Obviously, this is something that Coach Carroll has recognized, and apparently, he's decided to go with the "intimidation" approach to solving the problem. For the Little Giants, it was Alka-Seltzer tablets. For the Trojans, it's a fearsome foursome of Kaluka Maiava, Thomas Williams, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, lined up, two on either side of the kicker. With that group, the hitting will take care of itself, but the discipline to stay under control and in the right lane must also be instilled.
Speaking of Two-Word Phrases: While the Trojans practiced for the final time without full pads on Sunday, the coaches often reminded plays to, "Stay up" during scrimmages, merely stopping a runners forward progress rather than send him to the turf. As it turns out, "Stay up" might be the most ignored two-word phrase since I told my dad, "That's mine" about a just-opened ice cream sandwich.
I'm sure it's not that the players want to hurt each other - well, if it's anything like that ice cream sandwich incident, they might – but you can only tease these guys with fake tackling drills while wearing "shells" for so long. If the players weren't going to be wearing full pads on Monday, the practices would have developed into full tackling anyways.
With Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Thomas Williams and the rest of the linebackers as the ringleaders, the defense is going to have a lot more to say about the intensity of practice come Monday afternoon.
This Corner's Back: As the defensive secondary enters this season with the promise of four new starters, one of the cornerback spots remains seemingly up for grabs. With Terrell Thomas on the other side, Kevin Thomas is fighting for the right to be named starter.
Kevin Thomas (KeTo) spoke about the group last year and what they mean to the current crop of corners. "I think it's a blessing that we had that older group here last year. We learned from them and now that they're gone, we can take what they taught us and fill in a role. I think we're going to do a great job of it."
As a true freshman last year, Thomas got a taste of what fall camp is like. This season, the helpings are getting bigger. "It's a complete difference," Thomas said of this year to last. "Last year, I was a little timid coming in, and eventually I got a little cocky at times. But at the same time, I didn't really know what was going on."
This year, things have changed. "Now as a sophomore," he said, "I feel comfortable out there. I feel that I can make plays and I feel like this year, more so than last year, I'm playing at full speed with confidence."
His interception in Sunday's scrimmage attests to that confidence and will also go toward his starter's resume as he battles with fellow sophomore Cary Harris. "That's my whole purpose for being in camp," Thomas said of the open cornerback position. "I'm trying to solidify that number one spot. I'm just trying to know what I'm doing when I'm out there and make plays. Things are going very well right now."
As a cornerback for the Trojans, one of the perks of practice is going against the great talent at wide receiver. Thomas understands and embraces that fact. "I love it," he said. "It's real fun. There are a lot of big names in the offensive group – number one in the country. All it can do is make me better, so I just try and compete with those guys every day and get them to boost my game."
As for the defense as a whole, Thomas has high hopes. "I don't know about any comparisons to last season, but I know that this year we're obviously a lot younger and I think we're faster. We've got a lot of playmakers out there and the coaches are starting to notice with the recruiting classes we're had the last few years coming together. I think we're just real fast out there, real dominant."
"My personal goal is to start. As a team, our goal is to win the National Championship." In order to reach those goals, "dominant" is definitely something that this team must be on defense.