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March 20, 2007The Trojans hit the practice field for the first day of spring drills on Tuesday. It was a chilly afternoon under cloudy skies and an occasional light drizzle in the air, but that didn't dampen the mood of the players or the staff.
Spirits were high and the action was fast and furious, especially for a no pads practice.
The players took the field a bit before 4 PM for some walk-thoughts and warm-ups with the coaches. The numbers were obviously lower with guys like Ryan Kalil, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett leaving the program, but it gave some of the younger players more reps on the field.
There were a few new faces practicing on the team and a few new looks for some already familiar faces. Wide receiver Damian Williams transferred from Arkansas and was sporting No. 82 while early enrollee Martin Coleman wore No. 72. Williams was active in the passing game and put a major stiff-arm on defensive back Jim Abbott. Coleman, who is up to 325 pounds, played some reserve tackle.
Other players switched numbers including Taylor Mays and C.J. Gable wearing No. 2, Lawrence Miles with No. 95 and David Ausberry wearing No. 9.
Two other guys didn't change their numbers but they did sport a new Mohawk hairdo (OL Matt Spanos and LB Brian Cushing).
Several recruits were in attendance including Aaron Corp, Michael Reardon, Da'John Harris, Maurice Simmons and Marquis Simmons.
Players sitting out included RB Stafon Johnson (shoulder), TE Anthony McCoy (ankle), FB Michael Coleman (hip), CB Terrell Thomas, S Kevin Ellison (knee), S/CB Josh Pinkard (knee), LB Michael Morgan and CB Kevin Thomas.
Tailback Hershel Dennis had a knee brace but did get some work in. Rey Maualuga had a wrap on his calf but he was OK to play and got a lot of reps as the first team middle linebacker. Safety Will Harris played but he was sporting a rather large knee brace.
Early on in practice the team worked through some special teams drills. Getting reps as the top-3 punt return men were Gable, tailback Desmond Reed and speedy receiver Jamere Holland. Reed had no knee brace on and looked to have a nice spring in his step, a good sign for the Trojan special teams.
When the team run drills started the first string offensive line looked a little different than expected. Across the front it was Sam Baker at left tackle, Jeff Byers at left guard, Nick Howell at center, Chilo Rachal at right guard and Drew Radovich at right tackle.
We have an upcoming interview with Radovich to talk about this surprise position switch, so stay tuned to USCFootball.com for that one.
That left versatile Matt Spanos as the 2nd string center and big Thomas Herring was playing in the backup right guard position.
The center spot will be one to watch as Howell and John David Booty fumbled their second snap during team drills. As expected, it isn't going to be easy to replace Kalil.
Watching the receivers the top four guys all looked pretty good. Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton are probably considered the starters at this point with Travon Patterson and David Ausberry first off the bench. Ausberry and Turner had especially good afternoons as the passing game appeared to be clicking right out of the chute. Hazelton's biggest play was a sweet block that sealed off the secondary and allowed Gable to bust a huge run.
The quarterback rotation had Booty as the starter with Mark Sanchez as his backup. Garrett Green got a lot of reps as well so it appears he will not be shifting back to safety any time soon.
Gable was getting the first team looks at tailback with Chauncey Washington, Emmanuel Moody and Allen Bradford all getting reps. Bradford was forced to do a few laps however as he fumbled the ball twice. The conditions were wet and sloppy which led to some rough footing and several fumbles in the run and pass game.
After practice the coaches stayed another hour and a half for the big walk-on tryout. The numbers were huge for this spring tryout, mostly because of the success of former Daily Trojan writer Ben Malcolmson making the team last year.
Of all the guys that tried out, the most skill looked to be at receiver and punter. USC is stacked at receiver, but one guy reportedly ran a sub 4.4 so he will most likely get a look. The Trojans are thin at punter so look for at least one of these guys to make the team and add depth.
For the inside scoop on what is going on during spring football including live practice report postings, make sure you read The Peristyle!
If you missed a day or just want to see what has been going on, there is no better Trojan spring football resource than USCFootball.com's Spring Ball Central!
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for photos from the first day of practice and interviews with players like Rey Maualuga and C.J. Gable.