14 min Read

O/NSO: Opening Day edition

The Obvious: Friday afternoon at 4 pm marks the beginning of the 2019 USC Trojans’ training camp on the hallowed grounds of Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy practice fields, and you can bet this season will have more intrigue, mystery, scrutiny, and potential controversy than has been seen in these cardinal and gold parts in quite some time.

The Not So Obvious: Unless given permission by the USC Athletic Department, the general public – by NCAA edict – won’t be able to view training camp. However, for those lucky stiffs that have some pull, you can bet the following below will take place on the first day of training camp.

* A major discussion amongst the reduced gathering of fans will commence on the southern sidelines as to whether the not-so-flattering Trojans’ preseason rankings are justified or just plain poppycock.

* Onlookers will be impressed that Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton looks refreshed and acts like a coach who is coming off a national championship season rather than a coach who is at the top or near the top of hotseat lists in preseason publications.

All smiles and upbeat, Clay Helton will lead his team to the start of training camp, giving no appearance of a head coach that is on the nation’s No. 1 hot seat.

* Upon entering the practice fields, most eyes will be trained on the quarterback candidates, looking for something that might show that one thrower is ahead of the others. It won’t take long before a fans debate breaks out over who should be the starter against Fresno State. While some will be comparing JT Daniels and Jack Sears, an eavesdropping observer will blurt out, “Don’t count out (Matt) Fink!” Another will say, “Hey, that (Kedon) Slovis kid is one to watch, too!”

JT Daniels will have his starting position challenged in training camp by Jack Sears, Matt Fink, and Kedon Slovis.

* Fans entering Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields will remark how glisteningly pristine the practice fields and grass looks. 

* The media will be doing a roll call of which players don’t show up on Day 1 and will also search like scavenger dogs for celebs and former players on Howard Jones Field.

* In dripping sarcasm and dark humor, media members will discuss Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s brainstorm that some conference games could start this season at 9 am PDT/12 pm EDT to cater to the East Coast viewing audience, evidence that the commish has lost it big time and needs to name a football commissioner to provide some perspective. A veteran scribe will blurt out, “The Pac-12 wants greater exposure and image? Try winning some big games and bowl games!”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has drawn intense criticism for his support of 9 am kickoffs.

* Onlookers will spot Trojans’ athletic director Lynn Swann, and one will sarcastically remark, “So whose job as been cut this week, Swannie?”

* Special attention will be paid to how different this team looks physically after spending the spring and summer implementing strength and conditioning coach Aaron Asmus’s plan and philosophy.

Has first-year strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus really made a significant difference in the Trojans as training camp opens on Friday?

* USC radio voice Pete Arbogast will tell attendees that he has already completed his spotting charts for the Fresno State game and is now working on the Stanford game, which won’t be played until Sept. 7. Arbo will also verbalize his annual, “This team is going to surprise people, me thinks.”

* Regulars of many training camps will pause for a moment of reflection regarding how different the opening day feels without the presence of late WeAreSC publisher Garry Paskwietz, who was a fixture sitting in his traditional viewing area on the south sidelines of Howard Jones Field.

2019 training camp just won’t be the same without the presence of late WeAreSC.com publisher Garry P (above photo on left) sitting in his traditional viewing spot along the south sideline of Howard Jones Field.

* During a water break, a spectator will turn to his right and ask a fellow onlooker, “Given your choice, would you rather open the season against Alabama on a neutral site or open with UC Davis in the Coliseum?”

* Fans will again begin debating whether offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will actually be calling the plays from start to finish the finish of the 2019 season or will Harrell succumb to Clay Helton “suggestions.”

Will offensive coordinator Graham Harrell have complete control of the Trojans’ offensive play calling the entire season?

* Some fans will begin grumbling regarding their Coliseum seating relocations while others will rave that they couldn’t be happier with their new viewing vantage point.

* Fans will get into a healthy exchange whether former Trojans’ All-America tailback Reggie Bush should be allowed to attend practice.

* Fans will discuss the state of the offensive line and how much the addition of a new center like Brett Neilon will have both in snapping the ball cleanly back to the QB and offensive line production.  

Can sophomore center Brett Neilon maintain his spot as the No. 1 center in training camp and make a major difference along the offensive line?

* All eyes will be on the Trojans offensive line to check the progress of NCAA Portal Transfer tackle Drew Richmond, who was a multi-year starter at Tennessee.

