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O/NSO: Weekend excitement edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

The Obvious: The USC Trojans will present an afternoon doubleheader of excitement on Saturday when the football team executes its second scrimmage in less than a week on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field (2:30 p.m.) followed by the annual Salute to Troy celebration on Cromwell Field (5:30 p.m.).

The Not So Obvious: Last Monday evening’s scrimmage was a lively affair that showcased some positive performances from the likes of receiver Steven Mitchell and JuJu Smith-Schuster, a continued impressive performance by true freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, tough running by senior Tre Madden and true freshman Ronald Jones lll, the linebacking play of true freshmen Osa Masina and Porter Gustin, and a secondary that shows promise with corner Adoree’ Jackson in addition to the pleasing development of sophomore corner Jonathan Lockett, true freshmen corner Iman “Biggie” Marshall, and true freshman safety Marvell Tell lll.

The Obvious: Salute to Troy is one of the best preseason celebrations of Trojans football.

The Not So Obvious: Open to the general public ($70 per adult, $30 12 and under), Salute to Troy is a wonderful party, program, and eating bonanza to usher in the 2015 football season. Besides seeing the current team, The Song Girls (above photo), Traveler, and the Trojans Marching Band, part of the main program will include recognition of the 1965 and 1989 football teams.

The Obvious: Before the season, the Trojans took great care in placing pictures, achievements, and salutes inside Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field as part of an impressive renovation of the football practice fields.

The Not So Obvious: However, it was very surprising that signage of the 11 national championships was originally placed in the deep left corner of Brian Kennedy Field and was almost obscure to the viewing general public and recruits. Well, that snafu has been corrected and the national championship signage has been moved to a prime viewing spot near the 50-yard line. Something tells the O/NSO that Brian Kennedy will be pleased with the restoration.

The Obvious: On Wednesday, the Trojans received a verbal from Class of 2016 wide receiver Tyler Vaughns (Las Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat).

The Not So Obvious: This commitment was not exactly a shock, but it was a huge verbal because Vaughns (6-2, 180) is one heck of a wide receiver and widely known by other recruits, both locally and nationally. The O/NSO wouldn’t call him flashy, but a complete package that will give defensive coordinators fits in college.

The Obvious: Steve Sarkisian announced this week that junior tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick will not play this season and focus on academics.

The Not So Obvious: You could see this one coming a mile away, but it’s still confounding when one considers just how much academic help is provided to USC athletes in general.It’s time to move on.

The Obvious: Former Trojans true freshman quarterback Ricky Town has transferred out of USC and has announced he will attend the University of Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious: In all honesty, Ricky had a chance to measure up during spring ball and get an idea of the talent level and competition on hand. What he could not measure up or foresee heading into training camp was the impressive play of fellow true freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, who had no spring practice and had outplayed Ricky in training camp. As for Town’s decision to be a Razorback quarterback, it probably takes some pressure off the kid to have to be the main cog of coach Bret Bielema’s run- oriented offense. The O/NSO wishes Ricky the best in the SEC.

The Obvious: True freshman quarterback Sam Darnold is now third in the QB pecking order.

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO is not one of those observers who is totally surprised by what Darnold is doing. The kid was a stud coming out of high school, a marvelous athlete who also was a standout basketball player. Sam’s display of maturity, accuracy, poise, and knowledge of the offense was certainly not lost on Ricky Town. If he can stay healthy, Darnold’ upside is off the charts.

The Obvious: Former Trojans quarterback Ricky Town was instrumental in helping recruit for the Trojans recruiting Class of 2015.

The Not So Obvious: Ricky should always be appreciated by Trojans fans for his tremendous drive in recruiting players for the Trojans nationally ranked freshman class. It could be argued that Town’s decommitment from Alabama and quick commitment to USC was the recruiting foundation back in the spring from which the successful Class of 2015 was energized.

The Obvious: It has been long been rumored that Steve Sarkisian has wanted to transition from strictly pocket quarterbacks to signal callers that were also a threat to run.

The Not So Obvious: In San Darnold, Sark has that type of quarterback. Darnold has run in training camp and done it effectively. Ricky Town was not as athletic or as mobile than Darnold. A reminder, the Trojans have another two-way threat coming next season in Glendora (Calif.) High senior quarterback Matt Fink.

The Obvious: Even with Ricky Town’s departure, “former” Trojans redshirt quarterback-turned-wide receiver Jalen Greene will remain a wide receiver.

The Not So Obvious: Greene looked mighty impressive at wide receiver during Monday’s scrimmage and throughout this week. He shows no fear catching the ball over the middle in traffic and has the moves and speed to be very productive. Yes, Sark has been pleased with Jalen’s performance.

The Obvious: The College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee met last week in preparation for the 2015 season.

The Not So Obvious: Considering the Trojans are in the CFP conversation, USC fans might want to know the committee members who will produce 2015 rankings weekly beginning after the ninth weekend of games—same as last year.  The CFP members will again meet in person, on Mondays and Tuesdays.  The committee will issue its first rankings Tuesday, November 3, and will reveal its rankings on ESPN each week.  A final program announcing the Playoff Semifinals pairings, New Year’s bowl pairings, and Top 25 rankings will air on Selection Day, Sunday, December 6.

The Obvious: Trojans athletic director Pat Haden is part of the College Football Playoff committee.

The Not So Obvious: Other members of the CFP committee are Mike Gould (Air Force), Jeff Long (Arkansas), Dan Radakovich (Clemson), Tyrone Willingham (Duke/daughter is on staff at Duke), Tom Osborne (Nebraska), Condoleezza Rice (Stanford/ son is on the staff at Stanford), Kirby Hicutt (Texas Tech), and Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin).

The Obvious: The Dallas Cowboys have waived former Trojans wide receiver George Farmer.

The Not So Obvious: Well, nobody said it was going to be easy making an NFL team, and you have to wonder how much better Farmer would have been had he returned to Troy. Reportedly George still received a $55,000 guarantee as an undrafted free agent. The O/NSO wishes him the best.

The Obvious: Pat Haden has been the Trojans athletic director the past five years.

The Not So Obvious: In an email message, Haden has outlined the success of athletics under his watch. Haden wrote, “Athletically over the past five years, our broad-based success has been outstanding. We have won 10 national championships, bettered only by the University of Florida’s 11. We have had more than 75 Top 25 national finishes, including nearly 60 in the Top 10. We have placed in the Top 15 each of the past five years in the Directors’ Cup (the annual ranking of the nation’s most successful athletic programs), including a USC-high third place this past 2014-15 season. We also have produced 274 All-American first teamers and 32 individual national champions.”

The Obvious: And finally, there has been ongoing debate how much longer Pat Haden will remain as the Trojans athletic director.

The Not So Obvious: In Haden’s own words through his public email, he wrote, “As I look back on my first five years as USC’s athletic director and as I eagerly look to our future, I feel optimistic and energized. My passion to continue leading our athletic department is strong.” Well, that should answer the Haden longevity question.

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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