One Tough Catch

The fans lining the sidelines of Howard Jones Field got a good glimpse into the type of player Kyle Prater is on Saturday.

The fans lining the sidelines of Howard Jones Field got a good glimpse into the type of player Kyle Prater is on Saturday.

The 6-5, 215-pound freshman ran a route across the middle of the field with Chris Galippo arriving at the same instant as the ball, the linebacker delivered a crushing blow that nearly snapped Prater in half and sent his helmet flying through the air - in a welcome to college football moment.

As Prater lay on the ground for a few moments, it looked like his day was over, and no one that witnessed the hit would have blamed the early enrollee for taking the rest of the day off.

"I just thank God for helping me get back up because it was a hard hit," Prater admitted later.

Kyle Prater has shown his toughness and potential this spring. (Kevin Carden Photo)
But when the Trojans broke the huddle and lined up for the next play, many observers were surprised to see the lanky receiver split out wide ready to mix it up again.

The hit was definitely one of the hardest of the spring, but as Prater explained he had to pull himself up off the ground and prove to his new teammates that he had the toughness needed to be an impact player on the college level.

"It's football. You get hit all of the time," he said. "It's how you overcome adversity and bounce back, so I felt that I had to get back up and come back out there and make some plays."

The talented freshman not only made some plays - he made the play of the day, pulling in a pass from Matt Barkley with one hand and racing down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown.

The one-handed grab had the practice field buzzing, much like fellow freshman Dillon Baxter did the week before with his electric 50-yard touchdown dash that left several defenders lunging at air as he glided into the end zone.

"It's just something I have been blessed with," Prater said of the one-handed grab. "It's something in practice that I have always worked hard on. In that situation, I had to put one hand up and I'm confident in my hands."

With Ronald Johnson sidelined with an elbow injury, Prater made the most of his opportunity to work with the first-team offense and finished the scrimmage with two catches for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"Being that (Ronald Johnson) was out I had to step up to the plate and be that guy for him. That's why I came here in the spring, to be a playmaker, and that's what I am going to do."

Both touchdown receptions came on passes from Matt Barkley, who took a commanding lead in the starting quarterback competition with five touchdown passes on Saturday.

The extra time that Barkley and Prater spent working together during the players-only throwing sessions this offseason is already turning into results on the field.

"Me and Matt (Barkley), we were clicking today. I felt that we had some nice chemistry," Prater said. "We just have to keep working hard and getting the timing down."

Kyle Prater could be a real weapon in the red zone in 2010. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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