* Some fans will exchange comparisons of present players to other eras, and there will be consensus – for the moment – that sophomore linebacker Palaie Gaoteote could be the second coming of Junior Seau.

* All eyes will be on true freshman tailback Kenan Christon and marvel over the kid’s speed, which should come as no surprise considering he was the fastest athlete in the California prep ranks last season. 

Onlookers of training camp will be blown away by the top-end speed of true freshman tailback Kenan Christon, who is also adept as a pass receiver coming out of the backfield.

* Veteran observers will start a serious conversation asking if Clay Helton doesn’t survive the season, whether the Trojans would really go after former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer?

* The excitement of the first day of training camp will be tempered with the reality that the players are not wearing full pads.

* No new Trojans assistant will draw more interest amongst the masses than first-year defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a. On a side note, there will be various attempts to pronounce the coach’s last name, and finally somebody will say to just refer to him as “Coach K.” Here’s a little O/NSO cheat sheet hint on pronouncing the last name of the coach: cow-HA-ah-HA-ah.

No doubt a training camp debate will be how to pronounce the last name of first-year D-line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a

* All eyes will be trained on true freshman defensive lineman Drake Jackson, who looked so effective during spring ball that the former Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS All-America may turn out to be the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year .

* During a water break, a debate will break out asking this question: Should the Trojans break tradition and put their names on the back of jerseys?

* There will be an attempt to question – yet again – whether anticipated senior starting middle linebacker John Houston is big enough weight wise to withstand the weekly pounding of the middle.

Questions still linger regarding talented senior inside linebacker John Houston (No. 10) on whether he can handle physically an entire season playing inside.

* A topic of conversation will break out with: Are you more concerned with the Trojans’ offensive line or are you more concerned about the Trojans’ secondary?

* Somebody will see Trojans’ true freshman wide receiver John Jackson lll and wonder aloud how his dad, “JJ”, is doing while recovering from a significant stroke.  

Training camp will provide true freshman wide receiver John Jackson III (No. 87) to continue showcase his talents to the point that he can be in the mix for playing time in 2019.

* A fan will inquire if anybody has some sun screen.

* A fan will turn to another fan and say, “I am going to miss Salute to Troy, loved the BBQ buffet,” while the other fan will say, “It was getting too expensive, and it was never as good after the departure of Pete Carroll.”

Salute to Troy was never the same after Pete Carroll returned to the NFL

* Eyes will turn to the Trojans’ secondary workouts, hoping to get a glimpse of the potential starters. Fans will discuss that one of the biggest improvements to the Trojans’ coaching staff was the hiring of first-year secondary coach Greg Burns.

* There will be Oohh’s and aahh’s when punter Ben Griffiths knocks the pigskin into orbit.

Australian Ben Griffiths is expected to continue his booming punts during training camp

* Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will move around his units in a very unassuming and low-key way.

* In an informal survey amongst fans, the Notre Dame Weekender will come up and fans will exchange where they are staying, how much was their airfare, and whether to drive, take a rooters bus, or a train to South Bend for the game. 

* Although they knew it before hand, fans will just shake their heads over the amount of Trojans’ talent at wide receiver, and eyes will be trained on USC-to-Texas- back-to-USC NCAA Portal Transfer Bru McCoy, the National Prep Offensive Player of the Year out of 2018 national champion Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei HS.  

Although his first-year of eligibility is still in question, training camp will provide coaches a chance to watch Bru McCoy display his talent.

* For astute fans, they’ll turn their attention to the placekicking competition between junior Michael Brown and sophomore Chase McGrath, who didn’t play last season after recovering from knee surgery. An attempt at humor will be made when one of the old farts says, “I wonder who has a leg up on the competition?”

* A veteran onlooker will say that sophomore wide receiver Devon Williams reminds him of former Trojans’ All-American receiver Mike Williams.

WR Devon Williams is being compared to former Trojans All-America Mike Williams.

* A cluster of fans will discuss whether they renewed their season tickets. Some will say going the StubHub route is less expensive. One annoyed fan will comment, “I dropped my season tickets after 23 years because last season I couldn’t give them away, and I have no idea how this season will turnout.”     

* During a water break, the media will check to see who is on the trainer’s table.

The Obvious: And finally, practice will be fast paced and everybody – players and fans – will be in agreement as the final horn sounds that they want the first practice to last longer.

The Not So Obvious: And as the old saying goes, “Leave them wanting more.”

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.

More Articles By Greg