Spring Ball Day 3

Things got a little more intense today as the Trojans put on shoulder pads for the third practice of spring and at this point you can tell the players are ready to do some hitting. Today we saw more good stuff from Mark Sanchez and Dwayne Jarrett while the defense also tightened and provided some highlight moments.

As is often the case after the first couple days of either spring or fall drills, the players have worked out the kinks at this point and the competitive juices are really starting to flow. You noticed it today starting in a drill held early in practice on Brian Kennedy Field when Brandon Hancock took a handoff and was met by a hard pop from Chris Barrett. It was the kind of nice contact that got everyone's attention and you knew from that point that the energy was going to be turned up a notch. Keith Rivers had a nice play to stop a Hancock run a few plays later and then Mark Sanchez got the first big gain for the offense by hitting Mike Brittingham in the right flat for a long gain. A few plays later John Griffin took a handoff to the right and he followed Ryan Kalil who made a terrific downfield block for the 20 yard pick-up. Rivers dropped into coverage and should have made an interception on a pass intended for Dale Thompson. The final play of the drill saw Thompson catch a pass and receive a solid shot from Mozique McCurtis.

After that drill the skill position players headed to Howard Jones Field for some throwing work while the linemen stayed on Brian Kennedy Field for some one on one drills. We stayed to watch the linemen and one interested bystander was Pat Howell who had driven down from Fresno for the weekend to watch his son Nick in action. Kyle Moore got the drill started by getting by Kyle Williams with a nice move. Matt Spanos did a real nice job against Travis Tofi and Chilo Rachal held his own against Sedrick Ellis. A good battle took place when Sam Baker went up against Lawrence Jackson and Baker was able to keep Lawrence away from the "QB" for two straight reps. Jeremyah Graves beat Thomas Herring, Tiny Malu stopped Walker Ashley and then Jeff Byers dominated Mike Davis. Nick Howell got beat on the first rep by Chris Barrett as Chris got to the outside but on the second rep Nick drove him into the ground which brought a nice reaction from dad. Another good set of reps came when Ellis and Rachal battled again. Ryan Kalil handled Travis Tofi fairly easily and then on one of the final reps Matt Spanos basically tossed Walker Ashley to the side as he tried to get by him.

There was a lot of situational work done during the team drill with the defense holding the early edge before the offense caught fire at the end and put the ball in the end zone several times. Things got started with Sanchez hitting Hancock for a quick pass over the middle and then Mark hit Jarrett with a nice fade pass along the sideline despite good coverage from Kevin Thomas. There's just not much a defender can do if the ball is placed well on a fade pass to Jarrett with those long arms, it's hard to describe how dominant Dwayne looks on the field right now. Sanchez suffered his first turnover of the spring on the next play when he hit Chris McFoy on a slant but the ball bounced out of Chris' hands and into the waiting arms of Antwine Perez who made a short return. Perez is impressing onlookers so far with his football instincts and the fact that he is one of those players who always seems to be around the ball. He is working with the first unit at safety (the other safety today was Brandon Ting) and we can't wait to see how Antwine looks on Sunday when the team starts some real hitting. Sanchez had written "Ball Security" on his left hand before practice because he knew the defense would be gunning for turnovers after not getting any yesterday on Turnover Thursday but the pick was one of those plays that wasn't really the fault of the QB.

Mike McDonald came in to lead the offense and his first pass went to Patrick Turner who did a real nice job of fighting off tacklers to pick-up 17 yards. McDonald tried to go deep but the ball should have been picked by Kaluka Maiava. Sanchez rolled right and hit Turner for a short gain along the sideline as Kevin Thomas went flying past, if it was a full contact drill Thomas would have laid a huge hit on Turner. Sanchez came right back to Turner on a crossing route but Maiava was there with a hard pop as soon as the ball arrived. Mark then tried a screen to Ryan Powdrell but Rey Maualuga came flying in to stop the play before the first down marker. A few plays later Sanchez completed a short pass to Washington with Rivers coming over for the solid hit. From that point on, the offense was on fire.

Sanchez showcased his strong arm by throwing a rope to Chris McFoy on a streak pattern down the right sideline for a 30 yard touchdown. McDonald came in and immediately hit Jarrett on a deep slant for 18 yards and then he completed a pass to Washington for 10 yards and it took a gang tackle of 5-6 defenders to stop his forward progress. Sanchez came back in and threw a pass to Hancock in the flat and Brandon put a shake move on Perez that froze the freshman and Brandon waltzed into the end zone for a 24 yard touchdown. The best throw of the day by Sanchez, in my opinion, came when he dropped back and looked left at Steve Smith before turning to his right and firing a strike to Jarrett on the right side for a 20 yard touchdown. The ball was an absolute cannon coming out of his arm and it was the kind of play that raised a lot of eyebrows from those watching on the sidelines. Kyle Moore interrupted the run by the offense by notching a sack. After that Sanchez went right back to Jarrett for another touchdown from 10 yards out. For the final play of the day, or what was supposed to be the final play of the day, the ball was placed on the five yard line and Carroll had both units come together to get fired up. Ken Norton led the defensive unit as they were hopping up and down to get motivated. Sanchez threw a quick screen to Hancock who turned inside and ran untouched through the middle of the field for a touchdown. As the offense celebrated with Hancock giving a flying chest bump with Kalil, the three horns sounded to end practice. The referees then came in waving a flag and Pete Carroll held a discussion to see what was happening. The offense players were protesting that the three horns had sounded to indicate practice was over "we never play after three horns" but the penalty was called and the offense was forced to bring the ball back to the ten yard line and try again. Not a problem. Sanchez simply dropped back and threw to Jarrett on the left side for the touchdown and practice was over.

Other notes:

* Troy Van Blarcom looked pretty good in punt drills today with a couple booming kicks. The return guys were Smith and Jarrett. Desmond Reed, who was not dressed, even took his turn fielding a punt.

* Former DB coach Greg Burns was in attendance.

* With Sanchez now taking reps as the first team QB, Mike McDonald and Ryan Ting are handling holder duties for placekicks.

* Signees in attendance included Garrett Green, Kenny Ashley, Alfred Rowe, Vincent Joseph and Travon Patterson. Among the recruits in attendance were commit Chris Galippo, Donovan Warren and junior OL Matt Kalil (brother of Ryan).

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