Spring is in the Air as Trojans Begin Practice
It was certainly nice to return to the football field today, as the Trojans got their first practice of the spring in the books. Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field was warm, with temperatures nearing 80 degrees under sunny blue Southern California Skies.
Trojans Version 2008
The one thing that stood out today was the team speed, especially on the offensive side of the ball. While last year's team offense took some time to become a cohesive unit, it appears the 2008 offense may get out of the gates sooner.
In 2007, critical pieces of the offense were in doubt, as Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith had departed and there were questions as to who would step to the forefront. The receiving corps was young and barely experienced. In this season's version of the offense, the wide receivers have more experience, and it seems, speed.
Whoever rises to the top at the quarterback position, he will have a multitude of choices to go to. Patrick Turner should return to form, but with Vidal Hazelton, Ronald Johnson, Damian Williams, Travon Patterson, Brandon Carswell, David Ausberry and an occasional Joe McKnight running out for passes, this year's offense should get out to a quicker start.
Being the first day of practice, quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp each got time to showcase their abilities. Sanchez will get every chance to lead this team, but coaches will give both Mustain and Corp the reps to show they can be the leaders as well.
Pete Carroll noted that it is too early to worry about who will be leading the Trojans and he is not in a rush to name a starting quarterback. He did state the obvious – that coaches have a lot of knowledge about Sanchez and not so much on Mustain and Corp. Carroll plans to give both Mustain and Corp time on the field with the first team.
Side Bar: Notable plays and players
Offensive line – most obvious on the offensive line is the center position. Kristofer O'Dowd has the obvious first line on this position. His back up will be important, and Alex Parsons took reps at the spot. Parsons also did a lot of long snapping. On field goals, Parsons snapped to Garrett Green, who appears to be on track to become the holder.
Interceptions: chalk two interceptions up for Taylor Mays who shined on defense today.
Quarterbacks – as previously mentioned, all three quarterbacks got practice time. Sanchez is an obvious leader. Mustain started off a little wobbly on his passes but as the day wore on, his passes became more accurate and precise.
Receivers – David Ausberry, yes that David Ausberry had a couple of nice grabs today. Damian Williams had a few nice catches as well; Williams should make a mark this season.
Linebackers – With Kaluka Maiava out for spring, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews will shine. Luther Brown, Chris Galippo, Mike Morgan and Jordan Campbell will also get significant minutes. In a slight variation on a theme, Clay Matthews will rotate from linebacker to defensive end at times, ala the ‘elephant' position Brian Cushing played two years ago.
Running backs – Allen Bradford peeled off a couple of nice runs/receptions out of the backfield. Mark Tyler and Broderick Green got in their first spring ball. C.J. Gable also looked good in the backfield, returning to the field after surgery last season. Joe McKnight got a couple of nice long runs.
On the Sidelines
In attendance was a familiar face: Lawrence Jackson attended his first practice as a Trojan alumnus.
D'Andre Thomas, a defensive end from Santa Monica College who is completing his second year of college was on hand to observe practice. Thomas has been a fixture on the sideline, watching off-season workouts the last few weeks.
Speaking of Lawrence Jackson
We spoke with Lawrence Jackson on the sideline; he said he did not want to miss the first day of spring practice. Jackson said he had a great NFL combine and has been in town for about a month working out. He will participate in USC Pro Day in a limited role.
As far as teams showing interest in him, he said, "I've talked to position coaches with the Jets and the Patriots. My agent has been in contact with several teams."
Draft projections are shaky, and he said, "You never know, draft day is very crazy, I'm just hoping for the best, and you have to expect the worst."
Why he attended today's practice, "I've been working out here, and you just can't miss the first day of spring ball."
On being on the sideline, he said, "Until they start (practicing), it hasn't hit me yet. It's still kind of weird, seeing coaches from a different perspective, as a former player."
Spring practice resumes Thursday, March 27th at 4:00 pm, Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field.