Newcomer Notebook

While there are only a handful of newcomers to spring practice this year for USC, the Trojans offensive line has two of those players along with first year assistant coach Bob Connelly leading them. (Photo: Roy Hemsley)

New USC offensive line coach Bob Connelly knows all about five-star in-coming true freshman contributing on in the offensive line.

Connelly was at Alabama when former USC five-star target offensive tackle Andre Smith arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa and hit the starting lineup almost immediately. This spring, the Trojans have two highly touted offensive tackles on campus a semester early.

Powder Springs (Ga.) five-star offensive tackle Chuma Edoga and Los Angeles (Cal.) four-star offensive tackle Roy Hemsley aren’t candidates to enter the starting line up this season, but both come to USC with plenty of expectations.

“We’re basically throwing everything at them right now,” said Connelly. “We’re putting the install in based on the offense, not just the offensive line.

“We’re putting it together so they’re going to have to pick it up and run with it. Roy and Chuma are first year guys that should really be high school seniors. They’re behind the rest of the line, because it’s mostly review for them.

“I’ve challenged the older guys to take the young guys under their wing and coach them up, but I’m throwing them into the fire and they have to learn on the run. And I’m proud. I think they’re picking things up relatively quickly.

“Things will also slow down here after the break. the majority of install will be done, so it will be primarily review for the last few weeks of spring football. Hopefully we’ll see progress with them.”

Edoga, who has gotten second team reps at right tackle this spring, has been very good in position drills and one-on-one match ups with the defensive line. However, his success thus far away from full team practice periods has been because of his pure athletic ability.

“He’s not really fundamentally sound yet, but he has great athleticism,” said Connelly. “He is very quick twitch and he has great movement skills.

“He plays with a base and has long arms, so he plays with good extension in the pass pro. That part of his game is strong, and certainly you don’t have to coach athletic ability. Fundamentally we have to make improvements.

“He’s a little too light on his feet and hops around a little bit too much. But that’s why I’m here and they call me coach. But he is a very impressive athlete with good bend and a good motor. He has a chance to be very good, and I think can helps us as we move later into the spring - I would assume.”
At just a shade more than 6-foot-3, the debate about Edoga out of high school was his size to play offensive tackle.

“I think he can play there,” said Connelly. “I think he’s a lot like Max Tuerk. He can play all over the offensive line. If we get longer offensive tackles with athletic ability, maybe Chuma moves inside, but he moves so well he can get away with not being 6-foot-6.

“He has long arms and great feet. I’ve had guys like him in the past and they’ve been successful. Andre Smith started for me as a left tackle at the University of Alabama as a true freshman. He’s just shy of 6-foot-4, he had extremely long arms and was very gifted with his feet. He left as a junior to be a first round pick in the NFL.”

On the other side of the offensive line, Hemsley has the prototypical size of an offensive tackle at 6-foot-7, 300-pounds. However, raw doesn’t begin to describe Hemsley as a football player.

“Roy is from a small school and he hasn’t played a lot of football,” said Connelly. “It’s almost hard to believe how new he is to the game.

“He’s only been playing for about two years. Roy is a basketball player playing football as opposed to a football player who played basketball in high school. That transition will come with time.

“But Roy has all of the skills. He’s long, he’s big, athletic… he has all of the things you’re looking for. What we have to do is get him out of — what we call — paralysis by over analysis. He is over analyzing and over thinking things right now. He’s a smart kid, but he has probably learned more about football in his first two weeks here than he has had to learn his whole life.

“He’s swimming right now both offensive and defensively. On offense, he’s trying to get the terminology down and then looking at the defense, he has to be able to read what those guys are doing. It’s a lot of information to absorb through no fault of his own. He just hasn’t been exposed to this stuff.”

Practice news and notes:

  • Offensive line coach Bob Connelly compared freshman right tackle Chuma Edoga to senior center Max Tuerk, but another good comparison thus far is Toa Lobendahn. All three offensive linemen are smart, athletic and have long arms.

  • Edoga continues to have a lot of success in one-on-one drills against defensive end Claude Pelon. While Edoga had trouble anchoring against defensive ends shooting inside during pass protection situations, he has done a better job narrowing the width of his kick-step and not giving up the inside shade.

  • Junior wide receiver Isaac Whitney had a challenging performance at the scrimmage Saturday. With the depth at wide out fairly diminished, Whitney took himself out of seven-on-seven drills twice The second time he did it, assistant coach Tee Martin put him back in. The next three passes went straight to Whitney. The first being a touchdown catch.

  • While Whitney certainly has the physical skills to contribute next fall for USC, he has a long ways to go in terms of catching the ball consistently. It’s clear he has never been targeted as a No. 1 receiver at Riverside City College or Central Oklahoma.

  • Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith has the best scrimmage of the Trojans newcomers. Smith, whose helmet bloodied his forehead early in practice, received a lot of reps with the second and third team defense Saturday. Smith has visibly hurting between the tempo and heat, but fought through it and played well. The more contact there is, the better Smith plays.

  • Top Stories