By Greg Katz – WeAreSC
The Obvious: The Trojans are expected to officially announce soon that former Trojans All-America defensive lineman Kenechi Udeze (above photo) is Clay Helton’s new defensive line coach.
The Not So Obvious: Udeze and members of the Trojans coaching staff have been crisscrossed the country this week meeting prospective defensive linemen, including Rashan Gary, the nation’s over all No. 1 recruit. If all goes well with Gary and his mother, the Trojans could be battling Michigan for Gary’s signature on a letter of intent. While the Men of Troy are still considered a very long shot in the Gary recruiting sweepstakes, if “BKU” could manage to be the swing vote, it would certainly silence immediately critics that argue Udeze is too “inexperienced” to man such an important position.
The Obvious: There are many arguments over the pros and cons regarding the probable hiring of Kenechi Udeze as D-line coach.
The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO has already endorsed Udeze as candidate for the D-line position, and that was before it became “obvious” that Udeze would be the frontrunner. Yes, “BKU” is inexperienced in some areas but is well qualified to be given this coaching opportunity of a lifetime. Aside from the fact that he made himself into an All-American and first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, he has been tutored and recruited by Ed Orgeron, learned from Pete Carroll as a Seahawks defensive line assistant, attended the Bill Walsh coaching school, and had a chance to show what promise he had during Holiday Bowl practices and received rave reviews. And did we mention that he’s overcome cancer?
The Obvious: Recruiting is also an intense adult game, and you can bet the competitive juices of both the USC and Michigan staffs are in full action.
The Not So Obvious: What makes the recruiting of Rashan Gary so competitive is that you have a Michigan staff that includes former Trojans offensive line coach Tim Drevno, former Stanford and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, and Wolverines defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who was once Notre Dame’s defensive line coach. Each has intimate knowledge of USC’s strengths and weaknesses. As for the Trojans, they have former Michigan special teams coach John Baxter, who certainly knows the strengths and weaknesses of the University of Michigan and know all those from Michigan that are trying to sway Gary to Ann Arbor.
The Obvious: One of the negative recruiting tactics of those schools trying to dissuade players from playing at USC is where USC is located in Los Angeles.
The Not So Obvious: USC has done a wonderful job of urban renewal, and that’s exactly what Jennifer Coney and her No. 1 ranked son, defensive tackle Rashan Gary (Paramus, N.J./Catholic), said during last weekend’s recruiting visit. Despite what they had been told (beautiful campus but bad area), Coney said USC was indeed a beautiful campus and was impressed with all the new surrounding developments and would have no problem having her son play at Troy.
The Obvious: A general rule in recruiting is – besides the player himself – win over the mother.
The Not So Obvious: There are a number of rumors out there that claim Rashan Gary’s mother wants to be close to her son and that will play a big factor in Gary’s decision. Jennifer Coney wouldn’t be the first mom to want to be close for personal and professional reasons. If true, the Trojans have done everything they can to win her favor. Let’s face it, in today’s air traveling world, what’s another 3 ½ hours more on a plane, which is all that separates Michigan and Los Angeles.
The Obvious: Former Trojans running back coach Tommie Robinson is returning from being a Texas Longhorn running backs coach to tutor cardinal and gold running backs including Justin Davis, Robert Jones ll, and Dominic Davis.
The Not So Obvious: Given the fact that Robinson, who will also be the Trojans run-game coordinator, received his college degree from Troy State, it’s a natural that he again return to a Troy, and, by the way, last time Robinson was here, he developed some kid named Buck Allen, who did a pretty nice rookie job this past season with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Obvious: Clay Helton has reassigned Johnny Nansen as linebackers position coach and recruiting coordinator.
The Not So Obvious: Before Trojans fans get too excited one way or another regarding Nansen’s coaching reassignment, it should be noted again that he was a linebacker for Washington State. As for recruiting coordinator, Nansen will be under the microscope in being the first liaison between prep talent and the USC.
The Obvious: Recently hired special teams coach John Baxter will also take on the responsibility of tight ends coach.
The Not So Obvious: Baxter was the Trojans tight end position coach in 2013 and has coached tight ends in 13 of his 34 years as an assistant coach, which included Fresno State, Arizona and Tulane.
The Obvious: Tyson Helton, who was originally hired by brother Clay to be the Trojans running backs coach has been reassigned to quarterback position coach.
The Not So Obvious: With Marques Tuiasosopo having moved on to UCLA, it was a natural that Helton would fill the opening left by Tuiasosopo. It’s an even more a natural move given the fact he is also the pass game coordinator. The question will be just how much the Trojans will be passing the ball in the fall? The answer: still a lot.
The Obvious: Trojans senior defensive linemen Autwaun Woods and Greg Townsend Jr. will play Saturday afternoon in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the StuHub Center in Carson.
The Not So Obvious: The game, which features eligible players for this April’s NFL draft, will be televised live at 3 p.m. (PST) on ESPN2.
The Obvious: It has been recently reported that 2017 USC commits, running back Stephen Carr and corner Thomas Graham, have reopened their recruiting.
The Not So Obvious: To be sure, neither Carr or Graham say they are not decommitting per say but want to open up their recruiting to see what’s out there. So how should these latest developments be interpreted? The old saying that says in essence “if you have a bird in hand and open it up and the bird flies away, it was never yours anyway.”
The Obvious: The Trojans athletic department has emailed out twice 2016 season ticket renewal notices.
The Not So Obvious: Obviously pumping home games against ASU, Cal, and Notre Dame, the athletic department is banking on some early renewals, which would enter fans into some incentive giveaways like Nike tennis shoes and Coliseum field passes for home games.
The Obvious: And finally, Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft, has decided to return to the Crimson Tide for his senior season and will face USC in the season opener for both teams on Sept. 3 in Dallas.
The Not So Obvious: Well, Trojans fans, the 2016 Alabama defense is looking more and more like it could resemble the 2015 unit. It’s also beginning to look like Bama is going to be more than ready defensively for the “new” Trojans offense. FYI, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had projected Allen to go to the Buffalo Bills with the 19th overall selection in his Mock Draft 1.0. Kiper also rated Allen as the fifth-best defensive end prospect on his board in December.