Practice reports

Daily reports from Trojan camp

Monday morning practice

The energy at practice this morning was evident in one of the first drills the defense was doing as they were doing some basic footwork bag drills with five coaches (Carroll, Walker, Orgeron, Holt and Seto) nearby shouting encouragement as the players were going over the bags. It is a spirited way to get things started as the coaches are loud as they preach quickness and balance and the drill moves quickly before they head to position drills.

The d-line moved to the far end of the field for a lateral movement drill which ended with the players hitting the big bag which represented the quarteback but Orgeron didnt like the way his players were executing so he ran the drill himself and drew a good response from his players as the coach flung himself at the bag to finish it off right.

The quarterbacks, receivers and RB's were in the middle of the main field working against a scout defense as they ran through several passing plays. The majority of routes were crossing routes that involved precise timing and Norm Chow was making certain that the players were focused on hitting the right spot on the field to get proper spacing between receivers.

The RB's moved to a pass blocking drill with the linebackers. Chad Pierson held off John Cousins and then Matt Grootegoed went against Sultan McCullough with Sultan's helmet coming off as he tried to hold off Groots. Frank Strong blew past Charlie Landrigan as Strong looked fantastic today and was all over the field. Malaefou did a good job against Groots and then Cousins made Darryl Poston look like a true freshman as he ran right past him. Groots and Landrigan battled to a standstill before Eric Reese had a nice block against Bobby Otani. Strong put a spin move on Justin Fargas and Fargas barely got a hand on him which caused Strong to come away yelling at Carson who was nearby, "you better watch out, CP. they can't keep up with me." The drill then shifted from blocking to pass routes out of the backfield and Sultan beat Mike Pollard on the first play and then Malaefou beat Otani. Groots made an excellent play to bat the ball away from Guenther with Strong yelling encouragement from the sidelines. Strong then followed that up with a terrific play agaist Landrigan and at this point it was hard not to be impressed with how Frank was playing. He looked so in control and so fast at his new spot that it has to be encouraging for Carroll to see how he is making the transition. The last play of the drill saw Strong keep pace with Sultan to cause an incomplete pass and Strong let Sultan know that "you got a linebacker staying with you."

An 11 on 11 scrimmage featured the 1st O against the 2nd D to start things off. Norm Katnik is at LT with Torres at RT but it is obvious the coaches are looking at several combinations and the rotation at tackle is nowhere near set. Mike Pollard was with the 1st D at MLB for some drills while in others in was Aaron Graham. Sultan took a sweep right and followed a nice block from Landrigan which brought a slap on the butt from Carson. Another sweep went to left for Malaefou and then Sultan took the pitch and went right again. Both backs look very good as Sultan is extremely smooth right now and looks like more of a fluid runner than we have ever seen before. Malaefou headed out on another sweep but it was read well by Jason Leach who came up and made a nice hit. The 2nd O came in against the 1st D and Bernard Riley knocked down the first pass at the line from Matt Leinart. The offense was not able to do much against this defense as the group that continues to stand out is the defensive line, if they stay healthy it could be one of the best units we have seen on the line in a long time. Strong made one of the best plays of the day as he came on a blitz and was faced with Scott Huber as a blocker but Strong basically lifted Huber up and pile drove him into the ground which brought oohs and aahs from the crowd on the sidelines. Leinart hit Dickerson dragging across the middle and then had a couple nice completions to Grant Mattos. After one of the catches by Mattos he was nailed by Kevin Arbet as it is getting obvious that the players are ready to start putting on the pads and doing some real hitting. There were quite a few good pops today with the biggest hit coming from Chris Cash who nailed Chris Howard and Howard was limping slightly for the rest of the day which was certainly not good to see. Cash also put a hit on Marcell Allmond and Allmond was shaking his head and holding his chin as he walked back to huddle with Pete Carroll putting his arm around him to remind him it was a nice catch. At the end of the drill as the players were walking toward to post practice huddle Sultan came up behind Antuan Simmons and poured a Gatorade bottle of water over his head as Antuan was talking to a reporter along the sidelines. Antuan is expected to practice this afternoon and will be in pads tomorrow.

