Spring Ball Day 6

It was another full pads practice for the Trojans with a lot of work on the punt game, a few more players stepping up in their attempts to earn playing time and some big hits on the defensive side of the ball.

The beginning of practice featured a lot of work on the punt team including more technique teaching than any observers on the sideline could remember. There were several USC coaches involved with various groups of players including Todd McNair, Ken Norton, Rocky Seto, Brennan Carroll, Nick Holt and Sam Anno with Pete Carroll in the middle of it all directing the drills and throwing the simulated punts into the air. Steve Smith was the primary return man with Troy Van Blarcom and Taylor Odegard alternating punts. Van Blarcom clearly has the stronger leg and he had some booming kicks but he needs to be more consistent, something that will come with time as he gets adjusted to the new spot. Once again we saw Desmond Reed returning some kicks, he's not dressed in full uniform but he is able to run and cut at half speed without much sign of a limp (he does wear a brace below his right knee).

One of the guys who continues to impress is Patrick Turner and it's getting to the point where Patrick will likely be our #3 receiver ahead of Chris McFoy and that is no knock against the way Chris is performing. McFoy is a solid and dependable player but Patrick is just making too many plays on a consistent basis. Today he caught a nice ball over the middle from Mark Sanchez to get things started in a team drill and later he caught a hard thrown ball from Mike McDonald over the middle. With Dwayne Jarrett missing practice due to a Thursday class it gave Patrick a chance to see more balls thrown his way and he is taking advantage of it.

The receiver who had the best day was probably Steve Smith as the senior had a couple deep receptions from Sanchez including one that went for a touchdown.

On the offensive line, it's looking more and more like Matt Spanos will be a real part of this rotation. We've seen Matt in action at LG and center primarily so far this spring and the past couple days he's also seen some time at RT in the rotation behind Kyle Williams. Ryan Kalil talked about Spanos and how strong he is, Matt recently set a power clean mark at USC, and he is also an experienced guy who knows what he is doing on the field. More from Matt later in the article.

In the linemen one on one drills we saw Spanos beat Fili Moala twice in a row. Sam Baker won a pair of reps against Lawrence Jackson and then Jeff Schweiger used his speed to get outside Charles Brown for the "sack". Brown came back on the next series and did well against Chris Barrett. Jeff Byers pretty much had his way against Walker Ashley although Walker did show signs of good play later in the day. Nick Howell had some good success against Barrett which brought praise from the coaches.

When the team moved to Howard Jones Field we saw Walker Ashley start things off with a nice hit on Brandon Hancock. Ryan Powdrell had a nice run up the middle and then Ashley tipped a McDonald pass at the line. Powdrell went behind a nice block from Howell for 12 yards. Sanchez tried to hit Fred Davis over the middle but the pass missed and was intercepted by Kevin Thomas. Powdrell had another nice run to end the drill.

The next drill began with Sanchez hitting McFoy who was driven out of bounds on a solid tackle by Cary Harris. McDonald hit Gerald Washington a few plays later along the right sideline. Sanchez then went to Davis on a seam route on the left side but when the ball arrived so did Brandon Ting who laid a big-time hit on to cause the ball to fall to the ground. On the next play Sanchez hit Brad Walker for 15 yards to set up a 39 yard FG attempt by Mario Danelo that was wide left.

Sanchez had perhaps his best throw of the day on a pass along the right sideline to McFoy where he fired it in the zone between the corner and safety. McDonald hit David with a short pass but Fred took another solid pop, this time from Rey Maualuga. Another hit of the day took place after McDonald was picked by Jerry Williams and as Williams was returning the ball Jeremyah Graves absolutely crushed walk-on receiver/Daily Trojan writer Ben Malcomson. Powdrell went up for a pass in the end zone that fell incomplete and he came up limping, he put ice on his hamstring and was done for the day. The final play of practice contained perhaps the biggest hit and it was fitting to end the day on such a play. It was a simple handoff to Mike Brittingham off right tackle and walk-on linebacker Nick Garratt put a form tackle on him with some attitude. It was a great hit and it was followed shortly by the three horns sounding the end of practice.

Other notes:

* Among the onlookers today were Matt Leinart, Keary Colbert, Tom Malone, Anthony Davis (looking noticeably slimmer after his recent surgery), John Jackson, Martin French, Craig Fertig, Ron Fletcher and Dave Levy. Among the signees who made it were Garrett Green, Kenny Ashley (who spent time talking with AD), Alfred Rowe and Alex Parsons. QB recruit Samson Szakacsy was also in attendance. Local high school coaches Kevin Rooney (Notre Dame) and Jon Mack (St Bonaventure) were also at practice after spending part of the day working with the USC staff.

* Luthur Brown was doing agility drills while Dallas Sartz and Brian Cushing both took part in non-contact coverage drills.

Thoughts from Matt Spanos

What are your thoughts when you hear people say you are one of the surprises of spring ball?

"I keep hearing that but I've been around for a long time now, four years, so it's not like I just got here. It's nice to hear though because it means people think I am doing well."

How do you feel out there right now?

"I'm at my peak physical shape in terms of the time I've been at USC. I'm 6-6, 305 and I'm feeling good."

Talk about your thoughts on the battle for the left guard spot.

"I'm basically concentrating on that right now even though I'm also playing some center and right tackle. I feel comfortable but I know Jeff Byers is there competing and he's getting back from an injury so the competition will keep going. It will also be good for the line once we get Drew Radovich back because he is a great guard as well."

Do you think it helps being a veteran to play multiple spots as opposed to doing it earlier in your career?

"In my freshman year I jumped around at different spots and didn't really know exactly what I was doing. Now I understand the roles and it helps me know what is going on with the entire line and the whole offense."

Who are some of the tougher players you are facing on the Trojan defense right now?

"Chris Barrett, he is really letting it loose. He's not holding up at all. Sed Ellis, he's as big as a house. Lawrence Jackson, he's so quick."

USCFootball.com Top Stories