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IMHO Sunday: The long haul

14 min read
IMHO Sunday: The long haul

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles:

The long haul: Well, it’s finally here. You know what I am talking about. The long haul between the month of May until the Trojans first game against San Jose State on Saturday, Aug. 23, in the Coliseum. That’s a looooong time to wait for a season that could be as fascinating as any the past decade. So, how does one pass the time in the four-plus months until kickoff? IMHO Sunday has some ideas.

The long haul – Part 2: Take May as the month you sink yourself into all the recruiting stories you can read on WeAreSC. Become familiar with recruiting names for the class of 2024. We’ll start with quarterbacks like Phoenix (Az.) Pinnacle’s Dylan Riaola and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s Elijah Brown; Texas running backs like Longview High’s Taylor Tatum and Decatur High’s Nathaniel Palmer; Parkview (Georgia) wide receiver Mike Matthews; offensive linemen like Magna (Utah) High’s Isaiah Gomez and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s Brandon Baker and DeAndre Carter; Mater Dei defensive lineman Aydin Breland; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco linebackers Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa and Jordan Lockhart; corner Marcelles Williams; and safety Jason Mitchell.    

2024 four-star defensive lineman Aydin Breland from Santa Ana Mater Dei is a major target as the Trojans need elite D-linemen.

The long haul – Part 3: So, what to do in June? No problem, my friends. Here comes the arrival of college football preview magazines like Athlon, Lindy’s, and perhaps some new print challengers. That should provide plenty of reading material to last at least two weeks if you space it out. You might also want to start previewing Big Ten teams as a beginning primer for 2024. Besides the usual suspects like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, it wouldn’t hurt to educate yourself on Iowa and Michigan State. And don’t forget Rutgers and Maryland. Just kidding about the Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins, respectively.    

The long haul – Part 4: Speaking of college football preseason magazines, you might want to also keep track of how many mag covers will feature Trojans’ QB Caleb Williams or should we say don’t feature Caleb Williams. Of course, then there will be the perspective of where these preseason magazines rank the Trojans. Or better yet, after Caleb, what Trojan will be next in line for a cover photo shoot?  

The long haul – Part 5: Then there is also the YouTube June alternative of watching historic USC games from the past like the 2022 belittling of Notre Dame, which would fit the bill. That viewing option is usually a winner, a Heisman Trophy viewing winner.

 The long haul – Part 6: In July, besides some Fourth of July celebrations and a cardinal and gold BBQ with some friends, somewhere during the month you have to go on a vacation, right? Well, there’s probably 7-10 days right there. Don’t forget to take your laptop so you can read on WeAreSC and the On3 networks about the national recruiting camps evaluations. Perhaps designate a day to visit the USC Bookstore to prepare for the season before students crush the facility and checkout lines tax your patience. Of course, if you live in Orange County, there is the South Coast Plaza at the newly remodeled SC Trojan Town, which offers officially licensed USC clothing, gifts and memorabilia. Shop for your favorite fans, alumni, and yourself in an authentically Trojans atmosphere.

The long haul – Part 7: And also in July, let’s not forget those of you that like to travel to USC away games. You have five games to choose from: ASU, Colorado, Notre Dame, Cal, and Oregon. Better make those flight reservations and hotel “ressies.” Words of advice, Notre Dame and Oregon could be a challenge for both hotels and flights that fit your agenda. ND and UO will definitely test your travel planning skills. The big decision with these two premier games is do you stay in Chicago for the Irish donnybrook and do you stay in eclectic Portland for Oregon? Don’t wait to the last minute or you’ll find yourself out of luck. A little secret, Cal and ASU won’t be a problem – shocking, I know. With Deion Sanders now calling the shots at Colorado and current interest in Buffaloes football sky high, it could be a bit challenging finding both reasonably priced lodging in the Boulder vicinity and tickets to Folsom Field.

If you decide to travel to Eugene, Oregon for a visit to Autzen Stadium, do you stay in Portland or Eugene?
(Photo above by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

The long haul – Part 8: Also in July, there will be the televising of Pac-12 Media Day by the Pac-12 Networks, which will air from Las Vegas. This will be the final hurrah for the Pac-12 Conference as we know it before the Trojans and Bruins head to the Big Ten in 2024. And here’s a little extra sugar, the Men of Troy open early training camp start on July 27 to begin preparation for the “Week 0” game against San Jose State on Aug. 23. Of course, you can get your daily dose of practice reports on WeAreSC! I know, a shameless plug.