One recruit in attendance today was LB Poly junior QB Leon Jackson, a transfer from Beverly Hills who is 6-3, 185 and started last season as a sophomore.

Sunday afternoon report (courtesy of SKennally)

Do you realize how fortunate we are to have guys like Brian Kennedy step up
and put out the kind of dollars it takes to help us become a better football
program?

I arrived at Brian Kennedy Field at 4:05PM. I pulled out my portable chair
and positioned myself against the wall just South of the Goux Gate entrance.
From my vantage point I could just about take it all in.

It is amazing to me how guys like Garry P can give such a great summary of
all that goes on in practice. There is so much happening at one time. I
felt like I was watching a tennis match. My head should have been on a
swivel.

As practice began the punters were booming kicks on the main field and most
of the receivers and a few others (i.e. Malaefou McKenzie, Frank Strong and
Daryl Rideaux) were returning the kicks. The coach working with the
receiving corp took special care in showing them the proper way to catch the
ball and how their bodies should be lined up at the point of the catch. He
was very thorough. Down by the kickers coach Pola emphasized getting the
ball off quickly and kicking it toward the has marks.

As that drill was taking place, most of the BIG guys were down at the South
End of the practice area doing stretching drills. Once that broke up all the
players went into their various stations. Directly in front of me Coach
Wilson (or Coach Walker) worked with the "gunners." The gunners are the guys
who come down on punt returns. The coach made them practice over and over
again the proper technique of looking for the ball while it was airborne and
making sure the down the ball inside the five yard line.

Over on the South end of the field one of the coaches was working with the
Defensive backs in a fumbling drill...getting them to pounce on it and cover
it up while other teammates crowded around them to make sure it didn't squirt
loose.

In the extreme Southwest corner Coach O had the D Linemen crawling almost
horizontally around cones in kind of a serpentine fashion and then rolling
over and back as if they were trying to allude a blocker. The D Linemen then
did some kind of drill where they were batting these big free standing pads
as they blew by them. You know what those pads look like. It is like those
wobbly plastic things that we all had as kids where you would bat it forward
of to the side and it would spring back upright. The pads that these linemen
were batting were bigger than those heavy bags that a boxer trains with. The
lineman really showed their strength and agility as the worked this drill.

Up in the Northwest corner by the McDonalds pool the O Linemen were working
the sleds. Everybody was busy doing something.

Then the horn went off and everybody hustled to new stations. Just North of
the South goal post Coach Nick Holt assembled the linebackers and had some
trash cans turned upside down acting as O linemen. Coach Holt worked mainly
on techniqe and it was apparent that in the first two days of practice the
starting 3 LBs are Strong, Graham, Groots. The backups are Prosser, Pollard,
Cousins: with Otani/Webb/Jackson in the third unit.

During an interception drill it was obvious that guys like Groots and Strong
have decent hands because they caught all of the balls thrown in their
direction. You can't help but be impressed with Groots nose for the ball,
but I'd sure like to see Prosser's "size" out there. In one drill Groots was
sticking to the TE like glue, but Butler is a much bigger guy and he used his
body to screen Groots away from getting a hand in there. Maybe a bigger guy
with a bigger wingspan knocks that ball away.

While that drill was going on Coach Chow was in the middle of the field
working with the QBs and receivers. The scout team was on the other side of
the ball just filling space.

Down at the South end you could hear coach O barking at the D Line. Malcolm
Woolridge is really thick in the midsection. He needs to lose some weight.
Shaun Cody now wears Alex Holmes' number from last year (84). He looks good.
Mike Patterson may get some serious minutes this year....Coach O was calling
his name alot this afternoon...and it was in a positive way.

The horn blared again and they split up in two sqads. The number 1 D went to
the South end with the backup O. Matt Lienart and Billy Hart were with the
backup O, with Eric Reese and Justin Fargas working in the backfield.

On the main field Carson and Matt Cassell worked with the Starting O against
the backup D. There were several different sets on the O Line. In the
opening set it was Katnik, Mailo, Vandermade, Wilson, Rogers. Then Rogers,
Mailo, Vandermade, McGuire, Torres. They just kept mixing them up. Even
Derek Graf got in at Center on a couple of plays.

