By Greg Katz - WeAreSC columnist
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
On fire: There is no getting around it. You can argue all you want about Steve Sarkisian’s evaluation of his 9-4 season as a “total success,” but his hyperbole about the future being “ridiculously bright” might actually be an undersell from a recruiting standpoint, as the Trojans are on recruiting fire with the announcement this weekend of some major gets, and the best may be yet to come.
On Fire – Part 2: Even with this weekend’s impressive all-star games recruiting announcements of tailback Ronald Jones ll (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North), DB/WR Ykili Ross (Riverside, Ca./Poly), and DB Marvell Tell (Encino, Ca./Crespi), Sark and his staff aren’t done yet, and that’s the exhilarating aspect for Trojans fans. This could end up being a Top 3 class depending on your recruiting service.
On fire – Part 3: It would be a shock here if the acknowledged and remaining premier recruits like DB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Ca./Poly), LB John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Ca./Serra), and DL Rasheem Green (Gardena, Ca./Serra) don’t eventually commit to the Trojans. As my old and departed friend, columnist Loel Schrader of the Long Beach Telegram, used to write as it pertained to recruiting under John McKay, “Them that has gits.”
On fire – Part 4: No we haven’t forgotten the possibility that super schoolboy recruits like linebackers Osa Masina (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton) and Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) are also strong possibilities to join the Trojans recruiting avalanche.
Anticipation: Although the U.S. Army All-Star Game announcements from future Trojans Marvell Tell and Yikili Ross were expected, there was some real anticipation during Friday’s Under Amour High School Football Game when explosive Texas running back Ronald Jones (photo above) was set to announce his college choice between the Trojans and Notre Dame. Trust me, that one really hurt the Irish. Ronald has that hard to find elusive top-end speed, as he demonstrated with his 58-yard TD run. Boy, can No. 7 move or what.
Anticipation – Part 2: Ronald Jones says that former Trojans All-America tailback Reggie Bush was his idol growing up and that he played video games with the Trojans in the Coliseum. Say what you want about Bush, but his influence remains a positive for the Trojans when it comes to the recruiting trail.
Reality test: Well, when it comes to all these incoming prep superstars soon to be arriving at the John McKay Center, you still have to coach’em up and develop them. With the current top-flight recruiting class added to last season’s haul, Sark knows much more will now be expected, as it should be.
Dropping shoes: First, it was the announcement of All-America junior defensive lineman Leonard Williams turning pro. No shock there. The second of the predicted three underclassmen shoes dropped on Saturday with the announcement that junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor was heading into the 2015 NFL draft. A mild shock at best. The final dropping shoe should be junior tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen. The toughest for these Trojans to replace in ranking order will be (1) Williams, (2) Allen, and (3) Agholor.
Just Duckie: No question that Oregon is really white hot at the moment, and they will be good next season when the Trojans travel to Eugene. However, anybody who thinks that the 2015 Ducks will be a powerhouse must be thinking that Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota is returning, which would be as shocking as 80 degree Eugene weather in late November. The Oregon quarterback transition will not be seamless.
Attention getter: Two areas that really caught my attention in the CFP Alabama/Ohio State semifinal game was not just how physical and disciplined both teams were, but how proficient were their special teams.
Come again: Yes, those were Pac-12 officials working the Alabama/Ohio State game, and did you notice for the most part the lack of penalties called? Trojans fans must have wondered if those were really SEC refs disguised as Pac-12 officials.
FYI: Nebraska, the Trojans victim in the National University Holiday Bowl, did not play Ohio State this season.
Rose Parade tribute: Was that an emotional sight to see Traveler, the Trojans white mascot horse, traveling down Colorado Blvd riderless with a black saddle in tribute to late war hero, Olympian, and USC alum Lou Zamperini.
The merry-go-round: The loss of Trojans offensive line coach Tim Drevno to Michigan means the Trojans offensive linemen will have had four coaches in four seasons. Somebody needs to bring Hudson Houck out of retirement.
Interesting: Former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin told The Times Gary Klein down in New Orleans last week that he still stays in touch with a number of Trojans, including athletic director Pat Haden, who Kiffin says he talked to a couple of times this month. Fair or unfair and despite his ballyhooed job as offensive coordinator during the season, don’t look now but Kiffin is getting absolutely torched in the Alabama media following the Crimson Tide’s loss to Ohio State.
Rooting interest: It should have come as no surprise to learn that Lane Kiffin told Gary Klein that he was rooting for the Trojans this season. It makes sense since Kiffin recruited many of the current Trojans players, and there is no reason to not retain a rooting interest or friendship with your former players.And now from the press box…Numbers game: If you think that ESPN’s all-time college football cable record of viewers for the College Football Playoffs was astonishing, just imagine what an eight-team playoff would draw.
McQuay’s the way: Considered a goat in the UCLA game, Trojans sophomore safety Leon McQuay lll may have saved the Trojans bacon twice in the Holiday Bowl with standout defensive plays. Give the kid credit for bouncing back from his own personal UCLA nightmare.
Tickets anybody: Lost in the excitement of the College Football Playoff games was how accessible tickets were for the Rose Bowl Game featuring Oregon and Florida State.
Tickets anybody – Part 2: Although Oregon fans turned out in force at the Rose Bowl, tickets were available because fans of both schools were saving their money with confidence that their respective university was going to play in the CFP National Championship in little over a week later.
Tickets anybody – Part 3: A major interest in the NCAA Basketball Tournament is that every part of the country is involved and there is complete regional interest. When football teams like Baylor and TCU are left out of the CFP, it deadens interest from the Southwest part of the country. Imagine the numbers if one or both of those teams were in an 8-team tournament.
Eight is enough: Do you think after watching TCU smack around Ole Miss that the Horned Frogs don’t make a legitimate case for an eight-team playoff?
The post-game show…Back-to-back: If you think that playing Oregon next season on Nov. 21 in Eugene will be a challenge, just know the following week the Trojans host UCLA (Nov. 28) in the Coliseum. If the Trojans like challenges and want a program measurement, then they’ve got their wish in 2015.
All-Star power: Despite all the honors, recognition, and 5-star acclaim, it’s difficult that during any of these post-season high school “All-America” games that one player completely stands out over the others. One high school All-America that did shine far above the others was former Trojans All-America tailback Reggie Bush, who put on quite a display in the 2003 U.S. Army All-America Game.
Planning ahead: For your 2015 Trojans calendar, Homecoming will be Nov. 7 against the University of Arizona and won’t that be fun.
The final word: So, again, how long until spring practice?
Garry Paskwietz (1966-2019)
Garry Paskwietz was a pioneer in bringing team-specific sports coverage to the internet. He founded WeAreSC in 1998 and was an Emmy winner for his work with Fox Sports West. Always generous with his time, knowledge, and compassion, he touched the lives of countless USC and high school football fans.