Josh Pinkard has had to watch from the sidelines as a highly touted blue-chip recruit took the reigns at free safety and thrived.
Over the last year Pinkard put in his time as a reserve his first two seasons with the Trojans, and then tragically blew-out his knee when it was his time to shine. But the time is coming quickly when Pinkard will find himself healthy enough to be back out on the football field, however he will be back to competing for playing time.
Strangely enough, he couldn't be happier or more excited about the pending competition.
"Nobody is going to butt heads," Pinkard said in his sadly perfect white jersey. "We're just going to play hard and cover our assignments and whoever comes out on top is going to start."
Pinkard is the personification of what Pete Carroll looks for in a football player. He's a team-first guy, tremendously gifted athletically, with an aggressive and competitive side.
He was pegged as one of the true playmakers and leaders on a young defensive team, which made his knee injury so devastating last year.
The knee, fortunately, appears to be close to completely recovered. "I'm recovering well, I started doing drills today and it felt great," Pinkard said confidently. "I'll start getting into seven-on-seven and limited contact stuff soon."
When Pinkard comes back he's going to be competing against Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison for playing time, both of who were honored with being named amongst the best in the Pac-10 last season.
However, Pinkard isn't going to hurry his recovery because of the competition.
"When I feel like it's the right time I'll get out there and compete fully, but not until I feel I'm ready."
One of Pinkard's greatest attributes is his versatility; he's capable of playing either safety position, and even saw time as a starting cornerback in the M.A.S.H unit of 2005.
Expect to see him exclusively at one of the safety positions this year, whether this is due to great depth at CB or a loss of some athleticism because of the knee injury is up to speculation. Either way, this won't keep Pinkard from getting on the field any way possible.
"I'm going to be playing safety, but we'll have a couple man calls where I can show my cover skills."
When Pinkard talks about the progress that Mays and Ellison have made he seems more like a proud father, rather than a potential competitor. And at the end of the day, he genuinely wants the best for the team and realizes the benefit of having too many talented guys, instead of too few.
""We're just trying to come together between now and the end of the summer so we can really get rolling. It's a good situation to be in [with Mays and Ellison], it's a win-win."
The order in which players participate in drills is important and pertinent, some believe in it and other don't, but it can't be denied that it is basically the pecking order for players, either in ability or respect on the team, often it's both. On that note, the order for WRs and TEs catching balls from the five QBs was: Patrick Turner, Fred Davis, Travon Patterson, David Ausberry and Vidal Hazelton. This may give you some insight into where the players stand.
Nick Howell was particularly impressive during the one-on-one "Sumo" drills today between the offensive and defensive lines. So much so, that when the O had lost a few battles in a row, Pat Ruel said, "I need a victory, where's Nick?"
Luthur Brown was a terror in the one-on-one pass rushing drills versus the running backs. He absolutely leveled Stanley Havili. However, his pass coverage left something to be desired.
The D was after the ball hard in the rushing portion of the scrimmage, forcing no less than three fumbles. CJ Gable put the ball on the ground twice.
Allen Bradford is a monster.
After practice, while waiting for Pinkard, I watched Sam Baker and Lawrence Jackson tutoring Charles Brown. Learning from two All-Americans is a privilege not many young Tackles around the country have. Brown is a personal favorite because of his sacrifices to the team, uncanny natural ability, and his apparent desires to do whatever is necessary to get better and on the field… and yes, this includes yoga.
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