The Trojans held an early afternoon practice in shorts and shoulder pads as they try to make it through the dog days of camp with some good play on the field while also avoiding further injuries. The last few days have seen several players go out with a variety of injuries, primarily hamstring problems, and this afternoon there was a scare in one drill when defensive linemen Shaun Cody and Kenechi Udez left the field within a few plays of each other while hobbling to the sideline. Both players sat out the remainder of practice, were able to walk off the field afterwards under their own power and when asked about them Coach Carroll said they were expected to be fine.
Spent a lot of time early in the day watching the linemen in a drill that featured five offensive linemen and four defensive linemen getting off the snap of the ball with various blocking schemes. One thing that needs to be made clear with the offensive line is the difference in terms of intensity and emotion with Coach Tim Davis in the mix. I've heard good things about Coach Uperesa as far as his strategy goes but he is a very quiet person and giving the linemen a coach who is in their face after every play will prove to be a major benefit. One of the best match-ups we saw was a play that had Bernard Riley against Fred Matua and those two just put on a bullfight. They are two extremely strong men and both can get after it with the best of them. Lenny Vandermade and Norm Katnik double teamed Mike Patterson on one play but Mike continued fighting and eventually got through the block much to the delight of Coach Orgeron. Derek Graf also had a real nice block against Riley on one play. We will break down the offensive line further at the end of this report.
The first offense went against the first defense on Howard Jones Field. Hershel Dennis got things going with a run that was stopped immediately by Patterson who beat Matua and held the play to no gain. Malaefou ran on a sweep thanks to a good block from Eric Torres on Udeze for six yards. Carson threw a screen to Dennis with a good block from Katnik on Patterson and the play went for 18 yards but Cody came off the field limping on his right leg. Carson threw to Mattos for eight yards before Carson again dropped back but this time he overthrew Colbert deep against Forrest Mozart. A trick play was run but it didn't work and Jay Bottom recovered the ball for the defense. A quick handoff to Sunny Byrd went for two yards before an Aaron Graham tackle. Matt Leinart threw a screen to Malaefou who rode Vandermade's block for five yards before cutting inside for another 15 yards on a nice play. Leinart then dropped back and was forced to throw high to Greig Carlson and this was the play that saw Udeze leave the field while limping on his left leg. Hershel Dennis ended that drill with a pretty run off right guard for six yards.
Carson went over the middle to Alex Holmes but the ball was low and it was dropped. Leinart went to Jason Mitchell on a pass for six yards with Graham covering and then Billy Hart came in and threw low to Carlson on an incomplete pass. Hart threw to Sunny Byrd for eight yards and then he found Holmes wide open for 13 more. Leinart went to Gregg Guenther over the middle and it's becoming real clear that Guenther is going to be a contributor this season. Dennis then got outside on a nice run where he beat LaJuan Ramsey and was able to turn the corner. Carson hit Mike Williams, the freshman is so smooth when he runs. Carson threw to Malaefou but Melvin Simmons reached up and batted the ball away before Carson completed a short pass to Mattos. A Palmer pass to Guenther went for a short gain and then Carson missed Colbert with a pass and it was intercepted by Troy Polamalu and as he made his nice return several of the receivers who were watching the play from the sidelines joined in trying to tackle him. Leinart came in and completed a pass to Williams over Chris Bocage and then Matt went right back to MacKenzie who caught the pass against Simmons. While these drills were going on Darrell Rideaux was talking to John Walker on the sidelines and giving him pointers on what to look for when lining up as a corner against a receiver. Rideaux is an excellent technician and can often be found working with the other corners. The field goal unit came on for some work as follows; David Davis (33 - good, 37 - good, 37 - good), Ryan Kileen (33 - good, 37 - miss, 37 - miss).
It was the 1st offense against 1st defense as Carson threw to Mike Williams for 8 yards before a Grootegoed tackle. Carson went to Mattos with a quick pass but Rideaux came up with a solid stop to hold the play to no gain. Carson went again to Mike Williams and then Leinart came in and immediately threw one high to Colbert. The play of the day came on a Carson pass to Williams, the ball came in at his shoetops but Williams didn't even break stride as he reached down to make the catch and continue on for an 18 yard gain. Hershel Dennis read the block of Vandermade and made a beautiful cut to get six yards before a Dom Byrd tackle. David Kirtman carried the ball into the end zone on a 12 yard scoring run but the extra point attempt by Davis was wide right. Hershel tried a run to the outside but Omar Nazel came up and made an excellent play to force a loss. Leinart completed a pass to Williams against Rideaux and then Leinart tried to hit Guenther but he slipped and Polamalu was there for the interception. Carson hit Dennis on a screen but he was driven out by Alex Gomes and then Dallas Sartz got an interception on the last play of the day.
In attendance this afternoon were former Trojan running back Ricky Ervins and Temple City defensive back Desmond Reed.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, the situation is still very much in the air. The coaches are experimenting with different combinations every day and nothing will likely be settled until Zach Wilson returns from his foot injury. Fred Matua has replaced Wilson in the starting line-up at right guard and has impressed everybody with his fiery play and overall ability. His future is obviously bright and Fred is one heck of a football player but he is also a freshman who doesn't have a complete grasp of the offense yet. There are plans to move Wilson to right tackle as that has been the hardest position to fill so far. Eric Torres began fall camp as the starter but he hasn't been able to lock up a spot so far. Nate Steinbacher was moved to DL, Kyle Williams will likely be a redshirt and Phillip Eaves is currently the #2 man but look for either Wilson or possibly Jacob Rogers to end up as the starter. Jacob is currenly at LT and he has arguably been the most dominant offensive lineman in camp, he played at RT for a couple days and could end up there if Winston Justice shows at some point that he can handle the starting job at LT this year. Lenny Vandermade is at left guard and he is as solid as they come, stick him there and forget about it because that spot will be handled. Notm Katnik will be the starter at center but Derek Graf has been one of the more pleasant surprises in camp and his play gives the coaches the option of putting him at center while moving Katnik to RG if needed.