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O/NSO: The latest line edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com columnist

The Obvious: With a situational scrimmage now under their belt and another scrimmage scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the USC Trojans coaching staff and players continue to focus on where they are, what they need to do, and how to accomplish it. One of those areas already under continuous scrutiny is the physical nature of the offensive line.

The Not So Obvious: With an ultra physical, first-game defensive opponent looming closer, Trojans first-year offensive line coach Neil Callaway believes there is still much work to be done. When asked if his offensive line is as physical as he would like it to be for a team like Alabama, a very animated Callaway responded, “No, we are not where we need to be (for Alabama). I think we’re making strides, but we’re not where we need to be. We have to practice it because you are what you practice. If we practice it (physicality), we’ll be fine.”

The Obvious: Like Trojans fans, Neil Callaway is well aware of the top shelf publicity his offensive line has been receiving in preseason publications and during training camp.

The Not So Obvious: So what does Callaway think all about all the positive hyperbole that some claim is the nation’s best college offensive line? In a Southern drawl, Callaway remarked, “We don’t listen to it. We just make sure we work the crap out of them every day and make sure we’re on the same page.”

The Obvious: There are some positions along the offensive line that are very competitive, and one of those position battles is between current sophomore starting left guard Chris Brown (above photo) and 2015 junior starting guard Damien Mama.

The Not So Obvious: Regarding the competition battle for the starting left guard position, Neil Callaway says, “It’s very good and both are very good football players. We really have four really good guards and I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out. I like all of them. Chris has really done well; he’s a talented guy. I think he has been very focused since about mid-spring because when we first got started, everything was new. Everybody was trying to feel their way around. Since mid-spring, he has been very focused and has done a nice job.”

The Obvious: Current starting left guard Chris Brown (6-5, 300) has come a long way from last spring to position himself for a starting spot for the Alabama game.

The Not So Obvious: When asked about his improvement from last season, Chris Brown told the O/NSO, “I am feeling more comfortable in college and more comfortable and confident in myself. I’ve probably improved in the pass game (protection) and having confidence in my strength and my ability to set guys down. My biggest goal now is to keep the starting position, keep continuing to get better as a player and my technique, and improve as a team.”

The Obvious: Like many returning Trojan offensive linemen, Chris Brown has been tutored by more than one offensive line coach during his career at Troy.

The Not So Obvious: In regards to Coach Callaway, Chris Brown says, “He’s no B.S. He really pushes us every single day, and there are no soft moments with him, and everybody respects him a lot. I think that’s a big thing, and he’s pushed us to get where we are and where we’re going.”

The Obvious: Offensive guard Chris Brown, like the rest of the offensive line, is well aware of comments that they are being projected as the best O-line in the nation.

The Not So Obvious: About preseason comments that his unit is the “best in the nation,” Brown thoughtfully replied, “I think it’s awesome that people are saying that. We have a lot of returning guys and a lot of experience. I think we’re the veteran group of the team with Chad (Wheeler), Zack (Banner), Toa (Lobendahn), and Viane (Talamaivo). They’ve been a big influence on all of us. We’ve bonded as a group and we are really working well as a group.”

The Obvious: Trojans fans are ecstatic that 2016 season tickets packages have been arriving through the mail.

The Not So Obvious: The new season ticket package is quite impressive. It has a real NFL look to the presentation inside a personalized brochure, which has the season ticket holders name over their own Trojans locker. The brochure not only includes the season tickets, but some appreciated savings coupons for The Bookstore (25%) and a free day at the LAX Parking Spot.

The Obvious: Every season, a Trojan player is pictured on a home game ticket.

The Not So Obvious: The 2016 Trojans have six home games and the following Trojans were selected to be pictured on game tickets: WR Darreus Rogers (Utah State); DB Iman Marshall (ASU), T Zach Banner (Colorado); RB Justin Davis (Cal); CB Adoree’ Jackson (Oregon); and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Notre Dame).

The Obvious: Head football coaches like to include some sort of personal message inside a season ticket mailout to unify the masses.

The Not So Obvious: Trojans head coach Clay Helton wrote USC season ticket holders, “Behind every USC victory is the Trojans family, and we can feel you energizing us. USC football was founded on a blue-collar toughness, which we plan to emulate this season. That gritty mentality wins championships, and that is always our standard. Thanks to the Trojan family for your incredible support.”

The Obvious: Each season, the Trojans host a series of scheduled football luncheons.

The Not So Obvious: Open to the public, here is the 2016 Monday Morning Quarterback schedule and host information. Luncheons will be held on Sept 12, Oct. 3, Oct. 17, Nov. 7, and Nov. 21. Head coach Clay Helton and a guest football player will show fans game film playbacks accompanied by a Q&A session. The MMQB will be hosted by Chip Stuart and will feature former Trojans head coach John Robinson and Fox Sports analyst John “JJ” Jackson. The MMQB will take place in the Galen Founders’ Room, with the luncheon at 11:15 a.m. and the program at noon. Contact Becky Gramstrup for tickets.

The Obvious: Former famed USC defensive lineman Tony Terry, an original member of the famed 1969 Wild Bunch, passed last weekend in Las Vegas from cancer. Terry, also Long Beach St. Anthony High alum, was 69.

The Not So Obvious: Terry, who overcame injury, was a wonderful football player for the Wild Bunch. Unfortunately he is yet another member of the legendary Wild Bunch defensive line to leave us much too young. Other original Wild Bunch members that have passed on are former All-American Jimmy Gunn, Tody Smith, and Willard “Bubba” Scott. Former All-America defensive end Charlie Weaver and All-America defensive tackle Al Cowlings remain the lone surviving members of The Wild Bunch.

The Obvious: And finally, legendary broadcast voice of the Trojans, Tom Kelly, will be remembered this afternoon (Friday) in a memorial mass in downtown Los Angeles.

The Not So Obvious: The funeral Mass for TK is being held this afternoon (Aug. 12) at 1:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles (555 W. Temple St.). Open to the public, a reception will follow immediately afterward at the adjacent Center at Cathedral Plaza. As Tom might say, “Oh mercy nurse!”

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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