Trojan punter Tom Malone looked in All-American form as he boomed punts that seemed to go over a cardinal and gold rainbow. Afterwards, Malone told us he was "really starting to feel better" and gave every indication that he will be a major positive factor on Jan. 4.
As practice moved into more team drills, there seemed to be an upgrade in intensity. Fans were treated to the type of practice that one saw during the Trojans stay in Miami for last year's Orange Bowl. From station to station, there was a real sense of purpose.
The Trojans spent time on their punt coverage team and the coaching intensity was certainly evident as players on the coverage teams were being urged at great strengths to get off their blocks and make a play down field.
Linebacker Thomas Williams continued to make strides and participated in numerous linebacking drills. The Trojan backers under coach Ken Norton continued to work their magic against the Vince Young shotgun option and Keith Rivers looked especially active.
The Trojan secondary worked against the Texas pass patterns and option attacks and formations. As they continued their work, coach Greg Burns charges practiced the various blitzes that are in the Pete Carroll package.
The Trojans defensive line stressed your basic fundamentals and worked on their basic pass rushing fundamentals. Coach Jethro Franklin reminded his men that the moment of truth was near.
In some 11-on-11 rushing for the Trojan offense, both Reggie Bush and LenDale White were very effective and on one particular play, Bush fumbled after taking a hit by Lawrence Jackson, who also recovered the ball and then was tackled by grad assistant David Watson, which brought some hoots and laughter. Later Bush was also hit hard by senior Collin Ashton, but Bush showed his competitiveness by continuing down field.
Defensive standouts included corner Josh Pinkard and defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, who gave Vince Young impressionist Michael Coleman a nice "stick" to remember as Coleman ran the Texas shotgun option. The Trojans used Coleman for Texas running plays and redshirt freshman QB Mark Sanchez for throwing downs.
Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel was very emotional in getting his team to block a particular running play the correct way. Both Brandon Hancock and David Kirtman took turns running some tailback in case of emergency.
Officials were used late in the practice and receiver Chris McFoy was in communication with the line judge to make sure he was alligned correctly. Patrick Turner looked very effective along with tight end Dominique Byrd as practice moved down to its conclusion. During the final moments, guard Fred Matua worked at center with the first unit and Chilo Rachal was used as the starting right guard.
The end of practice showed Reggie Bush running around the right side with the burst of speed that only Reggie can display. No matter how many times we have sween this particular play, we are still in awe for the burst of speed being displayed. It's like watching HDTV. No matter how many times you turn on the set, you continue to marvel to at the color. Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith looked in Orange Bowl "shape," as both displayed the skills that have made them household names. One highlight was Reggie Bush putting a move on Keith Rivers that brought out the smack talk.
Kickers Mario Danelo and Troy Van Blarcom were right on target with field goals of the intermediate and long range variety. Van Blarcom connected on a 48-yard attempt with plenty of leg to spare. It was certainly a good day for Trojan kickers.
With ESPN's Kirk Herstreit in attendance, practice ended with a small scuffle that turned into a dogpile as tempers were short, but order was soon restored as the Trojans huddled near the middle of the field and started chanting "We ready, we ready, we ready ...for y'all."
The team then left the field quickly and prepared to board busses for a trip to Lucky Strikes bowling in Hollywood.