The long haul – Part 9: FINALLY, we reach August and the real countdown begins. If you’ve survived this long, you’ve almost made it. You can download the 2023 USC Trojans Football Me dia Guide like the rest of us and start seriously readying for the season by studying the players’ bios, numerical roster, notes, quotes, anecdotes, and historical records from the past. Obviously, training camp is now underway, and WeAreSC will continue to have daily coverage with additional post-practice interviews from coaches and players. On the publishing front, there’s Phil Steele’s mammoth college football magazine that covers everything there is to know about 2023 college football.   

A great resource for college football fans will be the 2023 Phil Steele College Football Preview magazine

Summation: See, those four months – plus a few weeks – went by like a streaking, improvised Caleb Williams run into the end zone. Piece of cake. In the meantime, get out your calendar and chart it all out, which should be taken as a labor of love. Yes, true cardinal and gold love arrives in many forms, especially when it comes to USC football.  

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The Caleb Williams quotebook…

(Photo above by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Asked where he’d like to improve in 2023, Trojans defending Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Caleb Williams recently said:

“Consistency, just being consistent, man, and also just upping my mental game. I’m comfortable with the routes. Also understanding that no matter the year, no matter the time, every year there’s going to be different challenges. So, last year, one of our plays is not going to be the same and ran the same as it is this year because of our talent and the changes within it.” 

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From the press box…

(Photo above by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Nobody asked me…but: There is a lot of growing speculation where USC and UCLA will be placed if the Big Ten continues with its two divisions in 2024. One pundit has the Trojans in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State with UCLA in the opposite division. I’ll go out on a limb and say that supposition will happen when monkeys fly out of a certain orifice.

Nobody asked me…but: Is Deion Sanders and Colorado a potential recruiting threat to USC?

Is first-year Colorado coach Deion Sanders a threat to USC recruiting?
(Photo above by © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Nobody asked me…but: The Trojans got a real PR bump when ESPN’s Mark Schlabach updated his spring Top 25 power rankings by jumping USC from No. 7 to the No. 4 team in the country. In listing all the positives of Lincoln Riley’s 2023 team, the elephant in the room again reared its ugly head as Schlaback cautioned: “The question is whether the Trojans will be able to stop anybody on defense.”

Nobody asked me…but: A major key to the Trojans defense will be the health and placement of linebacker Eric Gentry. If healthy, Gentry is a force, but there seems to be a healthy debate whether he should remain an inside linebacker or move to an outside linebacker slot. Again, the issue seems to be Gentry’s weight, which was listed in the spring guide as 205 pounds on a 6-6 frame. Honestly, I wouldn’t take the listed 205 pounds as the gospel.

Does linebacker Eric Gentry play on the inside or the outside in 2023?
(Photo above by Icon Sportwire / Getty Images)

Nobody asked me…but: I continue to be amazed at all the community service work that Caleb Williams and his foundation, “Caleb Cares”, does in the Los Angeles area. He truly enjoys being a role model for youth, and he never seems to get tired of it. BTW, the Rams seem to be stockpiling a lot of future draft picks. I am no pro football expert, but do you think they’re going to attempt to trade up to the overall first pick in the 2024 draft to select Caleb? I hope so.   

Nobody asked me…but: I am already getting Caleb Williams withdrawal pain not just with the thought that this season will probably be his last in a cardinal and gold uniform, but the impact he makes off the field. Just wish we could turn back the clock and have college football players play four seasons instead of three before heading off to the NFL, but the money is too great.

Is this the final season for USC quarterback Caleb Williams before entering the 2024 NFL draft?
(Photo above by Tom Pennington / Staff PhotoG/Getty)

Nobody asked me…but: I occasionally wonder how John McKay would have adjusted to today’s college football environment. How would the Silver Fox have dealt with today’s players obsession of getting to the NFL, the NIL, players wearing different shoes or altered uniform adjustments? For many of you that didn’t live through the McKay era, the coach was Nick Saban with a sense of humor.

