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O/NSO: Promotions and autographs edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

 The Obvious: It has become a public relations tradition in the Trojans football “off-season” to take selected members of the coaching staff and team to various malls, stores, and locations around Southern California to create some cardinal and gold momentum.

 The Not So Obvious: Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian, Trojans players, the Trojans Marching Band, and The Song Girls will be making two personal appearances this Sunday. The fun will take place at the Pier Plaza at Hermosa Pier at noon and later at The Americana at Brand at 3:30 p.m. Sounds like a winner to the O/NSO.

The Obvious: There are usually some additional special promotions when the Trojans visit what they are now calling the “Spring Game Rallies.”

The Not So Obvious: Those attending Sunday’s events at either the Pier Plaza at Hermosa Pier or The Americana at Brand will be eligible to not only meet Sark and his players but can enter to win a limited edition Chrome helmet signed by the coach. All entrants will also receive up to four complimentary Spring Game tickets. FYI, the Chrome helmet will be given away at the Spring Game and the winner must be present.

The Obvious: There is some healthy competition this spring amongst the Trojans wide receivers.

The Not So Obvious: Having returned from spring break, one of the Trojans wide receivers that has caught the attention of onlookers is that of JC transfer Isaac Whitney. Whitney opened some eyes with two big touchdown receptions this week, one an exciting catch and run, which probably did wonders for Whitney’s confidence after being somewhat inconsistent in the early going. Then again, maybe the sudden breakthrough is the fact Isaac is wearing No. 15, former Trojans All-America wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s old jersey number.

The Obvious: The Trojans No. 55 jersey has been a defensive number given to an exceptional or special player either before or during his career.

The Not So Obvious: Former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin used No. 55 to entice current Trojans senior inside linebacker Lamar Dawson to sign with the Cardinal and Gold. As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same as current Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian has decided to reintroduce the importance of No. 35, which was worn by former All-American linebackers Riki (Gray) Ellison and the late Scott Ross. Sark has given No. 35 to impressive true freshman inside linebacker Cameron Smith and has educated the former Granite Bay (Calif.) high prep star the significance of wearing the number.

The Obvious: Once considered a prime Trojans recruiting possibility, Santa Margarita High quarterback K.J. Costello surprised some by announcing his commitment to Stanford over the Trojans and Michigan. So much for the Jim Harbaugh factor…for now.

The Not So Obvious: In all honesty, did you really expect Costello to join the Trojans loaded quarterback stable? Well, the O/NSO thought so because of his saying that he didn’t care about the competition. Oh well, there is the other old saying, “Them that has doesn’t always git.”

The Obvious: Former Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara (6-5, 245) conveyed through his twitter account that he would be transferring to USC and would be eligible for the 2015 season.

The Not So Obvious: For the record, McNamara is out of San Diego’s Westview High School. Like many college players these days, McNamara, a former ESPN 4-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American, will use the graduate transfer exemption to obtain immediate Trojans eligibility. McNamara played in 11 career games for the Sooners with one start. He has one career catch for four yards and will have two season left of eligibility because he graduated in three years. Hey, the Trojans need tight ends, so every bit helps, especially if sophomore Bryce Dixon doesn’t return.

The Obvious: Stephen Carr, a running back out of Summit High in Fontana, has committed to the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: While this is exciting news for Trojans fans, the O/NSO suggests there be some measured excitement because Stephen (6-0, 195) is in the class of 2017. All of which means Trojans fans will have to wait because he’ll be just a junior. He was, however, at spring practice on Tuesday and stood behind the offensive unit for much of the afternoon.

The Obvious: The USC Trojans can hold their own in numbers when it comes to College Football Hall of Fame inductees.

The Not So Obvious: If you are vacationing this summer in the South, you might want to check out the “new” College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The new College Football Hall of Fame opened its doors Aug. 23, 2014, and is in the heart of Atlanta’s sports, entertainment and tourism district. Adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center and Centennial Olympic Park, the new Hall provides visitors with a highly immersive, interactive and engaging experience by using a blend of historic college football artifacts and state-of-the-art, and interactive multimedia exhibits. To plan a visit and/or purchase tickets, visit www.cfbhall.com.

The Obvious: One of the more popular and important fundraising functions on the USC campus is the annual Swim with Mike.

The Not So Obvious: The 35th Annual Swim With Mike will be held on April 11, and many of USC’s student-athletes will participate in the celebration including members from the football, women’s basketball and the swim/dive teams.

The Obvious: There is no football officiating fraternity more controversial, pro and con, that those that work games in the Pac-12.

The Not So Obvious: The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) has given final approval to rules changes for 2015, so we’ll find out if this helps or hinders the officiating in the Pac-12.

The Obvious: Most officiating crews use seven person units.

The Not So Obvious: For about thirty years the rules have allowed as many as seven officials on the field. Based on an approved experiment by the Big 12 Conference, the rules now allow for eight officials. The eighth official, the center judge (with the letter “C” on the uniform), is positioned in the offensive backfield opposite the Referee. Will this result in more holding penalties in the Pac-12?

The Obvious: Pac-12 officials are particularly watchful of players that lead with their helmets to tackle.

The Not So Obvious: A non-Standard Overbuilt Facemask is Illegal: This is a facemask characterized by greater weight and closer spacing between the bars. Use of the facemask is a safety issue: opponents can easily get their fingers caught in the tight space. The NFL outlawed this facemask a few years ago.

The Obvious: As we all remember, there was a big blowup a few seasons regarding the air in the football used by Trojans quarterbacks.

The Not So Obvious: Up until now, if the officials noticed that a player was wearing illegal equipment, the team was charged one of its three timeouts. The new rule is that the player must leave the game for at least one play and may not return until the equipment is made legal. His team may burn a timeout to keep him from missing a down, but the equipment must be corrected before he is allowed to play. Have we come to the point that a Trojans quarterback could be forced to leave a game if the football has been tampered with?

The Obvious: There is nothing more traditional in college football for a USC home game than the pregame festivities, which includes the famous USC Marching Band under the director of the legendary Arthur C. Bartner.

The Not So Obvious: Another new rule in 2015, teams are now guaranteed that they may remain on the field for pregame warm-ups until at least 22 minutes before the opening kickoff. The committee was concerned that teams were being forced to leave the field early because of other pregame activities, and thus were having to spend too much time in the locker room before the kickoff. The new rule may be suspended for a given game by prior mutual agreement of the teams.

The Obvious: And finally, Trojans athletics director Pat Haden and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, both members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, recently participated in USC’s first Athletic Director Speaker Series.

The Not So Obvious: Could this pave the way for Ms. Rice to eventually becoming a serious candidate to be a future athletic director at Troy? Just kidding.

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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