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O/NSO: Opening day training camp predictions edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

The Obvious: The USC Trojans will open training camp this coming Thursday, Aug. 4, in preparation for the 2016 regular season.

The Not So Obvious: One of the early camp storylines will take place on that first practice day, a day which will begin at 5 p.m. on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields in front of an adoring general public. Some of the first-day storylines will be obvious while others not so obvious.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, new Trojans athletic director Lynn Swann, all smiles, will make his appearance on the practice sidelines.

The Not So Obvious: A fan will quip, “Hey, ‘Swannie’ still looks like he could still play!” Another fan will challenge other fans by asking what number Swann wore while playing at Troy. A veteran observer will respond by saying, “C’mon, it was No. 22. At least give us a tough one!”

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, fans in attendance will debate whether junior Max Browne or redshirt freshman Sam Darnold should be the Trojans starting quarterback against Alabama.

The Not So Obvious: A potentially bigger debate in the stands will be why Trojans head coach Clay Helton didn’t just name a starter after spring ball? After all, the Trojans likeable head coach said right after spring ball if he had to play a game tomorrow, he’d probably go with Max Browne.

The Obvious: Fans will try to get a glimpse of celebrated first-year offensive line coach Neil Callaway and how he goes about his business.

The Not So Obvious: Two fans will be discussing Callaway and one will say, “I just love that dude’s Southern drawl.” The other fan will add, “It’s about time we got somebody coaching the offensive line that is an ‘old school’ coach with some piss and vinegar.”

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, attention will be paid to the starters on the offensive line and whether junior Toa Lobendahn, who has recovered from knee surgery, is immediately inserted into the starting lineup.

The Not So Obvious: Perhaps larger scrutiny from Day 1 will be the competition battle for the starting left guard position between sophomore Chris Brown and junior Damien Mama. It should be a war.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, fans will check out if junior All-Pac-12 corner Adoree’ Jackson has gotten himself into football shape after spending time trying to make the USA Olympic team in the long jump.

The Not So Obvious: While all eyes will be on Adoree’, there will also be focus on sophomore corner Ajene Harris, who is making the transition from wide receiver to the secondary, and true freshman Jack Jones, who figures to see plenty of action in his first season of college ball.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, a crowd will gather – or at least as close as they, too, can get – to watch first-year defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, and how he handles the ultra-thin depth of his defensive line.

The Not So Obvious: Of the returning players on the D-line, much of the attention, however, will be directed towards junior Khaliel Rodgers, who is transitioning this season from offensive lineman (center/guard) to defensive lineman.

The Obvious: More than few fans will raise eyebrows and give an inquisitive look when a senior citizen asks, “When is the ‘Skywriters’ Tour’ supposed to come to practice?

The Not So Obvious: The same senior citizen fan will have to explain to the younger set that the “Skywriters Tour” was a time when all the beat writers covering the conference would fly together and bus their way to spend a day at training camp of each member school.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, junior All-Pac-12 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will continue to demonstrate that not only a legitimate All-America candidate, but the former Long Beach Poly High star is also a strong candidate to be a 2016 team captain.

The Not So Obvious: As stocked as the Trojans are at wide receiver, don’t be shocked if true freshmen Tyler Vaughns and Trevon Sidney stick out immediately. Of course, if true freshman Michael Pittman is recovered from his collarbone injury, he, too, could take center stage.

The Obvious: The radio voice of the Trojans, Pete Arbogast, will tell some admirers that he’s already working on his spotting boards…for the game at Washington on Nov. 12.

The Not So Obvious: At some point in the evening, Arbo will get serious and discuss how much the late Tom Kelley had an influence on how he calls a game. The current Trojans Golden Throat will add, “Kelley will always be the voice of the Trojans in my book.”

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, the biggest questions asked from fan-to-fan will be, “Who is number (fill in the blank)?”

The Not So Obvious: Fans with an official numerical roster will be the center of attention.The Obvious: On the first day of camp, all eyes will be trained on celebrated sophomore middle linebacker Cameron Smith.

The Not So Obvious: A discussion amongst fans will be whether Smith, the 2015 Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, will be ready for Alabama or even Stanford for that matter. Paranoia will step forward, as fans try to figure out whom Smith’s temporary replacement might be.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, a general consensus will be formed on which players look bigger and stronger and how much faster some of the Trojans look after an intense off-season of training.

The Not So Obvious: The topic of size will eventually get around to a guessing game of how much do offensive linemen Zach Banner and Damien Mama weigh? For the record, the updated weight on the first training camp roster lists Banner at 360 and Mama at 325.

The Obvious: Longtime Trojans fans will be doing some “one–upsmanship” as to who has been coming to USC practices the longest.

The Not So Obvious: The winner in the “longest” debate will come from a bystander who will inform the group that he has been coming to practice when Don Clark was the head coach.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, the placekickers and punters will get more attention than they did during the entire spring practice sessions.

The Not So Obvious: When the question of who will be the Trojans punter, the most knowledgeable of fans will say Chris Tilbey. The follow-up question will be, “Who is Chris Tilbey?” The fan that comes up with the Tilbey answer will educate the masses by saying Tilbey is a sophomore punter out of Melbourne, Australia, who transferred from San Francisco City College to USC.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, a cluster of fans will ask how much they paid for their tickets to the Alabama game.

The Not So Obvious: Onlookers will ask if they know anybody that is selling tickets to the big Sept. 3 game against the Crimson Tide.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, folks will be eyeballing those true freshmen that did not participate in spring practice.

The Not So Obvious: One of those new true freshmen that passes the eyeball test will be defensive end Conner Murphy, No. 90, out of Mesa, Arizona, and the pride of Brophy Prep. Connor is listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds. Offensively, there will be mouths wide-open upon seeing the size of offensive tackle E.J. Price, a 6-foot-6, 325-pounder out of Dacula, Georgia, and Archer High. FYI, Price will be wearing No. 75.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, those that follow USC recruiting will be looking to see which blue-chip prospects have decided to watch the Trojans on the opening day.

The Not So Obvious: Panic will be in the air if an already committed player doesn’t show on Day 1 or a highly pursued prospect doesn’t make an appearance. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

The Obvious: On the first day of camp, there will be a fan that counts the number of running plays and passing plays to see where Clay Helton’s emphasis is directed.

The Not So Obvious: With Helton talking about running the ball and being physical on offense, Trojans fans will discuss the matchup between the experienced USC offensive line and Alabama’s vaunted defensive line.

The Obvious: And finally, on the first day of camp, fans will wish the first evening practice hadn’t come to an end.

The Not So Obvious: The good news is that fans will remind each other that the Trojans will continue workouts through the weekend (5 p.m.), and many will remark that they’ll be bringing a buddy or family member on Saturday and/or Sunday. Happy cardinal and gold days are here again!

Greg Katz
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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