By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
The Obvious: There are a number of out-of-state USC players that will participate in the Rose Bowl, and one of them is senior outside linebacker Quinton Powell (photo above) from Daytona Beach, Florida.
The Not So Obvious: Although he didn’t grow up locally, Powell had some personal and excitable family Rose Bowl thoughts. Quinton said, “I heard a lot from everyone and not just the people back home. Honestly, I’ve been here for four years and all I’ve been hearing about is Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl. You look back in the history of USC and all you see is Rose Bowls here and there. You can tell it’s like the Super Bowl for L.A. It’s awesome to be a part of that.”
The Obvious: The Trojans haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 2009.
The Not So Obvious: The beauty of this tumultuous season is that nobody figured the Trojans would finish in the Rose Bowl after their unpleasant 1-3 start in September, not even the players. Some talked of the Alamo as a nice destination…if they could get there, but the overall feeling became “just one game at a time.” Since October, the outcome of the 2016 season has been a beautiful thing, but all Trojans know – players and fans – that the only perfect ending is a win over Penn State or out will come the vocals of “this was good season, but…”
The Obvious: Not including grad assistants but including head coach Clay Helton, there are 10 members of the Trojans coaching staff.
The Not So Obvious: No member of the Trojans coaching staff has ever coached in a Rose Bowl game. Defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, however, did play in the 2004 Rose Bowl game and afterward declared for the NFL draft, leaving Troy as an All-American. Everybody worries about the players not being in awe of the Rose Bowl, but what about the coaching staff?
The Obvious: The O/NSO has to reach way back in time when both the players and the Trojans fans were appreciative and excited about playing in the Rose Bowl.
The Not So Obvious: If you really reach back, you could probably say interest was at an emotional high for the 2004 Rose Bowl when the Trojans played Michigan not to mention some seasons later against Texas. Before the 2004 Rose Bowl, the last appearance for the Men of Troy in the Granddaddy of Them All was the 1996 Rose Bowl between the Cardinal and Gold and Northwestern. By USC standards, that’s a long time between visits.
The Obvious: At the Trojans Football Awards Banquet on Wednesday night, Trojans grad transfer and nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu received the USC Defensive Lineman of the Year.
The Not So Obvious: Speaking of Stevie, going to the Rose Bowl caught the attention of Stevie’s former Utah Utes teammates. Old No. 96 said, “A couple minutes after the announcement, I got a text from some of my buddies congratulating me and just wishing me the best and they’re happy for me. Last year was the first time I watched the Rose Bowl. It was Stanford and Iowa. I then wanted to play in that game (Rose Bowl) and now it’s become a reality.”
The Obvious: The Trojans have some Rose Bowl facility experience, having played and beaten UCLA in Pasadena back on Nov. 19.
The Not So Obvious: So how much difference will there be for the Trojans, having played at the Rose Bowl this season? According to Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, “I think (the Rose Bowl Game) is going to be crazier. To us as players, we need to see it as the same and go out and do what we do every week. The coolest thing we can do is win.”
The Obvious: One of the Trojans most improved players in 2016 has been sophomore outside linebacker Porter Gustin, who hails from Elk Ridge, Utah.
The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO asked Porter who was more excited about playing in the Rose Bowl, himself or his parents? Gustin, with a hearty laugh, replied, “It’s close. They’re very excited and they will be there for sure. They’ve been talking to me about it pretty much every day, so we’re all very excited. You know, we bring intensity to every game, but this will be pretty more special and will be playing for the Rose Bowl and being part of this history here at USC and getting a shot at another Rose Bowl championship on top of the ones that we have.
“When it was announced, I was pretty much by myself. At first, I got an Instagram and everybody was posting about it. I started asking around and, sure enough, I got the information and it was great.”
The Obvious: One of the highlights of a team playing in the Rose Bowl is a trip to Lawry’s in Beverly Hills for a free prime rib dinner at the swank and popular restaurant.
