It's looking more and more likely that the punt return duties will fall on the shoulders of a freshman. Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Travon Patterson were fielding punts today, with Patterson still looking like he's on his way to the number one spot.
Much has been made about the booming legs of two newcomers, David Buehler and Greg Woidnek. But Troy Van Blarcom has been showing recently why the Trojans thought so much of him last year. Both he and Buehler have been taking turns short-hopping the back wall during warmups. Also, Woidnek has shown his strong leg, but has yet to really get a hold of one while being pressured by a rush. During punt drills today, it was Taylor Odegard who got of a huge kick to end the drill.
The team drills began today with the offense setting up camp at the 25-yard line, going in. John David Booty began the drill with an incompletion, but then found Dale Thompson over the middle on the next pass. Thompson was able to take it the rest of the way into the endzone. Booty's next three passes were incomplete, although one was due to a last-second Kevin Ellison pass breakup.
Mark Sanchez then stepped into the quarterback role and promptly fumbled his first snap. There have been more than enough fumbled snaps and batted-down passes to go around during these practices, but, and hopefully this will mean something going forward, that was really one of the only quarterback mistakes of the day.
After the fumble, Sanchez completed three passes in a row. The first was a quick toss to Stafon Johnson out of the backfield who was met by Kaluka Maiava. On the second, Steve Smith was able to beat his man inside on a quick slant for eight yards. And on the third, Sanchez found Travon Patterson streaking across the field for a short gain. Taylor Mays ushered Patterson out of bounds and after the play, Terrell Thomas pulled Mays aside and went over a few things on the play.
After his three completions, Sanchez tried to find Anthony McCoy quickly down the seam in the endzone, but Allen Bradford made a leaping interception.
Booty's second drive looked like it was going nowhere fast until a freshman stepped up big yet again. On the first play, Booty tried to hit Ryan Powdrell on a wheel route down the left sideline. Emmanuel Moody took a handoff, tried to bounce it outside and was met for very little gain. Stafon Johnson followed that up with a tough run up the middle for five yards and then Booty tried to hit Brandon Hancock out of the backfield, but Hancock slipped and the pass bounced away.
The team them huddled again, the ball was placed back at the 25-yard line and C.J. Gable did what he's done seemingly every practice. He took a hand-off and coolly, calmly, darted through the line and into the endzone. I can't remember a practice to this point where Gable hasn't broken a run like that for a touchdown.
During the next set of downs, Mark Sanchez welcomed a new backfield mate as Allen Bradford made his way into the offense. After Moody toughed out a nice 10-yard run through the middle of the defense, Bradford stepped in and showed a nice, quick change of direction on a five-yard run. To be fair, Bradford wasn't working under optimum conditions as the defense was able to key on him every play. I'm pretty sure they realized that the coaching staff wasn't putting Bradford back there to see if he could handle a play-fake. On his final run of the day, Bradford bounced one outside and was met by Cary Harris. They collided pretty hard, but it was difficult to say who got the worst of it. Harris has shown an ability to stick his nose in the play and make some tough tackles thus far.
Booty moved the offense well on his next possession, hitting Hancock out of the backfield for a quick ten yards before handing it off to Johnson for eight more. The next play was something we've seen a lot of this fall and something that I expect to happen a lot more. Booty hit Travon Patterson on a quick hitch and Patterson did the rest, putting a nice move on Jim Abbott and dancing up the sideline into the endzone.
Eventually though, Abbott had his revenge, although it came via a different freshman. After catching a simple swing pass, Stafon Johnson set himself to turn upfield, but was met rudely by Abbott, who recovered the subsequent fumble and started returning it to the endzone. He never made it though, as the offensive players who were standing behind the play chased him down and a mini dogpile occurred.