By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
No getting around it: While much positive preseason hyperbole has been paid to the 2017 Trojans, the biggest remaining question (A.K.A. elephant in the room) is whether the Men of Troy can replace and/or survive the unexpected departure of experienced placekicker Matt Boermeester (photo above), who not long after his game-winning kick against Penn State in the Rose Bowl was unexpectedly removed from the team for an undisclosed student conduct issue.
Reality check: When teams contend for national honors, they usually have an “ice in the veins” placekicker with experience, exactly the type of player Matt Boermeester would have been for the Trojans had he returned for his senior season. Heading into training camp, the Trojans have no experienced placekicker, but the lead candidate figures to be redshirt freshman Michael Brown (Temecula, Calif./Linfield Christian HS).
Just punt: Along with placekicking excellence, teams that usually contend for championships have an outstanding punter, and this past week Trojans’ junior punter Chris Tilbey (38.3 avg.) was named to the watch list of the Ray Guy Award, an award given the nation’s top punter.
Down under: What makes Chris Tilbey’s punting story so intriguing is that the junior is from Melbourne, Australia, not exactly a hotbed of D-1 recruits for American college football. Chris’s background is that he once played Australian Rules Football and eventually came to the USA and became a noted punter at San Francisco City College.
Sam I am: Got to give Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold some public relations points for telling ESPN that teams like the NY Jets shouldn’t tank their season to position themselves to draft him for the 2018 NFL draft. And so it continues.
The microscope: With the Trojans getting the early preseason attention, a number of Clay Helton’s players will have a chance this season to showcase their skills for voters of various individual national award. One of those players is junior defensive lineman Rasheem Green. Once a heralded recruit out of Gardena (Calif.) Serra High, Green has a chance to burst on to the national scene, having made the watch list for both the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Award.
More Nagurksi: Trojans also making the watch list for the Nagurski Award – given to the nation’s top defender – are junior linebacker Cameron Smith and junior corner Iman Marshall. It should be noted that no Trojan has ever won the Nagurski Award.
The Outland: There has been only one Trojan selected for the Outland Trophy, emblematic of the nation’s top interior lineman, and that was offensive tackle Ron Yary in 1967. Speaking of old No. 77, a reminder that Yary’s 1967 USC National Champions will be recognized and honored at this summer’s Salute to Troy.
They’re back: After promoting in a USC Coliseum renovation video some months ago that the peristyle end was returning to its “original” look, it was rather disconcerting in a recent fundraising golf tournament photo (LA Daily News) showing the return of those same ugly, portable, double-decked VIP suites blocking most of the iconic inside Coliseum peristyle columns beneath the historic torch. Oy veh.
From the press box…
Classless: Through a Twitter tweet this past week, former UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley wrote, “Can someone on the @UCLA Football d-line please knock him out 11-18-17.” “Him” would be the photo of Sam Darnold below the tweet.
Classless – Part 2: Let’s see, last time I looked at last season’s video of the Trojans waxing of the Bruins, 36-14, at the Rose Bowl, Takkarist McKinley, a 2017 first round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, did not register a sack of Sam Darnold and had just a handful of tackles (4). Is that called “not leading by example?”
So long: It’s always interesting to see who comes and who goes on the Trojans roster as we approach training camp. One that has departed is former defensive lineman Kevin Scott, who has transferred to Arizona Western College in Yuma.
Arizona Western: Speaking of the desert community college, two of the greatest Trojan defenders came from Arizona Western CC, or have you forgotten the likes of former All-American DE Charlie Weaver (1969-70) of original Wild Bunch fame and former LB/DE All-American Willie Hall (1970-71)?
Waiting for Godot: Speaking of comings and goings, intrigue is mounting whether former high profile recruit and offensive tackle E.J. Price will be listed on the Trojans’ training camp roster or rumors that he is now ready to transfer out. And BTW, if you don’t know who Godot is, you probably weren’t paying attention in your English class. As reported by our Garry P., Price has not participated in any of the summer workouts but was reportedly enrolled in summer school.
Good luck: Certainly the announcement by former Trojans quarterback Todd Marinovich, now 48, that he intends to play for the SoCal Coyotes, a developmental football team, caught many by surprise. Long having to fight the demons of drug addiction, let’s hope that a return to the gridiron – no matter the level or his age – will bring the lefty some peace of mind.
The deal: USC is offering Trojans season ticket holder a chance to purchase single game tickets for as much as 45% off. The bad news is that the “pre-sale” ends on Monday.
The post-game show…
History lesson: In watching part of the SEC Media Day, part of the celebration was the 50th anniversary of integration of the once segregated conference. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey promoted the topic of individual players breaking the color line on TV. I was surprised during an interview on the SEC Network that Sankey didn’t mention that the biggest turnaround for integration was when John McKay took his Trojans down to Birmingham and waxed Alabama, 42-21, in 1970.
The “O” man: Former Trojans interim head coach Ed Orgeron, now the head coach at LSU, was asked at SEC Media Day about the strengths of each conference in which he has participated. I suppose you’re not shocked to learn that Coach O graciously said that the SEC was the best conference in which he had participated. Ed, however, did not downgrade the other conferences in which he coached, which Orgeron’s usual class.
The impossible: This could be the first time in memory that a Trojan might not nominated for the Biletnikoff Award, which annually recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football. The 2017 Biletnikoff Award Pre-Season Watch List will be announced on Twitter this Tuesday, July 18, at 10:00 AM (EST).
The impossible – Part 2: BTW, reading “the small print” on The Biletnikoff Award, “any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back, and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award,” probably excites the Trojans tailbacks knowing they are eligible for the Biletnikoff Award.
The hostage: So now we learn that Los Angeles will be hosting either the 2024 or 2028 Olympics, and I can’t help but think the Coliseum will be going another renovation at some level in anticipation depending on the date. Paris is the other partner is this double-naming extravaganza, but one wonders if it’s all worth it.
The hostage – Part 2: It figures that USC will get some benefits by providing the Coliseum (opening and closing ceremonies) along with some selected events. I’ll admit I lost interest in the summer games long ago but not because of the competition, but because it is basically a professional competition with the last vestiges of amateur battles long a thing of the past.
The last word: I can’t think of a better place to get ready for the 2017 Trojans training camp than 10 days in Maui beginning on Monday. Ah, yes, nothing like waking up in the morning to the crashing waves of the Pacific, watching playful dolphins, courageous surfers visible from our beachfront condo, and the island of Lanai in the distance. And did I mention those tropical evenings in a relaxing recliner looking straight up at a beautiful array of planetarium-like stars? And, yes, I expect to see some other Trojans on the island doing the same. Aloha!