And in their quiet way, the pair are not afraid to say it.
"This offensive line just has to be itself, they absolutely have the talent," says Goff, a 12-year NFL vet who played his college football at Iowa and started in 154 of his 171 games at Cincinnati, where he was a third-round draft pick, and San Diego and Kansas City with an All-Pro season in 2005. But they have to have the work ethic, "the commitment to do everything it takes," says Goff, who has made a commitment himself.
After the NFL and working in local San Diego radio and TV as an analyst, he became a volunteer assistant at San Diego State and his wife, Jessica, told him "that's the most fun you've ever had " since the NFL. "I love it, I love ball," Goff said in agreement, "it's in your blood . . . I miss playing, I miss it every day."
The next best thing? "Seeing players you recruited develop into really good players," says Goff, 39, who interviewed for the USC O-line job when Bob Connelly got it last year. Former Chargers strength coach Ivan Lewis, now at USC, recommended him. But he's still on a path to get there. As a grad assistant, he's working on his master's in communications and living at the Radisson while his family remains in San Diego.
"This is a great opportunity to do it at this level -- at USC," says Goff, who says one of his greatest experiences in football was being drafted by the Bengals and "meeting Anthony [Munoz] in 1998 . . . arguably the greatest tackle of all-time. He's been a great influence on me."
Vandermade, who played at USC from 2000 through 2003 and is responsible for the tight ends and helps with the tackles, likes the way "Coach Goff and I have a great relationship . . . we're on the same page."
And what that page says exactly is this: "There has to be an attitude change," says Vandermade, the Mater Dei alum and former administrative assistant who reminds his Trojans players that he was on "USC teams that went 5-7 and a USC team that won the national championship." That was attitude change, Lenny says -- and it started "up front."
"You have to want to take over games," he says of the offensive line the way those Pete Carroll turnaround teams did.
"It took a while," Lenny said. "Those 5-7 teams were selfish. That national championship team wasn't. Guys like Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu and Malefou MacKenzie wouldn't let them."
Zach Banner likes how that's working although he's now being schooled by what might be an NCAA-record fifth and sixth O-line coach in his four years here. "It's awesome," he says. "What I like about them is how they coach specifics for each player."
Specifics such as? "Use my size . . . I'm a 6-foot-9, 360-pound man." And yet, that may just be for this game. Moved over to left tackle from right for the Wisconsin game in place of the missing Chad Wheeler, Banner says he's taking it "like it's a permanent thing."
And that would mean coming back "25 to 30 pounds lighter," he says in order to handle all those speed rushers. But that's not all he's working on. He's working on different kick sets, on his punch, on his change of feet. All of it.
And the new coaches are helping there, he says. The emphasis, in just the short time they've been here, Zach says, is to get him ready for the actual defender he'll be blocking. Like for a boxer.
"We watch film of the guy we're going against," Zach says. How tall he is, for example. That will determine how low Zach has to get on his punch. Or how his foot placement has to be.
"I love my job," he says. "I love working on my kickstep. I love this challenge."
And he loves that there are new coaches here throwing that challenge out there for him and his O-line mates to change their attitude. "We plan on having a different type game plan the way Coach Goff and Lenny have challenged us," Zach says.
In a word or two, Zach says that challenge is to "demolish people."
TUESDAY QUICK HITS: Day 4 of USC's Holiday Bowl prep work had the Trojans out of pads, helmets only, in shorts and jerseys, on Cromwell Field's artificial turf again after another soaking overnight rain . . . they'll try to get back on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Field Wednesday for what will be the seniors final practice there and will probably do some work there no matter how soaked the recently aerated grass over the deep sandy base might be . . . mostly a review day after installing the game plan the first three days with third-down work the big emphasis Monday . . . Center Khaliel Rodgers was back for a second day and moving much better on the ankle he tweaked Sunday and sharing first-team offensive reps with Nico Falah . . . No sign of Kevon Seymour who was carted off Monday after twisting his right ankle . . . no talk about Chad Wheeler, absent again for what USC describes as a non-football, personal issue. It's just not something Helton will say anything for privacy reasons. "We're letting it play out and we can't comment," Clay said, "just wishing him the best."CHECK THIS OUT: For Tuesday's practice report, check out TUESDAY HOLIDAY BOWL GHOST NOTES.
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