Redshirt junior offensive lineman Nico Falah has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to contribute since arriving at USC. The St. John Bosco product sat out his first season as a Trojan before seeing very limited action as a redshirt freshman in 2014. Last season Falah played as a backup offensive tackle and center and was a regular on special teams. After a rash of injuries at center Falah worked his way up from fourth string to the starting job against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Over the spring and summer Falah took most of the starting center reps while Toa Lobendahn recovered from knee surgery. Falah and Lobendahn battled throughout fall camp with Lobendahn eventually winning out and getting the start in the opener against Alabama. In the Trojans loss to the Crimson Tide an unfortunate knee injury ended Lobendahn's season and thrust Falah into the spotlight. He started at center against Utah State, Stanford, Utah and Arizona State and helped to stabilize an offensive line that started on shaky ground.
We talked to Falah after Tuesday's practice to get his thoughts on starting, Sam Darnold, tipping his snaps & a tough test against Colorado.
- How has it been being the starter over the past four games? "It's going good. I am really happy right now with my position. Coach is happy and I am just trying to improve every day and get better."
- What has been the biggest challenge? "I am still the least experienced of the group. We're a very experienced offensive line and I just need to gel together with the guys and get comfortable with them."
- Playing Arizona State without Zach Banner: "Jordan [Simmons] and Chuma [Edoga] did a really good job, I could barely notice. Usually Zach calls the plays out for us from the signals from the sideline. Jordan did a good job and so did Chuma and we didn't miss a beat."
- Sam Darnold leading the team: "Of course Sam is a great leader but you know Max [Browne] was probably the top leader, an older guy and a more experienced guy. But Sam is doing a better job too, every day improving his leadership skills and communicating with us."
- The players voted Max Browne as a captain, but now he is not playing: "It's a little strange that the captain is not out there with us, but he is doing his best communicating with us on the sideline, helping the offensive line, the quarterbacks and the whole offense. Max is still doing a great job of being a leader for us."
- Surprised at Sam picking up the offense so quickly? "He's always been a smart guy. I noticed it when he came in during the spring, he was throwing dimes out there. He's getting his chance and making the most of his opportunities."
- Run-pass option plays being a challenge to block: "Sometimes it's hard, they call a run play and the ball is already thrown down field. So we're like, 'Wow, this is really new to us.' It's different but it is getting our offense to go."
- More run-pass options with Darnold than Browne? "I think we had it installed but I think Sam is utilizing it a lot more. So we're starting to see a difference as an offensive line, even talking between series, 'I didn't know the ball got thrown downfield that far.'"
- Being aware not go to downfield too far if the ball is thrown: "That penalty hurt us a lot in Utah. Coach told us to be more careful about it. We're still having controlled aggression."
- Have you been tipping your snaps? "I had a bunch of Tweets saying that. I didn't know what it meant at first. People were saying I was giving my snap count away. That's our snap count, I don't know what they want me to do about that. It is the way our offense is run, just motion instead of verbal.
- Have you modified how you snap the ball? "Nothing's changed at all, it's still the same. That is how we know when to snap the ball, we look back and get the signal, put my head up and communicate the call to the offensive line. But that is only for loud environments, so at home we're using the verbal count."
- Colorado's front-seven: "They are a really big defensive front. Their linebackers are a lot of mature guys, they are all seniors and juniors so we have to play all four quarters with them because they are not going to give it up easy."
Full audio of our interview here:
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from USC football practice as the Trojans get ready for Colorado.
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