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O/NSO: Fact and rumor edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

The Obvious: It’s a fact that the months of February and March were expected to be smooth sailing for Clay Helton’s (photo above) Trojans program, especially coming off a huge Rose Bowl victory and a euphoric recruiting finish just a couple of weeks ago.

The Not So Obvious: However, so much for Helton’s relaxing timeout. Just this past week was a series of direct and indirect USC football happenings that blindsided most fans who were both surprised and/or disappointed. First, there was the announced indefinite suspension of Rose Bowl placekicking hero Matt Boermeester for an alleged “code of conduct” issue. Then there was the unexpected loss of standout running backs coach and top shelf recruiter Tommie Robinson to LSU and former Trojans coach Ed Orgeron. Then there was the rumor of Chip Kelly coming to Troy as a program “analyst.” And finally, there was the more amusing happening as former Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian left Alabama as a one-game offensive coordinator for a similar position with the NFL Atlanta Falcons. This was a week of facts and rumors, and both were certainly getting a lot of attention to say the least.

The Obvious: It went from rumor to fact, as it was announced on Tuesday that senior-to-be Rose Bowl placekicking hero Matt Boermeester had been suspended from the program for investigation of a “code of conduct” issue.

The Not So Obvious: Depending on the eventual outcome, the Boermeester issue is potentially a blow to the Trojans chances in their expected run for a 2017 College Football Playoff spot. With his surreal Rose Bowl winning field goal against Penn State, Boermeester has the experience and confidence to be a true difference-maker in close games next season. Now it’s all dramatically up in the air, and rumors abound to the cause of the code of conduct.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that depending on the Matt Boermeester outcome, the Trojans may be looking at inexperienced placekicker competition during spring ball.

The Not So Obvious: In the depth chart for the Rose Bowl game, Boermeester’s co-backups were sophomore Reid Budrovich and freshman Michael Brown. Budrovich is a local product from Torrance and St. John Bosco High while Brown is also a local product from Temecula and Linfield Christian High.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that the Trojans have seen these issues of “code of conduct” with players like former tight end Bryce Dixon, linebacker Jabari Ruffin and quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The Not So Obvious: Each player had his own crucible. In the case of Dixon and Ruffin, rumors became reality and both eventually left the program, but with Sanchez the rumors remained unconfirmed rumors and the quarterback was eventually back with the team.    

The Obvious: It’s a fact that Trojans running back coach Tommie Robinson, after being strongly rumored to be in consideration to be the running back coach at LSU under former Trojans interim head coach Ed Orgeron, has indeed been hired by LSU.

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO can remember the first time we talked with Tommie when he returned for last March’s spring ball, and he couldn’t have been happier to return to Troy. He gushed how excited he was when he got the telephone call from Clay Helton to return. So, what went wrong? After his statement regarding his switch to LSU, Robinson said it had to do with his deep respect for Orgeron, and the fact that he would be given added responsibilities. And you can bet a healthy raise, as well. You can also bet that Orgeron is fired up he beat the Trojans on this one, and he now has a current SoCal recruiting presence in Robinson.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that one of the things that Clay Helton was most proud during this offseason was the fact that his staff had remained intact.

The Not So Obvious: So, now the hiring wheels again begin to churn. Tommie Robinson is gone and does that mean that Clay Helton will hire a surprise replacement, or might he try and bring home former Trojans running back coach Kennedy Polamalu who recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings to be their running backs coach. I wouldn’t bet against Polamalu returning if Helton extends an offer. That may be a big “if.” No matter what has happened in the past, Kennedy Polamalu bleeds cardinal and gold and the fit would appear to be a good one if consummated. Most agree that Kennedy is an excellent running backs coach and an outstanding recruiter. The possibility of Polamalu returning is an intriguing possibility.

The Obvious: Prior to taking the job with the Minnesota Vikings, it was a rumor that Kennedy Polamalu was willing to return to Troy.

The Not So Obvious: Like many rumors, they tend to stay just that. However, if Polamalu did return to Troy, you could say in hindsight that wasn’t a rumor after all. As the O/NSO sees it, they Trojans could do a whole lot worse than hire Kennedy. In fact, it would mend some fences that probably shouldn’t have been torn down in the first place. Times have change, personnel has changed, and there has been administrative change.

The Obvious: It’s a rumor that there are other candidates for the running backs position.

The Not So Obvious: One name that has surfaced is former Cal running backs coach Ron Gould who has coached the likes Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen, C.J. Anderson and Justin Forsett. Gould is most recently the former head coach at UC Davis. He certainly has the credentials to gain instant cred with the current Trojans running backs. Keep an eye on this one.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that current Trojans linebacker coach Johnny Nansen was the Trojans running backs coach (2014-15) prior to the hiring of Tommie Robinson in 2016.

The Not So Obvious: It would seem that Nansen coaching linebackers is a natural coaching fit since Nansen is a former Washington State linebacker. One would think that Clay Helton wouldn’t look to move him from his natural coaching position. If Helton did return Nansen to running back, he’d still have to fill a linebacker coaching position.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that a local sports radio station this week mentioned that former Oregon and NFL head coach Chip Kelly could be coming to USC as an analyst.

The Not So Obvious: Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? If it did happen that Kelly came to Troy, it would seem that if Clay Helton is comfortable with it so should the Trojans fandom. It would be a surprise here if this rumor turned to fact.

The Obvious: It’s a fact that thanks to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, million-dollar assistant coach’s salaries are no longer shocking after he upped a number of his assistants to seven figure salaries.

The Not So Obvious: One of those Wolverine assistant coaches reportedly now earning at least a million dollars a year is offensive line coach Tim Drevno who spent one season at Troy as the offensive line coach until departing for Michigan and his coaching mentor Harbaugh.

The Obvious: It’s a rumor that Michigan tight end Devon Asiasi, a former high Trojans priority recruit, is considering leaving the Wolverines to return to the West Coast.

The Not So Obvious: There is a lot of smoke on this rumor, but it begs the question of how do the Trojans play it if true? Besides playing tight end at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High, Asiasi also played defensive line. Although the Trojans appear to be well stocked at tight end, might Clay Helton offer Asiasi as both a tight end and defensive lineman? Either way, if the talented Asiasi does transfer in after seeing playing time at Michigan, he’ll be doing a redshirt season.

The Obvious: And finally, it’s a fact that former Trojans head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has taken a similar job with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Not So Obvious: Well, you can’t say that Sark doesn’t live a charmed life in terms of job opportunities. Given the fact that the former Trojans head man coached only one game at Alabama as the offensive coordinator, his ability to move on from Tuscaloosa to the Atlanta Falcons within a short time is remarkable. We should all be so fortunate.

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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