Forever. I remember when I was a younger guy and we used to talk about those seven and eight year seniors, I kind of feel like one of those guys right now.
Talk about the mindset of the team in this off-season following the Rose Bowl.
I know from talking to other students, to friends and family, they seem to be asking the same kind of questions they were asking three years ago. What kind of team are you going to have? Who is going to replace Matt? Who is going to replace Reggie? It was like that with Carson and Justin and those guys. If you look to the past you'll see that guys have stepped up and done what they needed to do. I think it will be the same thing this year.
Are the offensive linemen still working out at 6:00am?
We go four days a week at 6:00am and then we have twice a week team workouts in the afternoon. A lot of the guys though, at least among the o-linemen, we'll work out twice a day with the second workout being some jump rope, some extra lifting, something like that. I'm not normally a morning person but my clock has kind of adjusted, I haven't slept in for a long time. For the morning workouts it's been the offensive linemen, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez and the kickers and long snappers.
The kickers and long snappers, that's interesting. When the fans hear that guys like that, and the quarterbacks, are getting up that early to workout with the lineman it seems like a pretty cool thing for them to do.
Definitely. It just goes to building that camaraderie and sense of trust, stuff like that. Both quarterbacks are always making a point to come up to us, see how we're doing, how we're feeling. You need to have that kind of relationship. We've seen John David become a lot more vocal than he was when he first got here, he's stepping into that leadership role.
Anybody really jump out to you this off-season in workouts?
I would say Travis Tofi. I think he's going to have a big year. He's always been a good player in my eyes and I think this is going to be his year. He's a real strong guy.
What are your height/weight measurements right now?
I'm 6-6, 305.
This is the first time you've headed into spring ball as a clear starter, does that change your mindset at all?
Actually, I was thinking about it this morning, last year was the first year that I didn't head into spring as a starter. In my freshman year Winston was hurt during most of spring so I was starting. The next year was the same thing and then the year after that he wasn't here (suspension). Last year was the first time I went through spring with the second unit. It's a comfortable feeling to go into spring as a starter but obviously I've got a lot more riding on this year. I know I'm not in the shadow of anybody else and I've just got to work hard to keep it that way.
Can the word patience be used to describe something you've learned in your career?
Oh yeah, definitely. I've learned patience. It's just the way things have gone.
Has your uncle (former NFL offensive lineman Eric) been a help to give you advice?
Yeah, he'll always call me up and leave me messages telling me stories about things that happened to him in his career. He's usually just saying "keep with it, your time will come and when that time comes you need to shine". Look at someone like Deuce. He came into last season with not a lot of people knowing who he was, he didn't even play guard before, but now he's going to be one of the top guards taken. It just goes to show what can happen if you have a good year here because the NFL guys are definitely watching and it's easy to get your name out there if you do well.
Did you see the numbers Winston put up at the combine?
I didn't see all of them but I saw he was #1 in some of the categories. You knew he was capable of doing that.
What I would like to do right now is go through the line and have you give us an update on how guys are doing at each spot.
Our depth isn't really that bad, once guys get healthy we should be fine. There's just no substitute for experience, for going out there and getting reps. It doesn't matter how strong you are, you just need that experience to know what you are doing in every situation.
Charles Brown has been pretty healthy although he had a little hamstring problem recently and wasn't able to go through all the workouts. He's progressing nicely though, he's starting to look more like an offensive lineman. When he came in he was nice and lean but now he's bulking up a little bit. Charles is at the right tackle spot right now. The back-up for the left tackle spot will be either Nick Howell or Thomas Herring. Nick, he's a strong guy, he's a really strong guy and we just need to add some more bulk to him. He's going to be a good one in time, he's a finisher. When Thomas is healthy he will be in that mix as well. The starting left guard right now is Matt Spanos and behind him is Jeff Byers. Right now the coaches are really happy with Matt and we'll see what happens in spring when Jeff is healthy. Jeff will also take some snaps at center because when Ryan is gone they want Jeff to be the next in line. Chilo is at right guard with Tiny Malu behind him. I don't think Drew Radovich or Travis Draper are going to be doing too much in spring due to injuries, they don't want to push too hard and have a setback like what happened with Byers last year. I think Tiny is one guy who just needs an opportunity. Two years ago when I was competing with Deuce at RT, I looked at it as an opportunity and I ended up splitting time which was more than I had ever gotten before. I really don't have any regrets about that season.
Think about that, how many times do the coaches alternate players on the line the way they did with you and Deuce in 2004?
They never do that but in that case they alternated us the whole season. That's one thing that helps going into this year because it's not like I'm going out there without any experience.
What do you think when you hear a high school recruit talk about how he is going to come in and get playing time right away?
If you're a receiver or something like that, maybe a defensive lineman who can use brute strength, but if you're an offensive lineman it's just so different. In high school you're only going up against one or two defenses but here they will start out in one defense and then switch to another. You've got to be able to adjust and know exactly what you're doing.
