For the most part Matt Leinart (photo) has been his usual self while throwing crisp and accurate passes and marching the offense down the field. He’s been taking fewer reps to rest his arm after lingering soreness but will start taking the majority of snaps this week. A healthy Leinart is a big key and the coaches will be watching him closely. John David Booty is prepared to redshirt but he’s been getting a lot of work so far in camp and has looked good. He was the star of the first scrimmage with a pair of touchdown passes. Matt Cassel performed well early in camp when he worked with the newcomer group. He’s competing for the back-up role if Booty should redshirt and so far Matt is playing with a lot of energy and emotion. Brandon Hance is also in that competition but Brandon missed the first few days of camp due to yet another illness. When he’s been on the field Brandon has moved the team well. Rocky Hinds is an intriguing prospect. He’s got physical skills that not many quarterbacks have and it comes with a pretty strong arm. He’s struggled at times with his accuracy and it will be interesting to see how fast he develops as verbal commit Mark Sanchez is already making a habit of stopping by practices to start his learning process.
I don’t know where you’re going to find a better trio of running backs and with the way Desmond Reed has performed thus far in camp it won’t be too long before we need to make that a quartet. Reggie Bush has been dazzling. He has a gear that other runners simply don’t have and he combines that with terrific change of direction moves. Bush should be one of the most dynamic players in college football this season. LenDale White (photo) is primed for a big year as well and he’s added noticeable speed to his power running game. LenDale has missed some time this fall with a cut hand but he’s ready to go. Hershel Dennis has bulked up and is running great. He just glides right now and is an excellent blocker and receiver. When he gets it going it reminds you why he is still the starter even with all the hype around Bush and White. Desmond got off to a fast start in the early stages of camp with the newcomer group and he hasn’t let up since. He’s consistently put on shake moves as part of his playmaking style and he was the offensive star of the 2nd scrimmage. Lee Webb is the starter at fullback and he’s been an excellent blocker. Lee is also one of the more vocals players on the offense. David Kirtman has put together a very solid camp. He’s a jack of all trades kind of back who has really shown ability as a pass catcher. David will contribute to the offense this year. Jody Adewale hasn’t had much of an impact so far. Brandon Hancock has not yet decided if he will redshirt but it is an option.
The fortunes of this unit will no doubt be affected by the NCAA ruling on the eligibility of Mike Williams. This is a good group even without Mike but there’s no denying the impact he would have if available. The top player so far has been Steve Smith (photo) and it’s getting to the point with Steve where you don’t even worry about him, it was like that with Colbert as well. You know he is going to run good routes, you know he is going to catch the ball, you just know you can count on him. Steve caught a TD in the opening scrimmage. The big play receiver thus far in camp has been freshman Dwayne Jarrett. He’s made a special play in pretty much every practice with his ability to go up and get the football. He’s a former basketball star and he uses his 6-4 frame and long arms like a rebounding power forward. Fred Davis has been improved since his spring performance when he was slowed by injury. Fred has real nice size and he will definitely contribute this season. Will Buchanon could end up being a big part of the rotation as well. He’s continued improving on his consistency after a good spring session and this fall he’s making an impact. Will is one of the faster players on the team and he’s got long arms. Chris McFoy is another who will see a lot of time. Chris is an excellent blocker and hard worker who has improved his route running this year. Greig Carlson offers a solid option as a possession receiver. We haven’t seen a lot of Jason Mitchell during camp as he has been attending summer school classes. Derrick Jones caught a touchdown in the first scrimmage and once he adds some size he should be a real weapon. Williams is being held out of practice right now pending a decision from the NCAA but when he took part in early camp practices he looked as good as ever.
It wasn’t too long ago that our situation at tight end was looking as good as any in the country but with injuries to Alex Holmes and Dominique Byrd we sit here now with a walk-on starter and a trio of freshmen backing him up. Holmes was looking great until a calf injury sidelined him until later this week. He should return in plenty of time to be ready for the opener. Byrd received MRI results on his injured knee and isn’t expected to be back until the end of September. Nick Vanderboom (photo) finds himself working with the first team right now. Vanderboom is a walk-on who was the HS quarterback for Byrd in Minnesota and he’s a good athlete who has some size. There has been contact between the coaches and Gregg Guenther to determine his interest in returning to football but for now Gregg is sticking with hoops. Dale Thompson has been the most productive of the freshmen and he’s also on the kickoff return team right now. Jimmy Miller has shown good ability as a pass catcher and he’s got good size. Eugene Germany was moved from linebacker on the 2nd day of camp and so far he’s run over a couple defenders in the open field. Kurt Katnik has not practiced much due to problems relating to concussions.
There has been a lot of shuffling along the line as the coaches work to find the best combination of players. We’ve seen a couple new starters inserted in recent days to evaluate how they perform and by the end of this week we should have a pretty good sense of what the line-up will look like on opening night. The guess is no matter who the starters are that we will see a lot more rotation along the line than we have seen in recent years from the Trojans. Sam Baker is set as the starter at left tackle and he’s been very steady so far in camp. Sam is at 290 right now and has really improved his pass blocking to go along with his already strong run blocking. There has been much hype surrounding the arrival of Jeff Byers but don’t forget that Ryan Kalil is a pretty good football player. Kalil will be the starter on opening day at center and he’s earned that role with his good technique and intelligent play. The availability of John Drake (photo) will be a big key and so far he’s been able to go about half the time in practice. When he’s out there he looks fine, he blocked Shaun Cody to the ground in a recent drill, but when he’s on the sidelines he walks with a noticeable limp and it’s obvious the ankle isn’t 100%. Right now John is lining up as the starter at left guard. Deuce Lutui will get an extended look with the first unit at right tackle in the coming days as he competes with Kyle Williams for the starting spot. Deuce is a very big man and we’ve seen so far that he can overwhelm an opponent with his strength. The key will be conditioning for Deuce over the course of a game and my guess is we will see both players at RT in the opener. Williams has been the starter throughout spring and the early part of camp. The battle at right guard is between Fred Matua and Tiny Malu right now. Fred has the benefit of being one of only two offensive linemen with starting experience for the Trojans. Tiny has lined up primarily at LG and was playing well so far in camp but he was moved to RG last week. Travis Watkins has worked a lot as the starter at LG but right now is with the 2nd unit with Drake as the starter. Drew Radovich has been at RT, LG and LT with the majority of time coming at LT. There’s no doubt that Byers will be a wonderful offensive lineman for the Trojans and that moment will come sooner rather than later. To this point he’s struggled with the center exchange but once that problem is solved he will be in major competition with Kalil for the starting spot. Chilo Rachal has put together some good practices in recent days at both LG and LT. Chilo has a huge upper body and quick feet. Matt Spanos has been working primarily at left tackle.