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O/NSO: Transfer of power edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

The Obvious: Considered one of the top assistant coaches in the Big Ten, Indiana running backs coach Deland McCullough is expected to be officially announced shortly as the new Trojans running backs coach, placing Tommie Robinson, who is now at LSU.

The Not So Obvious: McCullough, who will have at his disposal quite a stable of Trojans running backs led by explosive junior-to-be Ronald Jones ll (photo above), has an impressive coaching resume. He recruited and mentored Tevin Coleman of the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears, and Indiana’s Devine Redding, who declared early for the NFL Draft following this past season. In 2014, McCullough was named the Big Ten’s running backs coach of the year by BTN.com.

The Obvious: Before coaching, Deland McCullough was a recognized player in his own right.

The Not So Obvious: McCullough was a three-time All-MAC selection during his playing career at Miami of Ohio (1992-95) and a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the country’s top running back. Deland was also a former running back for the Cincinnati Bengals (1996-97) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1997). In addition, he also played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1998-99) in the CFL.

The Obvious: The IndyStar (The Indianapolis Star) is an internet service of the state’s top newspaper that covers Indiana Hoosiers football.

The Not So Obvious: In assessing the loss of Deland McCullough, the IndyStar wrote, McCullough earned several raises through his six years at IU, a testament to just how effective he was at his job. And the outpouring of well wishes from current and former players on Twitter makes clear how his coaching style was received.

“Coach McCullough is one of the greatest coaches I have ever been around,” cornerback Rashard Fant tweeted, “but he is an even greater person!”

“The endorsement of an offensive assistant by a defensive player, one voice in a chorus of them congratulating McCullough on the reportedly impending move, speaks to the respect he commanded within the program. The reasons why McCullough is so well respected are the same reasons he’s headed to USC, one of the most storied college football programs in the country. And they’re the reasons why his departure will be the toughest one Indiana has to swallow this offseason.”

The Obvious: Deland McCullough is a Midwest product, having been born in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Not So Obvious: The last name McCullough is not unfamiliar in Trojan annals, or have you forgotten former speedy tailback Sultan McCullough (1999-2002) and wide receiver Earl McCullough (1967), who started on USC’s 1967 national champions?

The Obvious: As the days dwindle down to the start of USC spring practice in early March, there is no hotter recruiting coach on the Trojans staff than linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator Johnny Nansen.

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have some other heavyweight recruiting fireballs on the staff, but Johnny Nansen is on fire, especially when it comes to recruiting players of Polynesian descent. Having helped lead the charge for recent “Poly” defensive linemen Jay Tefele and Marlon Tuipulotu, the last coach a Trojans recruiting opponent wants to see in the living room of a standout Polynesian player and his family is one Johnny Nansen. And don’t expect Johnny’s recruiting success to slow up anytime soon.

The Obvious: Johnny Nansen is entering into his fourth season as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California.

The Not So Obvious: Early on, there were murmurs that perhaps Nansen, 42, was a weak link on Steve Sarkisian’s USC staff. Well, Sark is long gone and Mr. Nansen has really come into his own. FYI, Nansen played his prep ball at local Long Beach Jordan High and was a standout quarterback. After three seasons as a linebacker at Washington State, he returned to his hometown and coached at Long Beach Cabrillo High.

The Obvious: Prior to last season, Johnny Nansen coached the Trojans running backs in 2015.

The Not So Obvious: And in case you’ve forgotten, Nansen mentored tailbacks Ronald Jones ll and Justin Davis and both ran for over 900 yards.

The Obvious: The Class of 2018 No. 1 outside in the country, linebacker Palaie Gaoteote (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman), announced his commitment to the Trojans last weekend.

The Not So Obvious: Although Palaie has played his last two seasons with powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, he began his high school career with the Mililani (Hawaii) Trojans before transferring to powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. Once again providing evidence you’re a Trojan for life and a Bruin for four years no matter what level and what transfer.

The Obvious: There have been several former great Hawaiian prep football players that have come mainland to play for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: Mililani High School, the original home of superstar prep linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, is the only public high school located in Mililani Town CDP, City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Mililani’s most famous football player was Maa Tanuvasa (class of 1988), a former NFL football player for the Denver Broncos (1995 – 2000).

The Obvious: Trojans incoming prep All-America safety Bubba Bolden was a high school teammate of Palaie Gaoteote at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High.

The Not So Obvious: Quickly following Gaoteote’s announcement for USC, Bolden tweeted out I had to bring my lil bro with me! Congrats to my bro.”

The Obvious: Lynn Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The Not So Obvious: Did you know that hall of famer Lynn also played trombone in junior high?

The Obvious: February is Black History Month.

The Not So Obvious: Nobody has done more in terms of helping integration in college football than the 1970 USC Trojans. You know the story of the two legendary white coaches, the Trojans John McKay and Alabama’s Bear Bryant, arranging a college football game between their two programs to be played in segregated Birmingham. The game, which the Trojans dominated Alabama, 42-21, led to integration not only of Alabama but the South. It changed the SEC and college football forever. It was a victory for human equality.

The Obvious: Quarterback Matt Corral, the Trojans verbal for the Class of 2018, has transferred and enrolled at Long Beach Poly.

The Not So Obvious: For cardinal and gold fans, nothing could be better than having a high-profile quarterback verbal now at a USC pipeline school. Of course, teams in the Moore League can’t be too thrilled about Corral’s transfer. In the immortal words of late Long Beach Press-Telegram legendary sports columnist and Trojans recruiting expert Loel Schrader, “Them that has, gits.”

The Obvious: Former Trojans defensive end turned boxer Gerald Washington will challenge WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder for the title on Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Not So Obvious: The fight, which will be telecast on FOX (5 p.m. PT), will pit the “puncher’s chance” Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs) against the skilled and deadly Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) in what should be an intriguing battle only because Washington once wore the cardinal and gold for Pete Carroll and is former Navy veteran. Here’s hoping that Gerald can pull off the Rocky upset and stun the world.

The Obvious: And finally, today (Friday) there is a planned Celebration of Life at the USC Town and Gown (3 p.m.) on campus to honor the late John Jackson, recognized as one of the truly great assistant football coaches in Trojans lore.

The Not So Obvious: Most Trojans fans know that John Sr.’s son, John “J.J.” Jackson Jr., was a tremendous Trojans wide receiver and baseball player at Troy (1986-89) and currently is the analyst for USC football radio broadcasts. The O/NSO can’t think of a more touching future tribute to Grandpa if J.J.’s son, John Jackson lll, now a junior two-sport star (football/baseball) at Gardena (Calif.) Serra, followed in the footsteps of his famous USC grandfather and father and became an athlete at Troy. Hey, it’s Hollywood and that’s where dreams come true.

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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