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O/NSO: Salute to Troy and Scrimmage No. 2 edition

The Obvious: It’s a huge football weekend on the campus of the University of Southern California, as critical Scrimmage No. 2 takes place on Saturday morning only to be preceded on Friday night by the resounding gala known as Salute to Troy.

The Not So Obvious: While the Trojans second scrimmage is closed to the general public, Salute to Troy, which takes place (6 p.m.) on Cromwell Field inside Loker Track Stadium, is an open pay event that brings together the spirit and pageantry of USC football, which includes fans-to-player interaction, photo opportunities with Traveler, the famed USC Song Girls, and selfie and autograph opportunities with the 2018 team. And the “pregame” buffet dinner ain’t bad either. If you’re a big fan of the Cardinal and Gold, it’s the perfect way to “kick off” the season.

The Obvious: Tyler Petite is a senior tight end for the Trojans, and he knows the value of the Salute to Troy experience.

The Not So Obvious: Regarding Friday night’s Salute to Troy, Tyler said, “I think it’s really a chance to finally interact with the fans after we put in so much hard work. We kind of go into hibernation in the summer normally, nobody sees or hears much, and then we’re going through fall camp. This allows everybody to see us in our form like ready for game one. It’s a chance to interact with the fans and have them see what we look like. As for me, even as a high school kid, I remember looking up at the varsity kids, and being a college athlete, I can only imagine what it means to kids, so that’s why we’re always trying to sign autographs for the little ones just because we were all in their shoes at one point. It’s really cool to see.”

The Obvious: Besides introducing the 2018 Trojans team, Salute to Troy will recognize the 1968 Pac-8 Conference champion Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: The 1968 Trojans (9-1-1) were led by Heisman Trophy winning TB O.J. Simpson, QB Steve Sogge, TE Bob Klein, OT Sid Smith, OG Fred Khasigian, and DE Jimmy Gunn. FYI, Simpson and Sogge were team captains.

The Obvious: Beside the continuation of the quarterback competition, Scrimmage No. 2 on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields should give the tight ends a chance to show their value as it pertains to offensive production.

The Obvious: Asked about this season’s tight ends and how training camp has been going, Tyler Petite told the O/NSO, “Everything is awesome, we have a lot of experience. There are a lot of other position groups that have a lot of young guys, but we kind of got thrown into the fire a little (last season). We have Josh (Falo) and Eric (Krommenhoek) who had to play a bunch as freshmen, and then you have me and Daniel (Imatorbhebhe) coming back, and Austin Applebee who has playing his butt off, so we have a really experienced group, guys that know what to do and are ready to play hard.”

The Obvious: Saturday’s Scrimmage No. 2 may decide the starting quarterback for the season opener against UNLV on Sept. 1 in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious: Looking at the quarterback competition heading into Scrimmage No. 2, tight end Tyler Petite says, “It’s been great just looking at the amount of progress of Matt Fink and Jack Sears since they’ve gotten here. You look at those guys and it’s just crazy how much they’ve improved. J.T. (Daniels) looks great. He’s a guy that doesn’t look like a freshman. I think that’s really important. He’s a guy that grows and isn’t afraid to do so.”

The Obvious: There’s a growing sense that should J.T. Daniel reproduce in Scrimmage No. 2 his jaw-dropping accomplishments from scrimmage No. 1, head coach Clay Helton may be inclined to name his opening game signal caller next week.

The Not So Obvious: In assessing J.T. Daniels and his football maturity and confidence for his young age, Tyler Petite said, “He’s been doing a great job, especially for a freshman. He could use a little work in the huddle, but we have to keep in mind that he’s still a freshman. That’s why he’s getting so many reps. It’s what the reps do in giving him that experience, and this is how I need to be when I am communicating with the offensive line and stuff like that.”  

The Obvious: Scrimmage No. 2 will again focus on physical pass protection from the offensive line, a lesson this unit painfully learned against Ohio State’s defense in the Cotton Bowl loss.

