Saturday marked the first day that the entire Trojan squad came together for a joint practice. It was a very intense affair with plenty of big hits and even a few tempers flaring. Center Ryan Kalil and the rest of the offensive line added some additional beef with the incoming players, giving needed depth to the most inexperienced squad on the team.
The quarterback of the line is the center, and Kalil is poised to be the starter when August 28th rolls around. Is Kalil going to be up for the task?
“I think after last year and this past spring I have come to a point where I feel comfortable with the offense,” Kalil said after practice. “Making calls for everybody, I feel that is one of the biggest things. Especially at center because you have direct all these guys because you are able to see more than everyone, what’s on the right side and the left side.”
Communication on the offensive line is key, and Kalil has been working hard to get the system down.
“One of the biggest things for me in my improvement is my comfort with the offense and having the confidence to make the right calls.”
Another challenge for the center is how they work with the different quarterbacks. Quarterbacks John Booty and Rocky Hinds both ran a lot of shotgun in high school.
“They are not used to being under center and it just takes lots of reps, but that will take care of itself, I am not too worried about that,” Kalil explained. “I think the biggest thing is just hand placement for the quarterback.”
The new offensive linemen also need reps. There is nothing that can get you used to the speed of the game when you get on the field.
“You can put your nose in the playbook all you want and memorize everything, but you can’t see on paper linebackers shifting around or stuff like that,” said Kalil.
One of the biggest assets the offensive line has is the great competition they get to play against every day in practice. For Kalil, there is one guy who really pushes him to improve.
“Mike P. is by far the best noseguard in the country,” said Mike. “He is powerful, but he is also quick off the ball. I snap and he is right there. He is making me better because I have get my footwork better just to reach him.”
Even though full pads are not going to be worn until Sunday, you could have never of guessed that from the feel of practice on Saturday. With big hits, pushing, shoving, and plenty of trash talk the team looked like they are ready to start the season just 4 days into camp.
The secondary and receivers had a few exchanges and on one play Scott Ware nailed Steve Smith out of bounds. Mike Williams came over and got in Ware’s face, letting him know to just hold the player up.
Later on LenDale White broke a big run and ran over new cornerback De’Sean Cunningham and sent him 10-yards downfield. The secondary got their revenge when on another big run by White, Jason Leach hit White at the sideline sending him nearly into the side wall.
The lines got into the act when Jeff Byers flattened Shaun Cody. Cody got revenge by sacking the quarterback on the next play.
Jeff Schweiger picked up a fumble and started running in the direction where all of the offensive players were watching. Bush was not in the play but stepped up as if to tackle Schweiger and ended up in a big collision with Jeff.
Things did start to lighten up later on when Darnell Bing jokingly rode the shoulders of Williams after a catch over the middle and Lofa Tatupu hit Matt Cassel and grabbed him for a little extra time after the play.
Offensive lineman John Drake and defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey did not dress today. Cornerback Terrell Thomas was dinged up Friday and didn’t play either. Defensive end Rashaad Goodrum rode the bike most of practice and wasn’t playing.
Derrick Jones was running a lot of during practice and was probably late for a meeting.
Working out with the punt team were Eric Wright, Fred Davis and Bing. Desmond Reed was also used on punts, but seemed to have a harder time holding onto the ball. On the kickoff return Jones, Ware, Greig Carlson, Kevin Arbet and Reggie Bush all got some reps.
Ryan Killeen ended the field goal drills with a nice 48-yarder.
Looking to overtake Kalil at center, Jeff Byers got some good action today. Besides his run in with Cody, he also got 20-yards downfield on a running play, showing his athletic ability. Byers did have more troubles with snaps and will have to work on that as camp goes on.
Deuce Lutui, Tiny Malu and Travis Draper all got some reps with the first team unit. Coach Davis was playing with some different looked on the entire offensive line. Newcomer Chilo Rachal also looked good in pass drills today.
Manuel Wright sat out a lot Saturday and Cody was playing inside. Frostee Rucker also was limited because of his foot. Lawrence Jackson and Chris Barrett got a lot of action on the outside.
Reggie Bush had a few highlight runs today in the team run drills. He was hitting people through the hole and did well on pass protection.
Josh Pinkard and Scott Ware are the backup safeties. They also got some work with Leach and Bing Saturday.
Of the new tight ends, Dale Thompson looks the best so far. He never seems to drop a pass that comes his way.
This linebacker group is going to be something to see, especially with Rivers added for depth. Probably the best group since 1998.
Former Trojans Brad Budde and Paul McDonald were in attendance.
After practice the team got to cool off in the swimming pool. Pete Carroll jumped off the 10 meter board and Mike Patterson did a cannon ball into the pool. Desmond Reed did some flips and tricks off the 10 meter board to go along with some flashy runs earlier in the day.
Sunday practice is full pads and begins at 10 AM.