"Those guys are great," said Turner of Jarrett, Smith and McFoy. "I've learned so much from them. Even when they don't say anything, I can just watch them. But they're all good dudes and they'll let me know what's up and they'll help me when I need it."
The change in confidence for Turner was a natural progression after one year in the country's brightest spotlight, but it also came with hard work. "This summer, I just worked on my all-around game. I worked with all the receivers and the quarterbacks. I made sure that I was going to improve for this season."
In fact, working with this year's quarterback may have started as early as the beginning of last season. One of the reasons that Turner is poised for a break-out season is the time he spent basically playing catch with John David Booty during the end of games last year. "That helped a lot," he said. "But it was also in practice; Booty was in a lot. That should definitely contribute to this season."
Asked about what he felt his role on the team would be this season, Turner had a very diplomatic answer. "I'm just going to go out there and whatever happens happens. I'm going to make plays when the ball comes my way. There are really no individual goals. I'm just going out there and trying to be perfect. That's all."
"This year," said Turner, "it's a whole different thing. We've got a lot of new faces on the team, especially with the quarterback and running back situations. We've got a lot of freshmen this year and the team is really young."
"But," he said, his mouth curling into a wry smile, "we still have a lot of guys who are young with experience."
Asked about where he thought this team could end up and answered before the question was finished, Turner said, "The team goal is the Rose Bowl."
V.I.P.: Lawrence Jackson sat out Saturday's practice with a lingering health issue, but that didn't keep him from making the best entrance onto Howard Jones field. As the rest of the team tapped Goux's Gate and jogged out to their respective position groups, Lawrence Jackson huddled over the guy who holds the sign-in clipboard and searched up and down for his name. Not finding it on there, he shrugged and walked out onto the field. It's good to see that Jackson was able to stay somewhat upbeat even while missing the practice, but not being out there with his teammates has got to be awfully hard. Hopefully his injury won't force him to miss a significant part of fall practices and he is ready to go with the starting defense for the team's first scrimmage. Rest assured, his name is signed in on that list.
Quote of the Day: As the team warmed up wearing only shoulder pads as opposed to full pads, I made the mistake of wondering aloud if there would be any hitting going on during the practice. While there were definitely a few pops during the majority of the drills, I received a resounding, "yes" during the team scrimmage.
After catching a pass and spinning away from a hard hit by Rey Maualuga, Vidal Hazelton was absolutely obliterated by Brian Cushing. It was received by a loud, "Ohhhhhh" from the team and praise from coaches.
But the best part about the play was Hazelton's reaction. He immediately popped up and loudly clapped his hands together a few times as if to alert the entire field that he was more than ready to accept that kind of punishment if it meant a few more yards. He got just as many head slaps and backside pats as Cushing for his enthusiasm and, better yet, holding onto the football.
The Youth Movement: It's been said before, but these freshmen have been amazing. The running backs and wide receivers have earned much of the press so far, but the defensive backs and linemen on both sides of the ball have looked great as well.
Derek Simmons, Alex Parsons, Butch Lewis and Michael Morgan all looked good going through defensive line drills. Parsons looked especially good, attacking the offensive linemen with a surprising combination of power, speed and a never-ending motor.
But the offensive talent that the Trojans brought in this year is undeniable, with Hazelton, Travon Patterson, C.J. Gable and Stafon Johnson leading the way.
Every practice thus far, Vidal Hazelton does something to justify the recruiting circus that went on around him at the beginning of this year. Penn State was probably foolish to not frame him for a crime during his official visit in order to keep him from leaving the state. The kid is a football player in every sense of the phrase. His routes are clean, his hands are soft, and his speed is outstanding. His most impressive asset, however, is his mental state appears to be well above that of an incoming freshman. I know it's far too early to tell for sure, but watching him out there during practice, you get the feeling that he's been there for several years.
C.J. Gable is another guy who has impressed during every practice. Most people have Stafon Johnson ahead of Gable, and Johnson has done nothing to change that line of thinking, but Gable is just one of those guys where, every time you look up during a running drill, you see #25 scampering deep into the secondary. He has shown the ability to find any hole along the offensive line and explode through it, often before a linebacker can get there to close it.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Williams: No player on the current Trojan roster has a split personality like linebacker Thomas Williams. The good news is that the Trojans are all aware of this. Speaking with Williams after the first morning practice, I didn't think I could find a more respectful, well-spoken young man, capable of thought out answers and insightful responses to any question I had for him.
Watching Williams during football practice, I don't think I could find a more completely insane individual. And that's meant 100% as a compliment. Nobody on the team brings more intensity and desire to even the smallest component of the shortest drill. You could practically sense Williams' elation at the fact that shoulder pads were being used for the first time yesterday. He was simply born to hit. I'm guessing that he's had a paper chain strung up in his bedroom since the last day of spring practice, counting down the days until he'd be able to suit up again and drop someone to the turf.
Every time the whistle blows for a linebacker drill and it's Thomas Williams' turn to hit something, I'm reminded yet again why I could never play football.