Don't Tease Me: Riding back from the Notre Dame game last year with my aunt and her friend – both physical therapists – they told me that Desmond Reed suffered one of the more severe knee injuries that they'd witnessed, and this was before the initial prognosis was released. They both said that they'd be surprised if he ever saw the field again and that coming back to play football ever again was almost entirely out of the question.
Tuesday afternoon, Desmond Reed hit the field in full pads, a knee brace on his right leg. That isn't to say that he's close to playing shape, because he still has yet to be cleared for contact, but he's been out there for every practice looking like that horrific accident never happened. It's highly doubtful that he'll play this season and there's still a chance that his playing days are over, but having him out on the field again must provide such a lift to his teammates and shows everyone that there's no reason to give up hope.
I Got It, I Got It: For all the praise that has been heaped upon the freshmen in the first few practice, punt return drills have been interesting to say the least. Vidal Hazelton has been Jerry Rice through every single wide receiver drill, but when it came time to catching punts, he looked like Adam Dunn catching fly balls in Candlestick Park, during a 12:00 game.
It's obvious that Hazelton has the skills to turn into a solid punt returner, but the freshman who seems to be getting the most time back there is Travon Patterson. He was the guy that most people had pegged for that role, and the good news is that he has looked the best doing it. Jim Abbott and Desmond Reed have been back there with Patterson. Abbott will most likely be the sure-hands returner, even though he has the speed to do some damage, while Reed looks to be mentoring Patterson. Although, it could be that one of the new rule changes calls for #22 to constantly return punts.
A New Meaning to Butch-League: In one of the most unsurprising surprises of fall camp, Butch Lewis broke in the white #68 jersey for Tuesday afternoon's practice. Lewis was progressing well along the defensive line, but the switch to offensive tackle resulted in exactly what the coaches were looking for.
During the one-on-ones, Lewis handled the defensive end each time. And after the drill, both Coach Carlisle and Coach Carroll came up to Lewis, offering smiles along with words and taps of encouragement. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to start a career on the offensive side of the ball.
They Don't Call Them the Big Eaters for Nothing: As the end of practice neared, two tables were wheeled out supporting two tubs of watermelon and orange slices. The players hit the tables like vultures to carrion and after the dust settled, only the offensive linemen remained. A few of the starters, along with Drew Radovich were obviously still practicing their pass protection as they had created a very nice inverted passing pocket around the fruit. The watermelon had all day to throw and fired a seed to an open wide receiver.
The oranges, on the other hand, weren't so lucky after a rough sacking left them badly bruised.
Chatting With Chilo: After losing three of last year's five starters along the offensive line, Trojan fans know that a successful season largely depends on the ability to fill those holes effectively.
Though Chilo Rachal's spot at right guard seems more than safe, the redshirt sophomore knows that anything can happen during fall camp. "It's very competitive," Rachal said of the battle for the open offensive line spots. "Everybody is pushing for a spot. I just have to keep pushing hard and not get satisfied because the dudes behind me are pretty good players."
Part of fighting for a spot for Rachal has included staying after practice for some one-on-one work with Coach Ruel. "Every day after practice I just want to get a little extra work in. You never can be perfect. You can always get better."
That determination to improve has paid off for Rachal, even though he remains his biggest critic. "I think I've been doing pretty well. I know I need to work on a couple of things, but overall I think I've done well. I know that I can always get better."
After blocking for a Heisman Trophy winner and the school's all-time touchdown leader, Rachal is adjusting to the new runners behind him. "The new running backs all have their own different style of running. C.J. (Gable) and Stafon (Johnson) are more scat-backs, Michael Coleman is more of a power back and Chauncey (Washington) is a combination of both, so they all have different styles of running, but they're all pretty good."
Of course, "pretty good" will be an understatement if the offense is going to live up to Rachal's way of thinking. "I don't think we'll miss a beat. We've got a lot of good players that people don't know about. I think we're going to be real good."
"I just want to do my job and do whatever it takes to win," he said. "As a team, we just want to execute and win as many games as we can."