Damien Mama Thinks O-Line Can Be Special

USC sophomore Damien Mama has dropped nearly 40 pounds and is ready to produce for a USC offensive line he thinks has a chance to be 'pretty special' now and in the future.

Standing in the weight room, USC sophomore Damien Mama grabbed a 25-pound plate, a 15-pounder and a five. He held the three plates to his stomach.

“Damn coach! I used to carry this around,” Mama recalled saying to USC strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis.

The 6-foot-5 mammoth offensive lineman entered USC at 397 pounds, but when he stepped on the scales before Tuesday’s practice, Mama had slimmed down to 359 pounds. Throughout the spring, Mama has been working on his conditioning and trying to continue to trim down. His biggest emphasis has been to try to get down to his goal weight of 350, but new offensive line coach Bob Connelly has been trying to persuade him to push that to 345.

When big men are trying to trim their body weight, one of the big concerns is that they are doing it the right way so that they can maintain their strength. That falls on the strength and conditioning coach as well as the nutrition staff.

“The strength staff is amazing. Coach Ivan. He makes sure that we’re eating. Even for a big guy like me, I make sure I’m getting all of my meals. I’m not missing anything and I’m staying hydrated.”

After eating three meals that are portion controlled to meet the specifics that he needs, Mama says from there he makes sure to “just crush the lift.” That isn’t difficult to do with Lewis in the weight room urging the Trojans on.

“He’s a big motivator during our warmups before our lift and making sure we don’t come out flat. We should never be unenthusiastic in the weight room.”

While his body is slowly morphing, Mama is also maturing mentally with the guidance of the offensive line ringleader Max Tuerk. Mama said the senior is holding all of the offensive linemen accountable since Tuerk wants his final season to be special.

“He was in the same situation I was. There was no depth and he had to play, so he was playing early as a freshman. You should see him in our meetings. He’ll call anything. He knows everything,” Mama said. “Just being under Max and Zack [Banner] has helped me out a lot. Learning how to be calm, cool and collected and acting like a vet.”

Under Connelly, who Mama called a “great coach” with “great enthusiasm,” the offensive line as a unit is working on being a tight-knit group. They want to be the unit that opposing defensive lines fear facing on the schedule.

That starts with having each other’s back and being close with one another off the field, so that once they get on the field, they have the extra motivation to play for each other as well as the rest of their teammates.

“We try to be tight all together, but there’s nothing like being an offensive lineman, so it’s just sticking together.”

And if the current group, which has the best depth and most collective talent that has been seen at USC in a number of years with players pushing each other and competing for spots, does stick together?

“Coach Connelly says, we’re only as good as we play,” Mama said. “I feel like we can be a pretty special group in the future…even now.”

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