New Pac-12 foes share old acquaintances

USC looks to contain Utah's new pro-style offense directed by former Trojan assistant coaches Norm Chow, Tim Davis.

LOS ANGELES – John Martinez could feel all eyes upon him while attending an open Utah practice this past spring.

The Murray (Utah) native was there to see old friends now playing for the Utes, but there was clearly concern the starting right guard might be spying for USC on its new conference foe.

"I got a bunch of dirty looks when I went over there. Definitely," Martinez said.

Familiarity breeds contempt and while USC and Utah are playing in the historic first-ever Pacific-12 Conference game this Saturday (4:30 p.m., Versus), there are plenty of preexisting relationships among players and coaches.

Martinez knows most of the Utes' powerful defensive line, including brothers Joe and Dave Kruger and nose tackles Star Lotulelei and LT Tuipulotu. He played with starting rover linebacker Matt Martinez in high school.

"They were texting me like, ‘I can't wait to play you guys. We're going to take over your city.' Stuff like that," Martinez said.

Redshirt junior Abe Markowitz knows all of Utah's Hawaiian players and took an unofficial recruiting visit to Salt Lake City. His second cousin is married to defensive tackle James Aiono.

"The name sounded familiar. I looked it up, went on Facebook," Markowitz said.

Now back at his alma mater, legendary offensive coordinator Norm Chow coached at USC from 2001-2004, developing quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart into Heisman Trophy winners and directing an offense that won back-to-back AP national championships in 2003 and 2004.

New Utes offensive line coach Tim Davis was with the Trojans from 2002-2004, overseeing legendary battles in practice between his front five and the defensive line led by Ed Orgeron.

"I remember his competitive nature," Orgeron recalled. "The guys loved to play for him. He just loved good, hard-nosed fundamental football. And the guy loved to work. I loved working with him.

"Obviously he was very instrumental in us winning the national championship. Just had a great staff."

After successfully running the spread offense in the Mountain West Conference, Chow and Davis have installed a pro-style attack for Utah (1-0), but results were mixed in a lackluster 27-10 win over Montana State last Thursday.

Junior quarterback Jordan Wynn, who missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery, threw for just 101 yards and two touchdowns while running back John White added 150 yards rushing and a touchdown.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin floated the theory that perhaps Chow was trying to sandbag his old colleagues.

"There is a school of thought they have had all offseason to practice different stuff and felt they didn't need to show it in the opener," Kiffin said.

Orgeron noticed a difference in the Utes' veteran offensive line, led by senior tackles Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen, with Davis at the helm.

"I didn't even have to look at the film to know how good a coach Tim is and what he is going to do (for them)," Orgeron said.

The Trojans (1-0) are looking for their own offensive line to step up. While not allowing a sack against Minnesota, they struggled to open up holes for the running backs.

While junior college transfer Jeremy Galten started at left guard, redshirt senior Martin Coleman saw all the first-team reps there in practice this week.

Kiffin didn't exactly give Coleman a ringing endorsement – "He was all right. Kind of plugged away in there," he said after Thursday's practice – and is holding out hope that Markowitz can return from a left foot injury.

Markowitz has still not been medically cleared to play.

"Even game day, I'll still try and go out there and get me cleared," he said. "When they call me I'll be ready, but right now I'll be supporting whoever is starting this weekend."

Even with the return of redshirt senior running back Marc Tyler from suspension, it will be up to the front five to hold up against a talented Utah defensive line, which rotated through 10 players in its opener.

"I know it's going to be a rough one for me," Martinez said.

Martinez's four older cousins all played for the Utes and will drive down to Los Angeles to attend the game.

Asked who they will be rooting for, Martinez said, "Oh they're definitely Utah for sure."


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