While last Sunday provided Trojan fans a glimpse of what the team has been up to this past month, there was obviously much more going on behind the closed doors of the practice fields. "Spring ball went real well," Rachal said. "Yeah, I thought it was real good. A lot of people stood out."
When asked if the spring session helps the team at all in terms of camaraderie or togetherness, Rachal said, "Not really. We're all really close as it is. I mean, everyone on the team is close already so spring ball really just gets everyone together. Since we don't all have classes together or anything we all get to hang out at practice."
After losing two underclassmen to the NFL draft and burdened with the responsibility of blocking for a brand new backfield, the Trojan offensive line will face a stiff test during this coming season. Rachal certainly expects that he will be ready for the challenge. "This was my first year as a first-unit guy and I expect that I will step up with this bigger role. I know that I need to elevate my game and I feel that I'll be starting this fall if I continue playing the way I played this spring. I know that the line isn't real deep so even if one person plays well and the rest of us don't, we're going to be in trouble."
But with his supporting cast along the offensive line, Rachal doesn't expect any trouble. "Everyone progressed real well along the offensive line. We finished the spring looking real solid."
Rachal's ability to take on a newfound responsibility will be no small part of the line's success. "I felt like I was much more of a leader this year. I've been in that situation of being on the second team. Fred (Matua) was always in front of me and he was always taking the time to help me out so that I would learn it faster. So that's what I tried to do this year. I felt like I needed to help out those guys behind me because if someone gets hurt along the offensive line, someone else has to step in. And I don't want them coming in dumbfounded because nobody gave them any extra help during practice."
When it came time for Rachal to hand out his personal spring ball awards, he wasted little time with each answer. "Most Valuable Player has to be a split vote. I have to give it to Ryan Powdrell and Brandon Hancock. For Powdrell, making that change from linebacker to running back has got to be so tough and at 260 pounds, the way he was running the ball was pretty amazing. We had such a lack of depth at running back for the spring that both of those guys had to show up and step up. And they both brought it every day."
For Rachal's Most Improved Player, he didn't need to look far. "I'd have to give that to myself," he said with a laugh. "I've just got such a better understanding of the game now. I can make every play without thinking at this point. Everyone is just moving naturally. I never have to worry about footwork or anything like that. Also, I was a lot hungrier this spring. It was my first spring at right guard and this was my chance to showcase myself. I feel like I can finally give something to the team, and I'm looking forward to continuing that in the fall."
Rachal's Most Improved Player was fellow offensive lineman Matt Spanos. "He's always been good," Rachal said. "But this year, he's put up some huge numbers in the weight room and he's making plays all over the field."
But with the close of spring ball, Rachal and the rest of the Trojans will have just a short time to rest. "It's time to start focusing on summer," he said. "That's where we do all our conditioning. There's team conditioning and guys will do stuff on their own as well. We work on things like footwork and speed. We just continue to practice and get in shape. I'm looking to get stronger, faster, all that stuff."
So while Trojan fans are forced to wait until August 3rd for the next real practice, they can rest easy knowing that guys like Chilo Rachal will be doing everything in their power to help the Trojans enter the 2006 regular season the same way they entered last season: with visions of another National Championship.