The day had started with an air of excitement following the announcement of a new radio home for the Trojans as KSPN radio (710am) will now be the home of USC football and basketball broadcasts. Color man Paul McDonald received a steady stream of well wishes along the sidelines as he will join play-by-play announcer Pete Arbogast and sideline reporter John Jackson in making the move to the new station to cover Trojan football. One bit of good news for USC fans is that KSPN is expected to have a live internet streaming function in place well before the start of the season which will give fans the opportunity to listen to game broadcasts and ancillary Trojan related programming over the net.
As far as the practice itself, it was a hard hitting affair as the players were in full pads and ready for some contact in anticipation of the Trojan Huddle on Sunday. One of the first drills took place on Howard Jones Field and with so much hitting by the defense it didn't take long to figure out that they were going for turnovers. Josh Pinkard almost had an early pick of a Mark Sanchez pass but the ball bounced out of his hands, Josh was playing at the safety spot although he told us after practice that he actually prefers playing corner. Josh says there is nothing set about where he might be playing in the fall, it could be corner or safety, but he is simply playing both spots now because there is a lack of depth at safety and so many corners are playing well. Jody Adewale was also back in the rotation at running back today although he gave up the ball a couple times in this drill. The first big hit he took came from Antwine Perez but Jody was able to hold on to the ball. Pinkard told us that he thinks Perez is the "real deal". The next pop came from Walker Ashley behind the line of scrimmage. On a third carry Jody fumbled during a gang tackle and it was an absolute scrum as both defensive and offensive players were piling all over each other trying to recover the ball. Finally one of the offensive players emerged from the pile and Jeff Byers, while still lying on the bottom of the mass of humanity, raised a fist in the air to celebrate. Jody had another fumble at the end of the drill, it wasn't ideal to see the ball on the ground two times but it was more of an indication of the hard hitting by the defense than anything else. The defense really came to play in this drill and they were getting after it.
The next drill was a skeleton passing drill with LB's and DB's going up against the skill players on offense. Sanchez threw a quick slant to Patrick Turner and Keith Rivers knocked Turner's helmet off with a hard hit. Fred Davis went up high to catch a pass from Mike McDonald and later in the drill Davis caught a long pass down the middle from Sanchez. The drill ended with Sanchez going deep to Jimmy Miller for a touchdown.
The punt and FG teams got some work. We saw both Taylor Odegard and Troy Van Blarcom get some punts with Ryan Ting and Brian Cushing (yes, Brian Cushing) as the return guys. For the field goals, both Danelo and Van Blarcom tried 42 yard attempts with Mario making his but Troy hit a low line drive that missed. Ryan Ting and Mark Sanchez were the holders.
In the team drill we saw the first team offense come out with Jeff Byers at LG and Matt Spanos at RT. Kyle Williams has been the starter at RT for most of spring but now with Byers getting healthy and rounding into form it is clear that Spanos will be a challenger for time with Kyle.
We saw Luthur Brown get in some reps today and that sure a nice sight to see. He didn't do much but it was enough to see him suited up and running around out there.
The first play came with a Sanchez pass to Brandon Hancock, who is still nursing a sore quad, and he was tackled from behind by Clay Matthews. Sanchez went deep to Ting who made a nice catch along the right side. Mark had another nice play where he read a blitz and hit Brad Walker who is continuing to play well in recent practices. McDonald hit Turner on a crossing route. Kaluka Maiava picked off a pass and made a nice return only to get tackled by Byers who walked off the field and was later seen with the trainers looking at his hip. If Jeff came back on the field after that, I didn't see him.
One of the prettiest plays of the day came on a wheel route from McDonald to Ryan Powdrell that went for about 70 yards for a touchdown, thanks in part to a nice downfield block by Ryan Ting on Justin Hart. John Griffin had a short run and was met hard by Rey Maualuga who got a lot of work in today and who looked sharp. A good Adewale run was followed by Powdrell going for about 20 yards with a handoff, as he was breaking tackles you could hear someone shout "that's 260 pounds right there". The fullback trio of Hancock, Adewale and Powdrell really deserve a mention for the job they have done this spring while carrying so much of the load with the absence of any real tailbacks. The final play of the practice featured the hardest hit as Brandon Ting simply smashed a ballcarrier after a short gain.
In attendance today were signees Garrett Green and Alex Parsons as well as QB recruit Samson Szakacsy.
Long after the practice was over you could see Pat Ruel conducting a teaching session with several of his offensive linemen while Mark Sanchez was found in the middle of the field having a throwing contest with his older brother, Nick, a former QB at Yale, as their father Nick Sr (a former QB himself at Manual Arts HS) shagged the balls in the end zone. Well, score one for the Ivy League as Nick beat his younger brother in both rounds of the contest.