by Garry Paskwietz
As the Trojans get closer to fall camp there is a lot of attention being paid to the undecided starting spot at quarterback, but that isn’t the only position on offense that is still up for grabs.
The offensive line, particularly left guard, features another very competitive battle between Damien Mama, who has started 17 games at guard in the past two years, and Chris Brown, who started two games last fall as a redshirt freshman
Most of the speculation from Trojan fans in the off-season projected Mama emerging as the starter, and Damien has done his part by dropping down to 324 pounds while still maintaining his unique athleticism. But while the two players alternated with the first unit during spring ball, it was notable by the end of spring that it was usually Brown going with the 1’s, a trend that has continued through the summer player-run practices.
“It’s been a little different,” Brown said of the rotation. “Usually they announce the starters at the end of the spring game but obviously we haven’t done that. I started for the spring game but they haven’t said I’m the starter yet, and me and Damien are still rotating. It’s competition and that’s the way it should be because we’ve got a lot of talented guys on our line.”
The situation at left guard, with two talented players providing a solid depth element heading into camp, is playing out similarly all across the line for the Trojans right now. On paper, it’s as experienced and talented of an offensive line as USC has put on the field in years and the national media is noticing with some publications saying the Trojans have the top OL group in the country.
“Obviously we don’t want to let something like that go to our heads but we take it as a compliment. I can see why they say it because we have a lot of good guys returning. It’s exciting to have so much depth and experience.”
That depth and experience will be expected to play a key role this season as new coach Clay Helton has indicated a desire to see a more physical element in the trenches, and he hired a veteran position coach in Neil Callaway to make sure that happens.
“He (Callaway) is kind of old-school you could say,” Brown said. “No BS. I like that, it fits our style. Everyone really respects him.
“Coach Helton’s goal of being physical in the trenches is something we hear every day and it’s the goal we’re working toward. We want to come out with an attitude of being the most physical guys in the country, it’s something we hear from coach Callaway every day, multiple times, every day.”
The teachings of Callaway have extended to the summer practices, and even though Callaway isn’t in attendance, his methods are still being used.
“Coach Callaway pretty much directs what we do individually so we’re doing all the drills that he’s shown us. We’re trying to stay pretty disciplined with what he wants us to do, we’re not out here trying to do our own thing. He’s had a good influence on us staying with the technique that he’s taught us.”