October 14, 2007

Healthy lineman becomes USC oxymoron

Most college football teams would feel comfortable lining up behind these five guys: All-American Sam Baker at left tackle; promising redshirt freshman Zack Heberer at left guard; true freshman force Kristofer O'Dowd at center; proven veteran junior Chilo Rachal at right guard; and versatile sophomore Charles Brown at right tackle.

But for USC, that's not an offensive line. That's an infirmary ward.

Each of the five players has started at least one game for the Trojans this season. And each player watched the second half of his team's 20-13 victory against Arizona in street clothes Saturday.

Rachal (knee), O'Dowd (knee) and Brown (ankle) never changed out of their warm-up pants and team jackets, after arriving at the Coliseum. Baker aggravated a hamstring pull from earlier in the week, and, by the start of the second quarter, he no longer could get into his stance. Heberer, who was filling in for Rachal, suffered a shoulder bruise in the first half and watched the second half with his arm in a sling. X-Rays were negative, line coach Pat Ruel said. So at least nothing's broken.

"Guys just had to step in and perform at a really high level, whether they were ready or not," coach Pete Carroll said. "Whether they were physically fit or not."

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