Freshman offensive lineman Aundrey Walker, who tips the scales at more than 360 pounds, played right guard for the first time Tuesday. Based on how he manned the position, working with the first unit, he could be there for the foreseeable future.
"I was surprised at how well he handled it," junior quarterback Matt Barkley said. "We had to kind of help him with some of the calls in the two-minute drill because everything was fast, but he caught on quick."
"He didn't really know what the heck was going on, but a big man like that, he just fills the void wherever he is at," offensive line coach James Cregg said.
USC has to replace both guards and it seemed like only a matter of time before Walker, who starred at Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, got his chance. Walker has wowed observers from the moment he stepped on campus, his sheer size belying surprising athleticism. Head coach Lane Kiffin pointed to his ability to run 80-yard sprints at the end of a two and a half-hour practice.
Walker has been just as special on the field, where he pancaked senior defensive tackle DaJohn Harris on one play, this after manhandling redshirt junior defensive end Wes Horton last week.
"That's very abnormal," Kiffin said. "We have ourselves a very, very special athlete, so now we've got to put the other stuff together so he can be a special player."
The timing of Walker's move did not seem like coincidence, after the Trojans offensive line struggled noticeably during its first scrimmage Monday. Kiffin wasn't pleased with how John Martinez and Jeremy Galten, who opened with the first unit, played at the Coliseum.
"That's why there's competition," Kiffin said. "We'll give someone else a shot and see what happens.
"We'll see how long he (Walker) can take it. Our system puts those guys up there, and it's their job to see how long they can stay, as far as the freshmen. That's how we've done it for years. Sometimes they stay, and sometimes they can't handle it and they move back down."
Cregg added that the move would not preclude Walker from playing tackle in the future.
"He is just one play away from playing that, if he was to play, so he has to know both," Cregg said.
Dawson impresses early
A right shoulder injury that senior middle linebacker Chris Galippo sustained during practice, while ultimately declared minor by Kiffin, highlighted the need to develop depth at that position. Fortunately, freshman Lamar Dawson seems to be up to the task.
While declining to say he is the backup to Galippo right now, Kiffin did single out Dawson for his performance Monday.
"If you have a freshman, a true freshman who's been through five practices, his first time in the Coliseum, and he's lining up right and making plays, we have somebody pretty special," Kiffin said. Most of the guys at this point barely can line up once they get in that scenario, like a lot of our freshmen did – they're running the wrong routes or dropping it or jumping offsides.
"He does not look like a true freshman out there, which is what we want. That's what the really good guys in the past have done."
-Safety T.J. McDonald turned his left ankle early in practice, but was able to continue.
-Quarterback Jesse Scroggins sprained his thumb Monday and did not practice. X-rays were negative and the redshirt freshman could return as early as Wednesday.
-Safety Demetrius Wright (hip pointer) should return shortly, Kiffin said.
-Kiffin could not update when freshmen running back Javorious Allen or tight end Junior Pomee might join the team.