions under legendary coach John McKay. Mike Rae was a tremendous quarterback, and if Ethan athletically is as good as Mike, the Trojans have something here.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed OL Jason Rodriguez (6-6, 325/Oak Hills, CA/ Oak Hills).

The Not So Obvious: They say that Jason is one tough cookie. Well, he’d better be because one of USC’s most physical linebackers in Trojans lore was Ray Rodriguez, who played on back-to-back Trojans conference champions (1972-63). The Rodriguez legacy of toughness lives on!

The Obvious: The Trojans signed QB Kedon Slovis (6-2, 185/Scottsdale, AZ/ Desert Mountain).

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO knows what you’re thinking: Who the heck is Kedon Slovis? Well, his high school quarterback coach thought he was pretty darn good and vastly underrated. The coach? Perhaps you’ve heard of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner?

The Obvious: The Trojans signed ILB Stanley Ta’ufo’ou (6-3, 255/ Simi Valley, CA/Grace Brethren).

The Not So Obvious: Stanley’s last name is pronounced “tau-FOE-oh.” Just what until he’s paired at inside linebacker with Palaie Gaoteote. You think some ESPN broadcasters will be on pronunciation suicide watch?

The Obvious: The Trojans signed LB Maninoa Tufono (6-3, 235/ Halawa, HI/Punahou).

The Not So Obvious: Okay, let’s throw in Maninoa Tufono at linebacker along with Stanley Ta’ufo’ou and Palaie Gaoteote on a national telecast. The O/NSO likes this possibility because when you have three linebackers with names like these three studs, intimidation comes to mind.

The Obvious: The Trojans signed DB Max Williams (5-9, 175/ Carson, CA/Serra).

The Not So Obvious: And you thought that 18 former SC players with the last name of Davis was overwhelming? Well, Max joins 19 other former Trojans with the last name of Williams. And for the record, there have been three Williams that became All-Americans at Troy (RB Don Williams – 1928, WR Mike Williams -2003, and DL Leonard Williams – 2013-14).

The Obvious: And finally, the Trojans signed TE Jude Wolfe (6-5, 250/ Laguna Hills, CA/ St. John Bosco).

The Not So Obvious: Well, if Jude isn’t named after the Beatles famous song, Hey Jude, there should be a congressional investigation, so help me Paul McCartney. Can you imagine if the Trojan’s tight coach yells out “Hey Jude” and the rest of the team starts singing “Nah, nah, nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey Jude.”

Greg Katz
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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