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O/NSO: No surrender edition

The Obvious: Returning to the renovating Coliseum for the second time within a week, the USC Trojans will conduct the first of three critical scrimmages on Saturday afternoon with so much at stake – especially for the three competing quarterback candidates – all of whom show no signs of surrender, capitulation, or succumbing to the pressure of the moment.

The Not So Obvious: Saturday’s scrimmage – closed to the public – will be high drama, as the three Trojan quarterbacks hope to show what they can do under Clay Helton’s “live bullets” for what the coach is calling a half of game-like football. Thus far, sophomore Matt Fink and redshirt freshman Jack Sears (photos above) have rejected the idea that this is true freshman QB JT Daniels job to lose. Whatever the coaching staff thinks in its private thoughts and meetings, Fink and Sears have upped their games to the point that at this stage of the competition it’s appears to be an even playing field. Honestly, the training camp Fink and Sears do not resemble the spring practice Fink and Sears – at least up to this point.

The Obvious: There is the school of thought that if the Trojans are really going to place heavy emphasis on running the ball, Matt Fink and Jack Sears, two standout runners, are best equipped to direct the offense.

The Not So Obvious: However, if you think that all JT Daniels can do is just pass, you’d be misguided on that account. JT has shown glimpses of being able to run the ball and do so with some wiggle, burst, and guile. It’s entirely possible or even probable that during Saturday’s scrimmage that Daniels will bolt out of the pocket and surprise the naysayers. Keep an eye on the final rushing yardage of the quarterbacks at the conclusion of Saturday’s competition.

The Obvious: Trojans’ senior All-America linebacker candidate Porter Gustin suffered a minor left knee meniscus injury during Tuesday’s practice, and after surgery will be lost anywhere from two to five weeks, so obviously he will not participate in Saturday’s festivities.

The Not So Obvious: Well, it could have been worse – much worse. If all Porter misses is the UNLV game or at worst up through Texas, there’s still much of the season to be played, especially in Pac-12 play and that critical game at Utah, his home state.

The Obvious: Porter Gustin has a history of injury misfortune, having suffered through toe and bicep issues last season that washed away most of 2017.

The Not So Obvious: Porter is a perfect example of the old saying, “If he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.” You’d have to say, if he’s going to be injured yet again, do it in the early days of training camp, which gives hope for the rest of the season.

The Obvious: The Trojans were in full football uniform on Wednesday and did some structured scrimmaging.

The Not So Obvious: Taking in Wednesday’s “live contact” hitting, the O/NSO thought none of the quarterbacks separated themselves, but the big news was that sophomore running back Stephen Carr looked 100 percent healthy and ready to have a big season. The same was true of other tailbacks Aca’Cedric Ware, Vavae Malepeai, and Markese Stepp. Malepeai and Stepp had some selected eyebrow raising runs with freshman Stepp showing power, toughness, and surprising speed while Malepeai displayed a wicked change of direction on one jaunt.

The Obvious: Trojans’ freshman quarterback JT Daniels was named the 2018 Gatorade High School Male Athlete of the year.

The Not So Obvious: The first Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year? Some 2013 prep basketball player by the name of LeBron James.

The Obvious: Football video games – like Madden – bring to life a gridiron junkie’s dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.

The Not So Obvious: From the Sports Illustrated piece highlighting 2018 Gatorade National Player of the Year JT Daniels, the magazine wrote, “According to Daniels family lore, after JT heard a TV analyst explain that a quarterback can detect man or zone coverage by sending a receiver in motion, he began doing that before every snap while playing Madden. He was in first grade.”

The Obvious: Bruce Rollinson is the legendary head coach of the Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater High Monarchs.

The Not So Obvious: From the Sports Illustrated feature highlighting 2018 Gatorade National Player of the Year JT Daniels, Rollinson said, “You’ve got study-smart kids who’ve got great GPAs. Then you got football-smart kids. He (Daniels) was both.”

The Obvious: In recent USC tailback times, two hardworking tailbacks – Justin Davis and Buck Allen – symbolized the Trojan characteristics of a USC running back.

The Not So Obvious: Well, it appears that following the same path as Davis and Allen is current senior tailback Aca’Cedric Ware, who has quietly improved his game each year and has a chance to really show the collegiate nation and NFL scouts that he is a legit prospect to get to the next level. Once considered the “other” recruited tailback from Texas, “Ced” no longer has to contend with his role as backup to former all-star Ronald Jones ll, who has taken his game to the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sure, many eyes are looking at sophomore Stephen Carr this season as the main man carrying the rock, but insiders and the O/NSO will tell you that Mr. Ware will give a great account of himself in the upcoming season.

The Obvious: The Trojans learned this week that sophomore JC offensive tackle Bernard Schirmer (6-6, 290) has become eligible for this season and will have three years of eligibility.

The Not So Obvious: Schirmer, who was once a Utah commit and has been seen at recent Trojan training camp practices, was in the news during his JC career at Mount San Antonio (Walnut, Calif.) when he appeared to punch a referee. The question was whether it was intentional or just wrong place at the wrong time? Clay Helton said that Bernard has been completely vetted by the university and is totally comfortable with the findings. Schirmer attended Lakewood (Calif.) High. One favorable factor for the Trojans to take Schirmer was Bernard’s sister, Brooklyn, who is on the Trojans’ women’s volleyball team.

The Obvious: The Trojans received a verbal commitment from linebacker Maninoa Tufono (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School), a 6-3, 225-pound stud, and coach Johnny Nansen strikes again!

The Not So Obvious: In an era of video commitment announcements, here’s a moving docudrama for Maninoa’s verbal for the Class of 2019. https://twitter.com/maninoa_tufono/status/1026544346546360320?s=19

The Obvious: The Trojans received a 2020 verbal from four-star WR Koy Moore (Metairie, LA/Rummel), a 6-1, 170-pounder.

The Not So Obvious: Although a lot can go down from his junior season to his senior season, what makes the Moore verbal sound more solid than most is that in his announcement he paid tribute to late Trojans’ running back Joe McKnight. Koy wants to continue what legacy Joe left at Troy. In Moore’s video, he’s wearing a No. 4 home Trojan jersey, which was the number McKnight donned at Troy. Some say Koy is as high as the No. 2 recruit for 2020 in Louisiana.

The Obvious: ESPN.com has released its Top 50 college football players for the upcoming season.

The Not So Obvious: There were no Trojans selected. However, the Pac-12 was represented by the like of Stanford TB Bryce Love (No. 2), Oregon QB Justin Herbert (No. 14), Washington QB Jake Browning (No.15), Arizona QB Khalil Tate (No. 19), and Washington RB Myles Gaskin (No. 28). FYI, one-time Trojans QB recruit David Sills is listed at No. 18 as a wide receiver for West Virginia.

The Obvious: And finally, Clay Helton announced this week that former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo has joined his program as a defensive consultant.

The Not So Obvious: Helton called Campo was of the great defensive coaches in the game and one of the better DB coaches in the history of the game. The Trojans’ head coach added he liked the idea of a coach that can be another set of eyes for his coaches, although Campo is not allowed to coach players. As an added note, Helton said that Trojans’ defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast considers Campo his mentor.

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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