Discussing the Trojan Offensive Line
How are things different this year along the offensive line?
We had a cycle of players that went through, these seniors were really, really good. Its just time for a new group to take over.
This happens every year, it's just that we had a special group of seniors. They won four straight conference championships; they did a lot of great things. The biggest thing I have is I graduated four guys, actually three and one left early, so I lost four guys and I have to rebuild the offensive line.
I've got good, young athletes out there that can get the job done.
Do you approach things differently with a younger group?
I have to ‘put a lot of paper down' with this group. Every snap is kind of new to them. Every snap is important, but they are learning. They're already getting better, the second offensive line has some great kids on it and they're starting to make some improvement.
We don't have to beat anybody right now. All we have to do is become the best football players and the best team we can become by August 30.
Does having the coaching staff intact for a few years help?
The continuity is good, but this program is interchangeable. Pete (Carroll) has a system that you know, if three of us were to go down in a boat at Catalina, he'd just pull in three pretty good guys and just roll right along…that's a scary thought, though isn't it? (He rolls with a big laugh)…I just hope I'm not one of those three (more laughter)…
I'm just saying, guys can leave and, I just think the system and the approach, the whole philosophy of the program is just not going to change. The guys that come in change to the program, guys that come here becomes part of it.
Even with a large group of new players, practices still seem to move quickly. You don't seem to slow down for the new players.
I think we have some players that have grown up and understand the process. We expect that. We emphasize it. We don't over coach on the field; we're not going to slow down the practice so we can coach someone. We'll coach them at team meetings or after practice a little.
We prepare players to have a good practice. It may mean reviewing scripts, it may mean telling them the emphasis of the day, what you expect them to do is to follow the philosophy and follow the emphasis. We want them to play fast so we can't slow them down.
Sometimes that's a hard thing to learn for older coaches, because you may think you need to teach all the time. Really, what you need to do is let them go, let them play, let them finish and get them back and keep showing them the right way to do it.
So let's talk about Kristofer O'Dowd, how's he doing?
O'Dowd's doing fine. The thing I like about him is that he's taking some leadership up there; he's like the ‘quarterback' of our offensive line. Jeff Byers is up there lending his experience so that kind of helps him out. Kristofer O'Dowd is just so much more advanced than he was a year ago. He wasn't anywhere close to what he needed to be last year, but he's that much closer now, and he just needs to keep working at it.
Who's backing-up O'Dowd?
I've got Alex Parsons, Jeff Byers and Mike Reardon backing him up. Mike Reardon is taking all of the reps in the second unit. Mike's a tremendous athlete, he's a tremendous competitor, he's a little ‘light' but we like what we see in Mike. He red-shirted last year, he's just going to be a red-shirt freshman, he's going to be a really good player in a year or so.
The left side of the line appears to be stronger than the right at this point, you seem to be juggling players a lot on the right side, talk about that.
Yes, well, we're going to find the best five players to play along the line. Then we're going to find three, four or five other guys that we think can really help us win. The rest of the guys will have to wait another year before they get a chance.
The big thing is we have to get our offensive line to grow-up fast. I think the process is started. With our defense, they're going to see it all, there's nothing they're not going to see.
Are the guys in the lineup at the number one spot now going to be your starters in the Fall?
No, no, the jury's out, the jury's going to be out until the week of the first game. Even then, we're going to give guys the opportunity to compete. I think that some guys are just going to take a little longer, and some guys are just going to learn it quicker.
You've got a great freshman class coming in as well…
Sure, and I want those guys to get an opportunity as well. I'm just looking forward to having a full complement of offensive linemen here, which will be awesome. The guys who have to work with our defense will do a great job and the guys that come up and get to work with the offense should be ready to help us win. We're moving along pretty well right now.