At Tight End it was Butler, Holmes, Dickerson and Guenther and not in any
particular order.

There was alot of plays where Carson lined up in the shotgun with Landrigan
lined up just to his right. They did multiple reps of Carson taking the snap
and handing it to Charlie on the delay. Then they had Carson behind the
center with Sultan in the "I" behind Landrigan. Then Malaefou would line up
either in the "I" or a one back set behind Carson. It was very confusing
because I wasn't used to seeing Carson or Matt in the shotgun formation. Why
the hell we didn't use it last year is beyond me. I love the play where
Carson is in the shotgun, Sultan is lined up just in front of him and over to
the left in a one-back set. Carson takes the snap and Sultan circles in
front of the Center and catches the ball just off to the right just in front
of where the Right Tackle would line up. It is a thing of beauty to see
Sultan catch the ball and then watch either Pollard or Graham try to close on
him. IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE. Sultan was pulling away from either of those
guys.

During the 11 on 11 drill Carson would line up in the shotgun, Landrigan
would be just to his right and Carson would take off rolling left and then
throw back to a wide open Doyle Butler or Kori Dickerson who had come off the
line of scrimmage and drifted back behind the line. That play was wide open
as the flow was moving to the left (where Carson was rolling out).

You know, as I sat there and watched that play develop (and I thought for
sure he was throwing it to the receiver who lined up on the left)...I
couldn't help but wonder why a play like that never surfaced in that 800-page
playbook we were using the past three years.

I saw alot of quick delayed draws, fakes, short screens etc. Chow is like a
professor out there (kinda reminds me of Bill Walsh the way he looks at his
play sheet). Definitely didn't remind me of the nutty professor (besides he
doesn't wear a hat tucked over his eyes). Chris Howard and Miguel Fletcher
also got some reps but it was mostly #4 and #21 this afternoon.

We are loaded at WR...I can see fresh legs out there on every play. I doubt
Sandy Fletcher gets much of an opportunity to play WR...there are just so
many guys out there. It looks like Allmond, Kelly, Colbert and Mattos will
be the top 4 with Pitts, Stevenson, and Sandy Fletcher backing them up.

I think that Scott Huber is odd man out in the TE battle. I don't think
Sunny Byrd will get much action this year. He's got a brace on his left knee
and it looks like he's only going half speed.

I know much has been said about Frank Candela, but so far I haven't seen him
get much action. Unless he is strictly a return guy...he wasn't in on any of
the offensive sets that I watched...at least not with the No. 1 offense.

About the coaches...

We obviously know how passionate Kennedy Pola and Ed Orgeron are, but for the
first time in recent memory, we have the same kind of passion in Kirby Wilson
and Nick Holt. I'm sure that Wayne Moses and Dwayne Walker are also very
intense, but it really shows in Wilson and Holt. From what I can tell, so
far, Coach Uperesa seems very calm as does Coach Chow....and I love Coach
Carroll.

I love the fact that Coach Carroll can simply put all of his attention over
on the defense and let Coach Chow do his thing. It is really great to see
coaches Walker, Sato (as in Rocky...former player) and Carroll standing
behind the Dbacks observing, critiquing, teaching...while Coaches Orgeron and
Holt are standing on the other side of the field working with thier guys.

On one particular play Frank Strong was playing outside LB and the play came
his way...after the play was over Coach Holt made some comments...and then
Coach Carroll came over and finished the thought and then patted Frank on the
back as he pushed him back to the huddle.

As I said earlier, you feel like you're watching a tennis match with all the
activity taking place all over the field. After 90 minutes in the Sun...I
was done. Didn't see the placekickers today...or stay around for them if
they came up at the end of practice.

Every year I (we) go into the season oozing with optimism. I don't how we
will do against live competition...but we seem to be very fast at the
positions that matter most. I think we finally have the coaches to get it
done....the only question in my mind is whether or not the players have what
it takes between the ears to execute the plays on both sides of the ball.

