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September 27, 2012A Southern California kid through and through, freshman offensive tackle Max Tuerk is living the dream he's long had of playing for USC. No matter the question, every answer circles back to one main idea: Tuerk's experience with the program so far has been "awesome."
"Getting my first extended playing time against Cal was awesome," Tuerk said. "It was a great experience and I felt really good about it. It was awesome and has been one of my dreams to get out there since I was a kid."
Despite his upbeat attitude, Tuerk refuses to become complacent. He's identified the areas where he needs to improve in the wake of Saturday's game.
"I think I played all right, I can obviously get better," he said. "I need to get better at my drive blocking and getting three steps in the ground.
"Getting the chance to compete for a starting spot was a great opportunity given by Coach Kiffin. I worked really hard every day and tried to capitalize on it as best I could."
The fact that Tuerk is even in this position is, well, "awesome" in its own right.
"I played tight end through my sophomore year at Santa Maragarita and had no O-Line experience going into my junior year," Tuerk said.
Then: a stroke of luck. RSM hired a new coach, Harry Welch, whose offensive schemes were different from his predecessor.
"Coach Welch actually doesn't have a tight end in his offense so it was either play receiver at 250 pounds or go down to O-line. So things just worked out that way."
Under the tutelage of offensive line coach Marty Spalding, Tuerk blossomed into one of the the top offensive linemen in the country as one of Rivals.com's Top 50 players in the Class of 2012.
"Playing for Coach Spaulding really prepared me," Tuerk said. "He's an awesome guy, is the best around, and has turned me into who I am today so I give all my credit to him."
When USC showed interest in him, Tuerk didn't waste any time.
"When they offered me, I committed right on the spot," he said. "It's been my dream school since I was a kid."
As good as Tuerk is now, he's still learning the nuances of being an offensive linemen.
"There's always something to get better at," he said.
"I've got to put on a little more weight too. Right now I'm about 280 but my target weight is around 295-300. That would probably be best."
While Tuerk says the pace of the college game is "definitely" slowing down for him, he's adjusting to the differences between practices and games.
"It's a lot different during games," he said. "Your nerves are kind of going, everything's really excited so you just have to calm down and be really confident, be confident whenever you are on the field."
Play confident and keep improving and sooner rather than later, Tuerk could be the one they're using the "awesome" word to describe.
johnie Freatman is a Communications major at USC and has covered the Trojans for Neon Tommy, KXSC Radio, Trojan Vision and ATVN. Follow him on Twitter at johnie_freatman.