Give us your thoughts on Coach Ruel.
I think he's great. He teaches us, he'll sit down and tell us what we did right and what we did wrong. That's one thing as a player, you want to hear what you are doing right, you don't want to always just be told what you're doing wrong. That's one thing we all really like about him. Granted, he'll let us know when we're doing it wrong, that's just good coaching, but it helps to keep you motivated when he is also telling you what you're doing right. He also teaches a lot of life lessons, off the field stuff that helps give us examples of what can happen after we leave here. He's big on schoolwork, he's always telling us football isn't going to be here forever so we need to take advantage of our education.
I don't think people understand just how hard it is to balance football with academics because of the time demands of being part of this program.
It really is difficult. I mean, there are times when it's football first and school is second, that's just the way it is. I'm sure that's how it is at a lot of places. The other day I had two midterms and I was up all night studying for them, that's after two football workouts including one at 6:00am. It gets tough sometimes but that's the way it is. People always say "oh, you are so lucky to be a part of the team" or "it must be so great" when we get bowl gifts. Yes, it's all great but you have to pay a price for it. You can't slack in the classroom.
One of the things we always heard in the 90's, when the program wasn't doing as well, was the thought that maybe the academic standards had gotten too high and that USC simply couldn't succeed at that high level anymore. Since Carroll has come in though he's shown that the academic standards here can still exist with a winning program.
Of the class that I came in with, everybody is on track to graduate except for Mike Williams who left early, Winston who left early and Fred who left early although Fred is pretty close to being done. Other than those three we'll have one of the highest graduation rates.
What is your major?
Communications. When I first got here I thought maybe I might want to get into broadcasting. Now, I don't know, there are so many doors that can open up and there's a lot of things I can do with this degree.
Will it be nice to get things back to "normal" during spring ball without all the hype that surrounded this team at the end of last year?
Yeah it kind of feels like we're getting back to our roots. I wouldn't call it an uncertainty but just the feeling of not knowing who is going to step up, who is going to fill certain shoes. You know someone is going to do it but you don't know who or how it will happen. It's exciting right now. I know a lot of guys are itching to get the season started so we can get out there and prove what we can do.
It's been a long time since you looked in the backfield and didn't see Matt, Reggie or LenDale.
Right. That was definitely a key factor in our winning because it was such an intimidation factor we had. Other teams would be saying "oh, they've got Leinart and Bush" and that would help us. Now, they don't really know what we have and it's kind of like three years ago when we went into Auburn. Once that game happened we started building that respect again and that's what we need to do this year.
You've blocked for three Heisman Trophy winners during your career at USC. Do you see the next Trojan Heisman winner out there right now?
If John David does what I think he can do, he'll be great. Coming in right now he's ahead of where Matt was when he got the job. If Dwayne (Jarrett) has a breakout year he could be up there too. I don't know about contending for the Heisman but look out for Hershel Dennis, he's going to turn some heads. It's great to see him out there again.
So much is being made going into spring about how this QB battle is similar to the one three years ago between Cassel and Leinart but that competition was wide open while it sounds like John David Booty is clearly the starter right now ahead of Mark Sanchez.
I think it goes back to what we were talking about before with experience. Mark is a great quarterback, he's a helluva quarterback. They are both so good but it's all about experience and John David has been in the system for three years. There's just no substitute for it.
Who are the toughest guys that you've gone against on defense during your Trojan career?
Obviously going back to the day, back in my freshman year I had to go against Kenechi (Udeze) and that was a chore. Two years ago I had to go up against Shaun Cody when he was playing end a lot. This year going up against Lawrence Jackson, he's great, he's the next All-American on our line.
You played high school ball in Texas. How much crap did you get from your Texas friends after the Rose Bowl?
I got a lot heading into the game but after the game I didn't get as much as I thought I would so I guess they are my friends. I heard it was just nuts down there after they won but they have that respect for USC after the game.
What's been your favorite class at USC?
I took a communications class and one of the teachers is married to Kyle Wachholtz, the former USC quarterback. It was a really interesting class that touched on a lot of different stuff. Dallas (Sartz) and I took that class and it was really good.
My new favorite that I really like right now is Sideways. I kind of got into the whole wine deal after that so it's my favorite right now. They have a Sideways tour through the wine country where the movie was shot and I'm going to go on it, they stop at all the places that were shown in the movie.
I'm kind of into punk rock.
Favorite food or restaurant
There's a little Italian place right around the corner from our house where Sam (Baker), Ryan (Kalil) and I go all the time.
You and your fiancee Jana (Krohn, former USC swimming All-American) are expecting a baby later this spring, tell us about it.
I'm really excited about it. It's just more excitement to add on to this year. It's really a blessing and our families are really happy about it. The baby is due May 21st and they are telling us that it will be a girl. She'll be named Kylie Elizabeth.