Talking 'trust' . . . and the O-line

Trojans build on Utah win with a 'next man up' theme heading to Cal Saturday.

"It's about trust," Clay Helton said after a competitive Tuesday practice three days after a more-than-competitive rout of Utah Saturday.

About trusting Cody Kessler when he told his coach that "you preach defense all week," Cody said, so why not let the defense go out there first and set the tone. So Clay did. And the defense did.

About trusting Zach Banner to move over to left tackle for the first time in his college career and backup Khaliel Rodgers to step in at center for the first time in is career.

"Any smart coach listens to his players," Helton said. "I'm just a ball coach . . . this is about relationships."

More so than about schemes, it's also about techniques and getting the fundamentals right.

But as he was walking off, Clay returned to the theme of the day -- or the word heard so often on this day, from players and coaches. That word was "trust."

"I appreciate you saying that," Clay said. "This isn't about the coaches, it's about them," gesturing to his players still working out on the field.

Talking O-line here


If you'd have told O-line coach Bob Connelly that his guys, with three starters out -- Chad Wheeler, Toa [Lobendahn] and Max [Tuerk]," could hold off third-ranked Utah's defenders, he said, well . . . . you can finish that sentence, Coach Connelly didn't. You get the idea.

Sure, their "attitude" and "work ethic" have been "great,' he said, "but our numbers are dwindling." His original challenge, Connelly said with this bunch, was its youth. Now it's the numbers although Chad Wheeler returned to left tackle Tuesday allowing Zach Banner to move back to right tackle after surviving pretty well on the left side for the first time Saturday.

But Banner was hardly alone. Twelve plays into the game, third-team center Khaliel Rodgers came on for the final 62 plays on offense. "They played winning football," said Connelly, who challenged them to do just that.

And challenged them through Banner, who told his teammates that if they could keep running the ball on Utah, "we win this game."

One of those who made it happen was Rodgers, who has been patiently waiting his turn -- but getting ready all the while. "You just got to wait until your turn comes," the redshirt sophomore said after making all the line calls flawlessly on the fly. "But when you prepare like we do, you have no doubts. I believed it was going to come."

Next in line now behind Rodgers is another redshirt sophomore, Nico Falah, who put in his first full practice at center Tuesday. "It went good," he said. "I know all the calls and the playbook." He's also been doing shotgun snaps but now he has to work on the under-center snaps as well, he says.

"We don't make excuses," Cody Kessler said of his new snapping partner, "we have to make plays . . . we made plays we weren't making before."

One of the changes for Kessler is an offense that has him under center far more now. "I was always a fan of being under center," he said, "getting my hands on the ball right away. Whatever is best for the play," he told Helton. "You call the play, I'll get it done."

Robert right at home


Getting a big hug from Helton and an invitation to talk to the team after practice was Robert Woods, home on a bye week from the Buffalo Bills after their week in London. Said that unlike the Jets, the Bills did not take their own toilet paper. "Maybe that's why we lost," Robert said. He'll be going up for the Cal game this weekend, he said. Clay saluted him later as "an example of what a true Trojan is," and how he was always prepared, always in the playbook, from Day 1, and "passed that on to Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor . . . Wish he was still here with us."

TUESDAY QUICK HITS: TE Taylor McNamara worked with the first group in a yellow no-contact jersey after dislocating his right shoulder against Utah . . . said last time he did it he tore his labrum and needed surgery but no tear this time and he's "going to give it a go," with some contact work Wednesday . . . With Wheeler back at left tackle with the first group and Banner back at right tackle and Rodgers at center, Trojans were a little more solid startnng the week . . . TE Tyler Petite in full gear but no football cleats with his foot still too sore . . . D-lineman Rasheem Green in full gear, cleats and all, but started with rehab exercises for his knee . . . John Plattenburg and Michael Hutchings both back after being hardest hit by flu bug last week . . . WRs Steven Mitchell (ankle) and Darreus Rogers (hamstring) were back in gear and could be back for Cal Saturday after doing a little pattern running . . . Marvell Tell out in shorts and his jersey but it's going to be at least six weeks before his broken collarbone heals . . . good practice for DB's Kevon Seymour and Plattenburg . . . Out in a cardinal jersey, not a black scout jersey, was freshman Ykili Ross who was working with the second D at safety.

CHECK THIS OUT: For Tuesday's practice report, check out TUESDAY CAL BEARS WEEK GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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