Nobody asked me…but:
It wasn’t a coincidence that USC sent out a social media tweet regarding offensive tackle Jarrett Kingston signing with the House of Victory, USC’s new major arm of NIL placement opportunities. Ya think that didn’t get noticed by fellow offensive linemen and current and future linemen recruits?

USC offensive lineman Jarrett Kingston (#52) has signed an NIL agreement with House of Victory.
(Photo above by Erik McKinney/WeAreSC)

 Nobody asked me…but: Whatever recruiting issues there have been in the past with local powerhouse St. John Bosco High, Lincoln Riley and staff have made a major effort to welcome SJB back into the “new” USC football program. A St. John Bosco recruit to watch is obviously linebacker Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, who is said to be leaning towards Notre Dame, Ohio State, and USC in that rumored order. The USC recruiting of this phenom will be a real test to expand the St. John Bosco/Trojans recruiting pipeline.  

Nobody asked me…but: While the perception is that St. John Bosco hasn’t been real active in players coming to USC, the truth is that they have sent players to Troy unless you’ve forgotten the likes of current tight end Jude Wolfe, running back Matt Colombo, punter Will Rose, and defensive lineman Kobe Pepe. Last season’s 2022 roster also included former starting linebacker Ralen Goforth, now at Washington.   

Trojans tight end Jude Wolfe is a product of powerhouse Bellflower St. John Bosco High.
(Photo above by Erik McKinney/WeAreSC)

Nobody asked me…but: I know that USC is making a major push to inform the public how competitive it is for the normal student to gain admittance into the university. In a social media tweet, it said a record 80,790 applied for 2023 admission to USC and just 8,032 were accepted. The average GPA was 3.90 and 23% per first generation. How many of you past USC graduates could get accepted under today’s academic competition?  

Nobody asked me…but: Come to think of it, how many specialized students from areas like the arts and athletics were admitted and didn’t match the average 3.90 GPA or come close to it? The reality is that admittance to most universities is not a level academic playing field, but I guess you knew that.    

Getting admitted to the University of Southern California requires an exceptional grade point average among other requirements.

Nobody asked me…but: All signs are now pointing that the No. 1 prospect in the recruiting class of 2024, quarterback Dylan Raiola (Phoenix Pinnacle), is now in the Georgia camp after USC was once considered the lead dog in this recruiting marathon. As Lincoln Riley has said, USC isn’t for everybody; it’s where the lights shine the brightest (AKA Los Angeles). Raiola to Georgia would be disappointing, but don’t feel sorry for Riley and the Trojans, they’ll still get a future superstar quarterback because history has shown it.

Nobody asked me…but: If you were pleased with the announced USC spring game attendance of 33,427 and had a good time, which BTW included your faithful columnist, this is what UCLA had to compare it to in their spring game. Oh, that’s right, UCLA didn’t have a spring or intrasquad game on campus or in the Rose Bowl. Now that’s one way of impressing recruits and silencing the critics. Right? Perhaps the reality is Bruins fan are waiting for next basketball season. How about an 8-clap for that?

There was no attendance at the Rose Bowl for the UCLA spring game because there was no UCLA spring or intrasquad game.
(Photo above by David McNew/Getty Images)

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The post-game show…

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Best of the Lott: Junior safety Calen Bullock and USC transfer senior linebacker Mason Cobb were among 42 watch-list nominees for the prestigious 2023 Lott IMPACT Trophy. Named after former Trojans legend Ronnie Lott, the Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fame icon, the Lott Trophy annually goes to the defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, a player who has had the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field. IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity, all characteristics exhibited by Lott during his glorious playing career.

Best of the Lott- Part 2: Others named to the 2023 Lott Watch List include future Trojan opponents like Oregon DE Joran Burch, Arizona LB Justin Flowe, Colorado DB Travis Hunter, UCLA DE Laiatu Latu, Notre Dame CB Benjamin Morrison, Utah LB Karene Reid, and Washington DE Bralen Trice.  

