Hail to The Road Graters

You can cheer all you want for those swivel-hipped running backs, those glamorous quarterbacks and those speedy receivers.

But, in the final analysis, who makes it all go, who gets you where you want to go, who makes an offense an offense?

Simple. It's those road-graders, those earth-movers up front, guys who get little glory.

And, as we look ahead in recruiting for 2010 and beyond, perhaps it would be useful to see where USC's football team stands with respect to offensive linemen as the 2009 season moves into its fourth week.

San Jose State coach Dick Tomey, whose team took a 56-3 pounding from the Trojans, then held 16th-ranked Utah to a 21-14 triumph the following week, said USC's offensive line was the finest he had seen anytime, anywhere, adding that four of Pete Carroll's offensive linemen are future first-round National Football League draft choices.

But three of those road-graders, guards Alex Parsons and Jeff Byers and tackle Charles Brown, are playing their final seasons for the Trojans.

So, as you look at the 2010 schedule, perhaps the softest the Trojans have had in a number of years, there is cause for concern about the offensive line. (The 2010 schedule: Home--Virginia, Washington, California, Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame. Away--Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington State, Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona and UCLA).

There's talk that highly regarded sophomore right tackle Tyron Smith will be moved to left tackle in 2010 and equally talented Matt Kalil will go to the right side. Butch Lewis, who has been as solid as they come, will get one of the guard positions, with perhaps Khaled Holmes or Zack Heberer at the other spot.

Center is in the good hands and feet of Kristofer O'Dowd, a junior who may become the most talented Trojan at this position in school history and could become a 2010 Outland Trophy winner as the nation's No. 1 offensive lineman.

As you know, there are always injuries and disappointments, so it's imperative we look at possibilities offered by newcomers.

Of the 14 players who have given USC commitments for the recruiting class of 2010, only three are offensive linemen and only one, 6-8, 320-pound Brian Schwab, a junior-college tackle from Palomar, would appear to be ready to offer immediate help to the Trojans. The others are center Giovanni Di Poalo from St. Bonaventure in Ventura and guard Dakota Smith of Westchester High, 6-8 and listed variously as weighing between 335 and 365.

But on the horizon, there's hope. The Trojans are still in strong contention for tackle Seantrel Henderson of Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minn., thought by many to be the nation's top prep lineman, offensive tackle Chaz Green from Tampa (Florida) Catholic, offensive tackle T.J. Leifheit from John Hoggard High in Washington, D.C., offensive tackle Michael Criste from Mission Viejo and offensive tackle Ben Loth from Crespi.

Criste and Loth still don't have offers from the Trojans, but USC offensive line coach Pat Ruel is evaluating them and could be making a decision soon.

Looking to 2011, the Trojans have a great shot at landing offensive lineman Christian Westerman from Hamilton High in Chandler, Ariz.., who was stoked at getting an offer from USC. And, naturally, once the Trojans make an offer, Florida and UCLA follow suit. Monkey see, monkey do.

Recruiting Notes: Serra wide receiver Robert Woods, Scout.com's No. 1 player at that position in the country and a 2010 USC commit, has had two touchdown receptions and two interceptions in his team's first three games. He is equally skilled on both sides of the ball . . . His teammate, 2011 wide receiver George Farmer, has five touchdowns in Serra's first three games….It isn't often USC is in the running for a Crenshaw High player (it's a long story, folks), but linebacker Hayes Pullard believes USC's Ken Norton is one of the nation's better coaches at that position. Norton demonstrated his high interest in Pullard by attending the Crenshaw-Lakewood game, and got an eyeful of a whiz-bang prospect. Pullard says he has narrowed his field to Florida, Notre Dame, Washington, USC, UCLA and Arizona State . .. After USC's victory over Ohio State, a 2011 prospect's father e-mailed a recruiting website (Scout.com) and said: ``This is why you go to USC.'' Turns out the father was George Farmer III, whose son, George Farmer IV of Serra, could be rated the No. 1 receiving prospect in the 2011 class. And, yes, father and son love USC . . . George Uko from Don Lugo High in Chino, Scout.com's top-ranked defensive tackle in the West, has USC and California as his top schools. Previously, Oregon and UCLA were thought to be in strong positions . .. Defensive back Demetrius Wright from Corona went on a visit to Washington with USC as his No. 1 team and returned with the Trojans in a tie with the Huskies. He returned from a trip to Knoxville with The Vols tied with USC and Washington…..Joshua Shaw visited Florida last weekend and has the Gators and the Buckeyes on top…..Rancho Verde ATH Ronald Powell took his third unofficial visit to Florida and with every trip he takes to Gainesville, it would appear USC's chances become slimmer.


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