The Not So Obvious: Penn State will visit Lawry’s on Wednesday, Dec. 28, and the Trojans will gorge themselves on Thursday, Dec. 29. Fans will be able to see the teams get off their busses, but they, like the media, are not allowed inside. Both teams will arrive at 4:30 p.m. on their respective days.
The Obvious: Many moons ago, Trojans head coach Clay Helton was an assistant coach at the University of Memphis.
The Not So Obvious: There will be a reunion of sorts in the Rose Bowl when the offensive-minded Helton matches wits with Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who worked with Helton at Memphis. If anybody knows what Penn State’s defense has instore for the Trojans offense, it would be Helton’s knowledge of Pry’s aggressive defense.
The Obvious: Before the season, the Trojans offensive line was touted by some as the best or one of the best line in the country.
The Not So Obvious: If post-season honors are any validation to the offensive line’s preseason publicity, you can look at the All-Pac-12 first and second-team post-season selections. Both Trojans offensive tackles, Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler, were first-team selections, and offensive guard Damien Mama was a second-team selection. The final on-field validation of the Trojans offensive line, however, will be made against a very physical Penn State defense on Jan. 2nd.
The Obvious: Two Trojans, defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and offensive tackle Zach Banner, have made post-season All-America teams.
The Not So Obvious: One of the important aspects for both Jackson and Banner making a recognized All-America team is that they will have a plaque in their honor placed on the wall of the Trojans All-America Walk that leads from the John McKay Center to the practice field. It’s an area that all recruits are taken to as part of a recruiting trip. Don’t think for a moment that Jackson and Banner aren’t thrilled with the idea of their names and likeness on the wall for the rest of time.
The Obvious: Powerful Bellflower St. John Bosco will play powerhouse Concord De La Salle for the California State Open Division championship on Saturday night at Sacramento State.
The Not So Obvious: California’s biggest prep game, which will be televised live in Southern California at 8 PM on Spectrum Sportsnet and streamed live at spectrumsportsnet.com, will feature one the Trojans biggest recruits, St. John Bosco offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, currently committed to Ohio State. The big recruiting rumor on the block is that the Trojans now have a big chance for Big Wyatt, and if they can wrestle Davis away from Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, it could be a major recruiting coup for Clay Helton. Of course, this one still has a long way to go until signing day in February, but the mere fact the Trojans have a recruiting heartbeat with Davis is very significant.
The Obvious: Future Trojans quarterback Jack Sears and his San Clemente Tritons will play Del Oro of Loomis for the CIF State Division l-A title on Saturday afternoon at Sacramento State.
The Not So Obvious: The San Clemente/Del Oro game will be televised live at 4 p.m. PT on Spectrum Sportsnet LA and streamed live at myspectrumsports.com.
The Obvious: During the Lane Kiffin era, the Trojans were highly restricted in the number of scholarships that they could use, a penalty that would cause them to make critical recruiting decisions.
The Not So Obvious: One of those exploding recruiting cigar decisions was when Kiffin elected to forego San Clemente (Calif.) High offensive lineman Sean Harlow, the son of former USC standout offensive tackle Pat Harlow, recently named head coach at JSerra. Sean Harlow, now a senior center at Oregon State, was recently named second-team All-Pac-12 for the Oregon State Beavers and stands 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. FYI, Pat Harlow has another son, Jack Harlow, a sophomore at JSerra, whom the O/NSO saw last Saturday at the San Clemente/Edison CIF State Regional Game. Jack is a lineman, and like his brother, has some good size to him.
The Obvious: And finally, former Trojans quarterback Max Browne has announced through his Twitter site that he will enroll at the University of Pittsburgh and play for the Panthers in 2017.
The Not So Obvious: Well, the irony of it all is that just days after Browne’s visit to Pitt, Panthers offensive coordinator Matt Canada was hired on at LSU by former Trojans assistant and interim head coach Ed Orgeron, now the head man in Baton Rouge. Ah, yes, the tentacles of Trojans football reache the immediate, extended, and former cardinal and gold families everywhere.