USC inside linebacker Mason Cobb, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has been named to the Lott Trophy Watch List.
(Photo above by Erik McKinney/WeAreSC)

Strike up the band: The Trojans’ Marching Band used a new avenue to reach out to raise travel funds for trips like the Notre Dame Weekender. On Thursday, Dr. Jacob Vogel’s celebrated TMB held a 12-hour livestream on YouTube as part of USC’s Day of SCupport. Streaming went from 7am-7pm from locations throughout Southern California. Funds will also be used to lay the foundation for the Trojans joining the Big Ten in 2024. If you’re still looking to help the band, go to:

https://give.communityfunded.com/o/university-of-southern-california/i/usc-trojan-marching-band

The scouting report: In case you missed it, Notre Dame, whom the Trojans will visit on Oct. 14, recently had its spring game. For those who like to scout ahead, below are highlights of the Irish spring game. It should be noted that quarterback Tyler Buchner is no longer at Notre Dame, having transferred to Alabama, but he wasn’t going to start anyway.

Quarterback transfer Sam Hartman (above), a transfer from Wake Forrest, will likely lead Notre Dame against the Trojans on Oct. 14.

Sign of the times: I miss the days when college football media guides were available in hard copy form, and you could have it by your side on the coffee table. I also remember how laughable it was when the NCAA decided to impose limits on the pure volume of pages and inside “color” of college football press guides because it deemed some schools had an unfair budget advantage. No doubt, that edict surely helped stop recruiting advantages…not. I am sure an athlete selected a school based on its press guide. Give me a Break.

Sign of the times – Part 2: I miss the days when Exposition Park was a true gathering of middle-class families to enjoy the tradition and spirit of college football without paying “rent” for a tailgate space.

There is nothing like tailgating before a USC home game in Exposition Park but at what price?

Remembering Carroll: I thought one of the great ideas that Pete Carroll brought to USC football and the general public was the time in preseason when he held a public scrimmage in the Coliseum to drum up interest. It was a dress rehearsal for the first game. I do remember it was very well attended and very well received. Don’t expect this idea to return anytime soon.

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The Call-in Show…

Caller No. 1: GK, should I attend the game at Notre Dame or Oregon?

Caller No. 1, if you have to choose one over the other, Notre Dame is a no-brainer.

A view of the University of Notre Dame from the ND Stadium press box. There is nothing quite like it.
(Photo above by Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images)

Caller No. 2, K-dog, I think players at USC are more interested in getting to the NFL than winning a national title. What do you think?

Caller No. 2, I think it depends on the Trojans head coach’s message, credibility, and the state of the program. I can honestly say that Lincoln Riley has returned the idea of winning a national titles and then going on to the NFL. Sure, Clay Helton talked national titles, but he didn’t have the credibility of Riley to make the players believe playing at USC was more than just a stepping stone to the NFL.  

Caller No. 3: Gregger, alternative home uniforms this season?  

Caller No. 3, I hope not. Fingers crossed. End of discussion.

USC home uniforms are considered one of the great icons in college football. Why tinker or change them?
(Photo above by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Caller No. 4: Greg, don’t you think that a great movie could be made on the life of former blind USC center Jake Olson?

Caller No. 4, I am kind of surprised somebody or a movie producer hasn’t already come up with the idea. I think it would make for a great inspirational movie. Who would play Jake?

Caller No. 5: Gregorio, in all your football travels, what area of the country seems to bring the fall season of college football to life.

Caller No. 5, not to belabor the point, but there’s nothing like a fall afternoon in the Midwest when USC plays at Notre Dame. If the weather complies, there is something about a brisk but comfortable weather window and the autumn leaves are spectacular. Thanks to television, unfortunately it seems the game has now been cemented into a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium, which turns that picturesque afternoon into a cold, dark, and survival evening. Think of the Rose Bowl chill when the sun goes down for a night game but much colder and windier.

Notre Dame Stadium and its campus are normally great during the day, but a night game can be brutal and challenging.

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The last word

For those that missed last Tuesday’s “Inside the Trojans’ Huddle”, panelists Marc Kulkin, Chris Arledge, Erik McKinney, and Greg Katz reviewed the NFL draft, gave overall analysis at the first and second transfer portal windows combined, USC recruiting strategies, the effects of the newly announced College Football Playoff 12-team expansion format, and viewers’ questions and panel answers.

The post IMHO Sunday: The long haul appeared first on On3.

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