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O/NSO: Training camp tidbits edition

The Obvious: Each USC football season, you can never get enough inside information regarding the men wearing the cardinal and gold and items on the historical periphery.

The Not So Obvious: Information comes in many forms, and one of the bigger eyebrow raisers is the enchanting word – tidbits. So, for your enjoyment and with just one week remaining until training camp, here are some interesting “tidbits” regarding the 2019 Trojans and those affiliated items that relate to USC football.

The Obvious: The Trojans are coming off a 5-7 season and no bowl game.

The Not So Obvious: Losing seasons don’t happen often at Troy (only 13 times in the modern era), but when they do the Trojans have a history of answering with a winning season the following year. For instance, the last four times the Men of Troy were coming off a losing season (1961-83-91-2000), they played in a bowl the following year, including winning a pair of Rose Bowls and a national championship.

The Obvious: Every USC team has an oldest and youngest player on its roster.

The Not So Obvious: On the Trojans’ 2019 roster, P Ben Griffiths is USC’s oldest player (27, born Sept. 17, 1991), one of the oldest Trojan football players ever. True freshman WR Drake London is USC’s youngest player (18, born July 24, 2001).

True freshman wide receiver Drake London will be the youngest player on the 2019 Trojans roster.

The Obvious: It is not unusual for athletes to take a dance class to improve their mobility.

The Not So Obvious: Junior WR Tyler Vaughns credits a ballet class he took in high school (Bishop Amat HS) with helping him with his pass catching ability.

The Obvious: It is not unusual for USC football players to have been multi-sport athletes in high school.

The Not So Obvious: However, it is unusual when those athletes continue to be multi-sports athletes in college. It should be noted that true freshmen WR Drake London (basketball), WR John Jackson III (baseball) and TB Kenan Christon (track) might join USC teams in those sports once football season concludes.

Although he was a mild surprise with ability as a wide receiver in the spring, John Jackson III is considered by some to be an even better baseball prospect, a sport he might continue at Troy when football season is over.

The Obvious: Quarterbacks are considered team leaders.

The Not So Obvious: There are five former Texas high school quarterbacks on USC’s coaching staff: head coach Clay Helton (Clements HS), offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell (Ennis HS), running backs coach Mike Jinks (Judson HS) and offensive quality control analysts Seth Doege (Crane HS, Frenship HS) and John David Baker (Lake View HS).

The Obvious: Having a family member or relative play in a Super Bowl is quite an honor.

The Not So Obvious: Those 2019 Trojans with Super Bowl family connections are: WR Michael Pittman Jr.’s father, Michael Pittman, played in Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, S Isaiah Pola-Mao’s uncle, Troy Polamalu, played in Super Bowls XLIII and XLV with the Pittsburgh Steelers, OT Jalen McKenzie’s uncle, Raleigh McKenzie, played in Super Bowls XXII and XXVI with the Washington Redskins and ILB Palaie Gaoteote IV’s uncle, Ma’a Tanuvasa, won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with the Denver Broncos.

The Obvious: Redshirt freshman punter Ben Griffiths is a 27-year-old who played professionally for eight years in Australian Rules Football.

The Not So Obvious: Ben then trained at an Australian kicking academy to prepare for the transition to American football, enrolling at USC this past spring.

Punter Ben Griffiths is making the transition from Australian football to American football.

The Obvious: Each season seems to bring more and more players who have already earned their bachelor’s degree.

The Not So Obvious: Five 2019 Trojans already earned their bachelor’s degrees, and each wears a “Graduate” patch on their uniform jersey. Those players are OG Jacob Daniel (political science), ILB John Houston Jr. (sociology), QB Matt Fink (communication), ILB Matt Bayle (communication), and OT Drew Richmond (psychology from Tennessee).

The Obvious: As has been a growing trend in college football, more and more seniors in high school are foregoing their spring semester to enroll early in college in order to participate in spring practice.

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans currently have 23 players who graduated at least a semester early from high school and enrolled at SC that spring. They are: QB Matt Fink, OT Liam Jimmons, WR Michael Pittman Jr. and S C.J. Pollard, QB Jack Sears, DL Marlon Tuipulotu, OG- OT Andrew Vorhees, C Justin Dedich, S Talanoa Hufanga, ILB Kana’i Mauga, S-CB Raymond Scott, CB Chase Williams, S Briton Allen, ILB Ralen Goforth, DL Drake Jackson, C-OG Gino Quinones, QB Kedon Slovis, DL Stanley Ta’ufo’ou, CB Max Williams, TE Jude Wolfe.In addition,two other early enrollees, WR Bru McCoy enrolled briefly at USC in the spring of 2019 before transferring to Texas (he returned to Troy in the summer of 2019), while CB Chris Steele enrolled at Florida in the spring of 2019 before transferring to USC in the summer of 2019.Since 1999, 62 Trojans have graduated at least a semester early from high school and come to USC (two graduated a full year early, including current QB JT Daniels).

Quarterback JT Daniels made the difficult academic transition from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High to USC by graduating Mater Dei a year early in order to participate in the Trojans’ spring practice.

The Obvious: One of the real tidbits on every team is who is the fastest player on the roster?

The Not So Obvious: For the 2019 Trojans, that “fastest” award goes to true freshman TB Kenan Christon who has bests of 10.30 (10.26 wind-aided) in the 100 meters and 20.55 in the 200 meters. He won four events at the 2019 CIF San Diego meet (100, 200, long jump, 400 relay), then was the California state meet champion in the 100 (in a state meet record-tying 10.30) and 200.

