Spring Ball Day 4

There was a large crowd on hand today at Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Field for the first spring ball practice in full pads and those in attendance were treated to a good day of football.

The first part of the day was simply the regular Trojan practice routine with one of the daily drills taking place on Kennedy Field. Kevin Thomas set the tone for the hard hitting on the first play when Mark Sanchez completed a pass to Dale Thompson in the flat and Thomas gave him an excellent shot for the tackle. A short Whitney Lewis run was followed by Sanchez rolling to his left and hitting Fred Davis for a nice gain. Brandon Hancock had an 8 yard run off left tackle and then Whitney got the ball again only to run into Keith Rivers at the line and Keith simply threw him to the ground for the stop. Chris Barrett made a stop at the line on John Griffin and then Hancock had another good run. The defense held two plays in a row with big tackles from Antwine Perez and Kevin Thomas.

The skill players moved to Howard Jones Field for some red zone passing drills. Sanchez completed a hard thrown pass in the corner of the end zone to Steve Smith against excellent coverage from Kevin Thomas and Kevin came up talking to himself, disappointed that he didn't make the play. KT is playing well right now. Mike McDonald threw a pass that was intercepted by Cary Harris and Cary is also playing well at corner. Both he and Thomas are showing the kind of play that made them such highly touted recruits a year ago. Sanchez completed a ball that was thrown high to Fred Davis who made a tough catch in traffic. Sanchez ended the drill by hitting Patrick Turner in the end zone.

At that point the team came together and began the extended team drill. On the sidelines watching were some of the top recruits in Southern California including Jimmy Clausen, Marc Tyler, Marshall Jones, Kenny Rowe, Donovan Warren, Antwoine Baker, Malachi Lewis, Malcolm Smith, David Ross and Casey Matthews. Several of the Trojan signees for this season were also in attendance including Allen Bradford, Shareece Wright, Kenny Ashley, David Ausberry. Garrett Green and Travon Patterson. Among the Trojan Football alumni who were spotted were Clay Matthews, Paul McDonald, Allan Graf (with son Kevin, a soph-to-be at Agoura HS), Pat Howell, Sunny Byrd, David Newbury, David Kirtman, Greig Carlson and Darnell Bing.

Mark Sanchez got things going by completing a short pass to Fred Davis and then Clay Matthews, Jr came in for a sack. Shortly after that Sanchez dumped a short pass to Dwayne Jarrett and Matthews came up for the tackle only to have Jarrett break through the tackle attempt and continue on for eight more yards before going out of bounds. Sanchez tried a pass to Jarrett but the ball was knocked away by Jerry Williams. Sanchez then completed a pass over the middle to Chris McFoy for ten yards. Rey Maualuga came in on the next play on a blitz, he just bulldozed past Jonathan Richert at left guard and got the sack on Mike McDonald. On the next play he came in again for another sack and there were shouts from the sidelines "That's Rey Maualuga! That's Rey Maualuga!".

Sanchez started the next series by rolling right but the secondary had terrific coverage and Keith Rivers was able to come flying in and force Sanchez out of bounds for no gain. It was a play where Keith was really able to show his closing speed. The next play was one of the highlights of the day when Brandon Hancock took a handoff and went behind Kyle Williams at right tackle, he then cut outside and raced down the sidelines for 40 yards before being tackled. Sanchez dumped a short pass to Ryan Powdrell for a short gain before Sedrick Ellis wrapped up John Griffin at the line for no gain. Sanchez then rolled to his left and dropped in a pretty pass over the linebacker to McFoy for 17 yards. Griffin took a handoff and was met quickly on a nice form tackle by Nick Garratt. Griffin took a handoff on the next play as well but this time he was met behind the line of scrimmage on a good play by Walker Ashley.

Mike McDonald came in and wasted absolutely no time in making a big impression by immediately going to Steve Smith and completing the pass for a 61 yard score. As if that wasn't enough, the ball was placed back on the 39 yard line and Mike dropped back again, only this time he threw a little high to Turner over the middle but Patrick was able to reach up with one hand and make a one-handed catch that Mike Williams would've been proud of and Patrick raced into the end zone for another touchdown.

Sanchez came back in and hit Hancock with a short pass for nine yards over the middle before Kaluka Maiava came in for the hard tackle. Brandon took a handoff on the next play and went through a nice hole provided by Matt Spanos on a block against Chris Barrett. Sanchez hit a couple passes in a row to Smith, the second one was a rope that was thrown on a slant route. Keith Rivers had a stop of a Griffin run at the line of scrimmage. Jarrett got the ball on a trick play and he was able to outrun Oscar Lua to the sideline before turning upfield and gaining 15 yards. Lawrence Jackson came in on the following play for a sack. Sanchez hit Brandon over the middle but Lua came up for the hard hit to hold the play to a short gain. Chris Barrett then had a couple nice plays in a row, first he batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage to force a 44 yard field goal attempt by Mario Danelo and then he came in and blocked the kicked.

On the last series Kaluka Maiava dropped what should have been an interception. Sanchez completed a pass deep over the middle to Turner.

Thoughts on the Day

RB Brandon Hancock

How has it been getting a chance to carry the ball this past week?

"I'm having a lot of fun, I'm doing a lot of reminiscing of high school. It's been a great time. I've probably carried the ball more in the last 3-4 days than I have in my whole career. It's a lot of workload though. I can't wait until we get Hershel and the other guys back."

How do you think you've been performing?

"I feel comfortable. I feel light on my feet now and it's great. I'm lighter than I was before, leaner. I'm at 230 pounds whereas before I was anywhere from 238-241. Now it's just a matter of seeing creases, having vision and seeing blocks better."

A lot of people have commented that you look to be in the best shape of your career.

"I'm definitely in different shape than earlier in my career, less of a body builder look. I feel great right now. I can feel the difference when I'm running with the ball and I've learned with blocking that it isn't about strength, it's about being low, having leverage and using the right angles."

Talk about the play of the other fullbacks.

"Jody Adewale has been playing great so far but he hurt his hamstring so he's been out right now. He really does a lot of things well, he's kind of like a little David Kirtman. He even kind of looks like Kirtman. Ryan Powdrell is just a hammer, he's really going to do well. It's been great so far this spring with me being at tailback because I can help him line up when he's at fullback, remind him of his assignments, stuff like that."

DL Chris Barrett

On being moved to defensive tackle

"I really like it. I am really excited about it. I tend to play faster because of it."

On how he thinks he is doing

"I am still not pleased. I have a lot of work to do as far as learning my hand placements. I just want to get better."

On his past injury problems

"I have worked real hard to avoid injuries. I have learned to have more flexability. Now I seem to stretch better and it has helped me."

On playing for Nick Holt.

"We move much faster and it is much more interesting playing for Coach Holt. He is a lot like Coach Orgeron. You can really feel a difference."

His impressions of playing against the offense line as now a defensive tackle.

"I want to go against the best and Ryan Kalil and Matt Spanos are the two best linemen we have right now. They are so strong and they give me all that I can handle. I have to give two moves now because they are so strong."

His future.

"I know that this is my time and if I am going to have a future (NFL), I know this is the time to show it. I am definitely ready and I am excited about my opportunity."

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