The days continue to tick away as we get closer and closer to the start of the college football season when the Trojans start on what will hopefully be an epic campaign. After a player’s only player-run practice on Friday, with redshirt senior captain Cody Kessler asking the media to give them a day to have some fun, we are only six weeks away from USC’s opener against Arkansas State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The players also continue tick away on our countdown of the “30 Key Trojans” for the 2015 season. Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success? If this or that player is successful, how much will that propel USC’s team success?
This countdown features the 30 USC players most important to the Trojans’ success this season. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
21. Damien Mama - Sophomore
The second offensive lineman on our list is the biggest of the big men, left guard Damien Mama. But this is a trimmer version of the biggest big man. The 6-foot-4 Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco product was at nearly 400 pounds in high school, but dropped down to 370 pounds by fall camp last year.
This offseason has seen a continue of the withering of body mass for Mama. He has worked hard and is now down to 354 pounds with his sights still set on 350 pounds for his sophomore fall camp weight. Mama credits the nutritionists and strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis for helping him maintain and build his strength despite the near 50 pounds he has lost.
But that not be the end of it, Mama said that he might even continue slimming himself down, but it will depend on how he feels when competing with the pads on. Last season, he played in 12 of the Trojans’ 13 games (all but the Washington State game). Mama bookended the season with a pair of starts at right guard to open the season against Fresno State and Stanford and two starts at left guard in the final two contests against Notre Dame and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Mama was named to several All-American teams in high school and was the Los Angeles Times All-Area Lineman of the Year. He and Toa Lobendahn became the first true freshman duo to start a USC opener, but will Mama start in 2015?
That may depend on how quickly Chad Wheeler returns from injury. Currently, Lobendahn is slotted at the left tackle position, but when Wheeler is healthy, he’ll be moving back to the tackle spot, leaving Lobendahn, Mama and Viane Talamaivao battling for the two starting guard spots with Khaliel Rodgers also having a shot of joining the competition.
“I just want to have a great season. My mindset is just wanting to get better, taking every experience that we get. We only have 12 games scheduled, so that’s 12 chances to compete. I want to get out there and showcase my talents and just have fun with my brothers.” — Damien Mama
“As much weight as Damien has dropped, he looks like he's dropped even more despite his 354 pounds. Maybe it's all the beef surrounding him from Zach Banner to the incoming freshmen. Whatever it is, and as big as he is, he looks much more like a normal football player now. He doesn't stand out for his mammoth mass alone now.
"One possibility is the fact that he has so much more body control, does much less overextending of himself when he gets out over his skis, if you will. He can pop, stop and pop again, all under control. And he could always pull. Now it looks like he can redirect when he does. And that's a look USC fans will probably like." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
Here's some highlights of Damien Mama battling in lineman drills at The Opening when he was in high school:
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|