The Obvious: One of the relatively new avenues of getting an athlete to eventually enter a college is “blueshirting,” which is a one-time NCAA rule that allows a non-recruited student-athlete to receive athletic financial aid after beginning practice and have that student-athlete count towards the next year’s signing class if the school had reached its NCAA-maximum aid limit for the current year.

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have listed three players who have “blueshirted”: OT Clayton Bradley (2015), PK Michael Brown (2016), OT Jalen McKenzie (2017).

Clayton Bradley is one of three Trojans listed as a former “blueshirt.”

The Obvious: One of the icons of USC athletics is the Trojans Marching Band.

The Not So Obvious: India Anderson, a junior music (tuba performance) major from New Jersey, is serving as the first-ever female drum major of the Trojan Marching Band in 2019-20. Just the fourth woman to try out for USC’s drum major since the TMC was established in 1880, she was elected by a vote of her fellow bandmates.

The Obvious: The title of longest living USC football player is certainly a rather large tidbit.

The Not So Obvious: Currently 96 years old, former USC quarterback Jim Hardy (1942- 43-44) is believed to be USC’s oldest living football player (and oldest living L.A. Ram). Hardy, the MVP of the 1945 Rose Bowl (this is the 75th anniversary of that season), played seven seasons in the NFL, then later was the general manager of the Coliseum. Jim currently resides in the Palm Springs area.  

The Obvious: A majority of colleges and universities put the last names of their players on the back of their jerseys.

The Not So Obvious: USC is the only FBS school never to have had surnames on the back of its jerseys.

USC is the only FBS school not to put a player’s surname on the back of its storied uniforms.

The Obvious: Many athletes get into a specific sport and position based upon some event that took place in their youth.

The Not So Obvious: Sophomore placekicker Alex Stadthaus began kicking after winning a halftime fan field goal kicking contest as a high school sophomore (he connected on a 60-yarder).

The Obvious: The renovated Coliseum has reduced its capacity to 77,000.

The Not So Obvious: Troy’s 617 games played in the Coliseum (including six wins vacated by NCAA penalty) is the second most that any school has played in its home stadium, behind Georgia Tech’s 694 in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The Obvious: Alaska, the 49th state, was admitted as part of the United States in 1959.

The Not So Obvious: DL Brandon Pili is USC’s first football letterman from Alaska.

DL Brandon Pili is the Trojans only true letterman from the state of Alaska.

The Obvious: Sophomore Brett Neilon is the favorite to be the Trojans’ starting center when the Men of Troy open with Fresno State on Aug. 31.

The Not So Obvious: Brett grew up in Japan, home of his mother, where he participated in baseball, basketball, soccer and the martial art of aikido.

The Obvious: The Trojans are expecting big things from senior defensive end Christian Rector, who is also a candidate for post-season honors.

The Not So Obvious: Christian interned with the non-profit Weingart Center’s General Relief Opportunities For Work Program in the spring of 2019, helping recently-released prisoners write resumes and apply for jobs.

Christian Rector helped recently released prisoners write resumes and apply for jobs.

The Obvious: Names on an athletic roster are always interesting especially when a player’s “real” name is not the one listed in the game program.

The Not So Obvious: You might like to know that S C.J. Pollard’s real first name is Christopher, ILB Jordan Iosefa’s is Loveni, SNP Jac Casasante’s is John, WR Bru McCoy’s is Horace and head coach Clay Helton’s is Charles. QB JT Daniels’ initials stand for Jonathan Tyler and OG-OT AJ Mageo’s stand for Andrew James. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown’s full name is Amon-Ra Julian Heru J. St. Brown (he was named after the Egyptian sun god Amon-Ra and sky god Heru), while ILB Solomon Tuliaupupu’s is Solomon Nokeakua-Stroud Tuliaupupu.

The real first name of Trojans head football coach Clay Helton is actually Charles.

The Obvious: For one reason for another, many players go by initials or a nickname.  

The Not So Obvious: Three nicknames on the 2019 Trojans come to mind: ILB Solomon Tuliaupupu’s nickname is “Solo,” ILB Palaie Gaoteote IV’s is “E.A.,” OT Bernard Schirmer’s is “Beeno” and S Briton Allen’s is “Bam.”

The Obvious: Jacob Lichtenstein is a sophomore defensive lineman for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: With a last name of Lichtenstein,no USC football letterman in Trojans’ history has a longer non-hyphenated single word surname than Jacob’s 12-letter last name.

No USC football letterman in Trojans’ history has a longer non-hyphenated single word surname than Jacob’s 12-letter last name of Lichtenstein.

The Obvious: The Trojans’ “family” get even more personal when brother or cousins play on the same USC team.

The Not So Obvious: On the 2019 roster,  OLB Abdul-Malik McClain and WR Munir McClain are USC’s only brothers. DL Marlon Tuipulotu and S Talanoa Hufanga are cousins, as are TB Vavae Malepeai and OT Bernard Schirmer.

Trojans’ true freshman wide receiver Munir McClain is joining his older brother, OLB Abdul-Malik McClain, on the 2019 USC roster. They are the only brothers on this season’s team.

The Obvious: No question that Trojans’ sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is a player of many talents.

The Not So Obvious: You may be interested to know that Amon-Ra is fluent in German (his mother, Miriam, is from Germany) and French (he lived in Paris as a fourth grader).

The Obvious: And finally, offensive tackle Drew Richmond is the Trojans’ heralded NCAA Portal Transfers (Tennessee).

The Not So Obvious: Drew (photo above) mentored middle school students at Emerald Academy in Knoxville.

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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