The Not So Obvious: Asked about the progress and attitude of the O-line leading up to Scrimmage No. 2, senior center Toa Lobendahn said,There were problems last scrimmage on the edges with protection at least at the beginning. After that, we picked it up. I think we always have had a chip on our shoulders from the Cotton Bowl. I think our progress is that we have brought back a lot of veteran guys. We worked all off-season and the summer. It’s just that we need to wipe that off (the Cotton Bowl). We have to come out and enforce the run. I think that by running the ball we can make things a lot easier.”

The Obvious: There has been concern throughout training camp regarding the center snaps and consistently getting the ball back to the quarterback.

The Not So Obvious: Much of the center snap focus has been on senior starter Toa Lobendahn, who is adjusting to center after playing tackle. Asked about the current center snap issue, Lobendahn said,It’s coming along a lot better. We’ve changed a few things up. It’s a lot different out here (training camp) than when were out here for PRPs (player run practices). Here we’re getting live periods, so we’re getting a different feel. (I) just needed to switch a few things up, and the coaches have been helping me tremendously, so they’ve been better.”

The Obvious: Some wonder if the quarterback competition has been a distraction for the offensive line.

The Not So Obvious: Asked if the QB competition has been unsettling for the O-line, Toa Lobendahn said,No, I think we’re fine. Whoever is back there, they’re leading us pretty good, so it’s not a distraction. Obviously, we want to know who it is at the end of the day.”

The Obvious: In last week’s first scrimmage, Trojan quarterbacks were sacked nine times.

The Not So Obvious: One of the key areas of scrutiny for Scrimmage No. 2 will be how well the offensive line protects the quarterbacks and how well the quarterbacks get the ball off quickly. Trojans’ quarterback coach Bryan Ellis says, “There were probably one or two (sacks) where we got physically beat (up front). The other ones were on the quarterback. That’s on us and we’ll get it corrected. You go in there (on Saturday) and make calls for what each guy does well. We have a motto that says don’t make a bad play worse. Eat the ball or throw it away.” We’ll see on Saturday if the sacking issue has been corrected.

The Obvious: Senior Marvell Tell lll is a returning All-Pac-12 safety.

The Not So Obvious: Asked about the point of emphasis for his secondary in Scrimmage No. 2, Tell said, “We need to go out there and dominate and focus in on our training and do what we do in our individual drills. Do what we’ve been taught in the film room and apply it to the field.”

The Obvious: Much of the attention in the Trojans’ secondary has been the competition for the safety position opposite Marvell Tell lll.

The Not So Obvious: Asked about the safety competition in training camp opposite himself, Tell said, “It’s been great having everybody compete, I am a competitor myself. I am a big believer in competition and let the best man win.”

The Obvious: The Trojans’ secondary might be the best collection of athletes on the team.

The Not So Obvious: When giving his assessment of the potential of the secondary, Marvell Tell lll said, “Man, I think the sky is the limit. We’re all very athletic all across the board. We’ve got depth and we’re hungry and have the mindset that we’re here to compete every day. We want to be the best.”

The Obvious: One of the most versatile and important members of the Trojans’ defense is junior linebacker Jordan Iosefa.

The Not So Obvious: Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has had nothing but praise for Iosefa, and it’s not a matter if the Hawaiian starts but where he starts. Pendergast says, “He knows the defense as well as anybody in the whole crew. He gives us a lot of flexibility from a depth standpoint. When we open up against UNLV, he’ll be one of our 11 starters somewhere. I just don’t know exactly where.”

The Obvious: One of the pleasant surprises during training camp is the continued progress by redshirt freshman corner Greg Johnson, who has been lining up lately with the first unit.

The Not So Obvious: According to defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, “Greg has really shown some flashes.”

The Obvious: And finally, there is always pressure on coaches to make sure their players are doing what they are supposed to do in games.  

The Not So Obvious: In directing his quarterbacks and making the correct offensive play calls, QB coach Bryan Ellis says, “You want to make the right calls and as a coach you get the red ass all day if you don’t move the ball.” Ouch!

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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