Mama, who has seen first team reps at left and right guard, is making his biggest impression on the Trojans defensive players.
“If Mama gets his hands on you, forget it,” said linebacker Michael Hutchings. “He just swallows you up man.”
Defensive end Claude Pelon has come away with a similar opinion of playing against Mama. But while Hutchings is all of 220-pounds as a MIKE linebacker, Pelon saw 300-pounds come and go last spring when he arrived on campus from Mesa Community College.
“That’s a pretty big boy,” said Pelon. “He’s going to be pretty good, actually. Once he starts to understand what he is doing and why he is doing it, he’s going to be a beast.
“I mean, if he gets his hands on you, it could be a wrap.”
During Wednesday’s scrimmage, Mama spent most of his time with the second team offense at right guard next to fellow freshman Toa Lobendahn at center.
“My boy Damien is coming in and he’s trying to work,” said Lobendahn. “He’s been doing a good job of trying to get in the classroom and trying to get in his playbook really good.
“He’s just been picking up the plays pretty good as far as he’s been here. He’s really been competing and not backing down from the challenge.
“Definitely being the biggest guy on the team helps. Just being a monster as a freshman. Being able to be physical really helps him.”
At that size, physicality is rare an issue. What is an issue is conditioning and endurance.
Thus far, Mama has kept pace to the surprise of his teammates.
“I mean a little bit, but I watched him through high school and he was able to hold his fast paced high school offense and so coming in here wasn’t going to be too bad,” said Lobendahn. “I know it was going to be a challenge for him, but he’s stepping up to it really good and he’s not backing down.”
Even USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno has been surprised at Mama’s ability to keep up with the Trojans pace offensively.
“Uh, yeah, to be quite honest with you,” said Drevno. “With a big man like that. The guy moves pretty well for 385-pounds, so yeah, I am surprised.”
Bt like with any freshman, the preparation starts well before the cleats and shoulder pads go on.
“He’s done a good job,” said Drevno. It starts in the classroom. He’s done a good job of learning what we need to do. He still needs to learn some more — like all of the freshmen do — as we put new stuff in.
“He’s a big physical guy at the point of attack. He’s a heavy handed guy that’s a big body. He can move people off the line of scrimmage when he gets his feet moving. We’re just trying to find the best five guys.
“You don’t know until you put a guy in there to see what happens. Reps, under fire, different looks, blitzes and different defenses, you start to find out what this guy’s made of.”
Drevno has no specific set weight he wants to see Mama at. Performance wise, the mammoth offensive guard is doing well enough to get his feet wet as a starter, engulfing defensive linemen in his path.
“He’s definitely a mauler on the ball on run block,” said Lobendahn. “He’s good at pass too. Once he gets to his assignment, he’s fine.
“I haven’t talked to the defensive line very much, but he’s definitely a problem for them. They have problems with his size, of course. You don’t want to get into him, that’s for sure, as big as he is.”
Pelon sees Mama excelling for a different reason.
“He puts in the work when no one is looking,” said Pelon. “I’ve noticed that about him. He’s a guy that wants to get better and works at it.”
Practice News and Notes:
- Damien Mama is wearing No. 51 in honor of former USC offensive lineman Fred Matua
- Long Beach Poly five-star cornerback Iman Marshall made to Wednesday’s scrimmage with his father. Riverside Poly four-star athlete Ykili Ross also made his first USC practice of fall Wednesday with his father.
- Juju Smith was the only freshman to line up with the starting kick off team Wednesday. Olajuwon Tucker and Uchenna Nwosu took the field for the second team.
- Toa Lobendahn started at left guard with the first team offense Wednesday.
- Sunday, freshman Makil Dorton saw his first reps as a defensive end. He has continued to play that position almost exclusively since he began camp playing rush end.
- As seen in the scrimmage Wednesday, the run blocking of the young wide outs on the edge has to improve. Several plays were stuffed on screen and swing passes because of poor blocking by the receivers.
- Ajene Harris and Juju Smith continue to get reps early in scrimmage periods with the first team offense. Adoree Jackson did not play Wednesday with a foot injury.
- The second team offense consistent of freshmen Bryce Dixon at tight end, Toa Lobendahn at center and Viane Talamaivao at guard.
- Talamaivao did not play center in Wednesday’s scrimmage.
- Justin Davis led the scrimmage in rushing Wednesday largely running behind Lobendahn at center, Talamaivao at left guard and Damien Mama at right guard.
- John Plattenburg was all over the field Wednesday as a safety. Plattenburg received most of his reps with the second team defense, but he did get a half a sack blitzing with Josh Shaw with the first until. Plattenburg was one of the defense’s leading tacklers Wednesday. That included a big hit which dislodged the football from tight end Chris Wilson in the red zone on third down.
- Jonathan Lockett had one of his best performances as a Trojan Wednesday. Lockett starting the night off stuffing a bubble screen pass to Ajene Harris. Lockett had four tackles, a sack and a blocked kick.
- Ajene Harris returned punts Wednesday in addition to having five catches for approximately 70-yards receiving. Harris was the victim of a bad call as he was stripped after a long receptions where the whistle clearly blew before his fumble.
- Smith ended the night with three catches for 21-yards and a touchdown. One of Smith’s catches was a highlight grab leaping in between Lamont Simmons and Gerald Bowman for 12-yards.
- Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu saw a lot of reps Wednesday night. Nwosu played with the first team defense at outside linebacker and account for a sack. Nwosu then played some inside linebacker later in the scrimmage with the second and third defensive groups.
- Bryce Dixon had a fairly quiet night Wednesday, but was able to have a couple catches for about 40-yards.