Sunday morning practice

One of the things the coaches said they wanted to do early in fall practice was get a look at several of the true freshman so they could get an accurate guage on what skills they bring to the table and today we got a long look at Matt Leinart during a passing scrimmage and Mike Patterson was moved to 2nd string DT behind Bernard Riley with Kenechi Udeze backing up Ryan Nielsen.

The day started with an interesting drill for the quarterbacks and receivers which saw them running routes with Norm Chow standing in the middle of the defense calling out changes in direction. The quarterbacks would have to scramble based upon the call from Chow and the receivers had to adjust their routes as well.

The offensive line had a lot of movement today as Keith Uperesa is obviously spending some time trying to find the best unit he can put on the field. Jacob Rogers, Joe McGuire and Norm Katnik all spent time at guard today as various formations were used in the drills. Lenny Vandermade continues to impress and he is down to 288 lbs with a goal of 280 by the start of the season. Another player who lost a lot of weight this summer is Bernard Riley, who dropped 30 lbs from 320 to 290.

I spoke with Antuan Simmons and he said he will be on the field tomorrow and is just holding out these first few days as a precautionary measure.

David Davis put on a very solid display from different angles on field goals and has made a nice leap in these first days of camp for the kicking job. Davis has a sidewinder motion and puts spin on the ball but he is extremely accurate from what we have seen so far from about 37 yards and in. Pola was not happy with his blockers though as both Omar Nazel and Aaron Graham had blocked kicks.

A one on one passing drill was held with one WR and one DB which started with Kareem making a catch over Cash despite pretty good coverage. Those two have been lining up against each other whenever possible during drills. Kevin Arbet continued to look as good as we have seen him in a Trojan uniform as he picked off a pass intended for Marcell Allmond after reading the break and beating Allmond to the ball. Colbert and Richard had a few physical matchups with the ball falling incomplete on one and then a nice completion on a deep slant. Grant Mattos made a terrific catch against Arbet as Mattos looks to solidify the #4 receiver spot. Richard went up with Sandy Fletcher on a deep pass that Fletcher had for a moment until Kris knocked the ball away. Colbert was stopped on great coverage from Arbet as the pass was not thrown because Marcell couldnt lose him. Cash knocked away a ball intended for Kareem and then Devin Pitts made a catch with his arms extended to finish the drill.

The next 11 on 11 drill featured a lot of work on five receiver sets and Leinart took many of the snaps. Matt said he worked with a similar style offense for much of the year last season with Mater Dei so he feels very comfortable right now. Frank Strong put a hit on Pitts coming across the middle and then Carson hit Kareem down the middle between Jason Leach and John Walker for a nice play and a hand clap from Pete Carroll. Kori Dickerson made a few catches but also had a few drops with then good news at tight end being the fact that Doyal Butler has looked good catching the ball so far. Leinart made a nice read while scrambling to hit Grant Mattos but on another play he rolled left and waited to make his throw which brought Chow and Carroll over to talk with him about what they want. All in all Leinart looked solid but it will be a difficult decision for the coaches to choose to burn his redshirt year while we have Matt Cassel at #2 QB right now. Leinart will get his snaps early in camp at the expense of Cassel but Cassel will get more of an opportunity after pads are on and the season gets closer.

Among the recruits in attendance were LB Ricky Miller (Tustin), RB Loren Wade (Serra) and LB Marcus Smith (Mission Bay HS).

After the practice Leinart was under attack from several upperclassmen such as Frank Strong and Marcell Allmond who were trying to steal the rookie ball. Carroll put a ball into a backpack with a lock on it and the freshman are responsible for keeping the ball safe through training camp. Leinart was the freshman in charge after this practice and was carrying the bag as Strong tried to sneak up behind him and grab it while Allmond just tried to wrestle him to the ground as Matt yelled out to Carroll for some help.


 

Saturday afternoon practice

After a morning with a few too many dropped passes the offense looked very, very good in the later parts of the afternoon practice with the passing game putting together a very good stretch that showed the possibilities of how impressive this offense can be when it is clicking.

The day started once again with some special teams work, primarily on kickoff return and we also saw four different centers practicing snaps to four different holders. When is the last time we had such competition for jobs such as these but Kennedy Pola has thrown open competition at all spots and has players fighting to play the roles on special teams. Matt Hayward was solid in his debut as a snapper and last years snapper Joe Boskovich is in for a fight to hold that job while Marcell Allmond, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart and Mike MacGillivray are the candidates right now for holder.

I spent some time watching the defensive linemen going through bag drills on Brian Kennedy Field and one of the first guys that jumps out is Kenechi Udeze, it is getting to the point where he has dropped so much weight that soon he will be MKU (medium Kenechi Udeze) instead of BKU as he is down to 280 lbs and looks fantastic. Bobby DeMars is a 5th year senior who is in very good shape and he was lining up behind Omar Nazel today. Ryan Nielsen just has such tremendous technique and is solid in the middle and Bernard Riley seems to have dropped weight and looks powerful. I was impressed with the aggressiveness of Shaun Cody but was also intrigued by the sight of Jamaal Williams on the sidelines without pads on. For those who have not seen Jamaal he is a phsyical presence but has been injured his entire Trojan career with a series of leg problems and I was told that he is awaiting some tests back and hopes to be on the field at some point in fall camp. The lineup on the DL right now has Ford and Cody at one end, Riley with Udeze and Patterson backing him up at one middle spot and Nielsen with Goodson and Woolridge at the other tackle position and finally Nazel with DeMars and Wardlow in reserve at end.

A couple of positition switches have Eric Reese at tailback and freshman John Walker, who was anticipated to play corner, lining up at safety.

The highlight of the day was the solid performance in a scrimmage that had players and coaches leaving the field in a very good mood at the conclusion of the first day of practice. The drill started with a quick pass from Carson to Marcell that was stopped for a quick gain by Frank Strong. Keary Colbert dropped a pass (he has a few drops today) but came back right away with a nice catch in traffic over the middle. Cassel threw a screen pass to walk-on Jeffrey Hill with Bobby Otani showing his speed to hold the play before Carson hit Kareem with a slant pass. The intensity picked up with a couple nice plays that carried through the remainder of the day as Carson dropped back and hit Marcell Allmond down the left sideline with a ball that was thrown perfectly in the space between Chris Cash and DeShaun Hill and brought a smile to the face of Norm Chow. The next play was an excellent example of why Carroll has made the changes at LB as Carson tried a quick hitch to Dickerson over the middle but Frank Strong used incredible instincts to leap in front of the pass and come down with the interception. It was simply a great play on Strong's part and showed just what his athleticism can bring to that spot. Carson then hit Kareem with a pass along the sideline with good coverage from Cash and then Grootegoed blitzed on the next play and Kareem read it perfectly and adjusted to a quick route underneath for the completion and a high five from Carson after the play for the good recognition. Kris Richard had a nice interception of a fade pattern to Colbert when he turned for the ball in the air and was able to make the play. Chris Prosser knocked down a Cassel pass at the line and then Matt fired a strike to Grant Mattos on a quick out and he turned upfield for a nice gain. Mattos is just a terrific complement to the existing corps of receivers and could be a real blessing for this passing game. There were a couple nice runs mixed in with Sultan running very hard and Malaefou breaking a nice gain up the middle, we also continued to see good efforts from Chris Howard as he has a very good first day. Carson then rolled right and waited for Dickerson to come open dragging across the middle and the play went for a nice gain. On the next play Kareem got ridden out of bounds by Richard on a sideline route and Richard came back for the ball for his 2nd pick of the day. A healthy Richard will be such a benefit after being so hobbled last year but having to stay on the field with the absence of Antuan. Kareem followed that play with a tremendous diving catch of the low thrown ball that was delivered low due to good coverage from Kevin Arbet. Devin Pitts had a nice catch over the middle and then Kareem took a slant and was whalloped by Troy Polamalu who came up with his hands in the air to show he was trying to hold up but it was still a very good lick. This drill was a good way to end the first day as it sent everybody off the field with smiles and good anticipation for tomorrow with practices scheduled once again at 9am and 4:00.

Among the recruits there were CB commit Justin Wyatt, Winston Justice and James Finley.

 


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