August 4, 2008

Best of: Summer '08

Members of the USC Trojan football team poured plenty of sweat on the practice field this summer, working under strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle and his staff.

The team also spent plenty of time each week on its own, working on offensive timing, defensive coverage and technique.

The summer served as the setting for a number of memorable moments and performances, and with fall camp about to begin, here's a look back at the nine-week road leading up to the first day of practice.

Most comfortable in his own shoes

Head coach Pete Carroll had to make a decision this spring, whether the results were conclusive or not. He needed to find a leader.

By naming Mark Sanchez starting quarterback, Carroll burdened the junior with tons of responsibility, organizing workouts, keeping players in check and making sure the offense progressed.

Sanchez embraced the role and certainly looked the part in workouts. He pointed players in the right directions, he encouraged and he instructed and at times, he scolded.

Sanchez even warned players to stay out of trouble before the team broke for a long weekend mid-summer.

"I think it helped that coach named me as the starter going into the summer so the team kind of had someone to look to when things get a little crazy," he said. "It's a good position for me to be in - to balance the fun and the focus."

Throughout the summer, players took their cues from Sanchez, and he took the team where it needed to go.

Most fun to watch

Watching a team stretch and go through conditioning drills isn't always the most mesmerizing experience.

Watching wide receiver Ronald Johnson go through footwork drills, though, is a pleasure.

Johnson's feet moved through drills with the rapid precision of a drum roll.

Best nickname (given by others)

Joe McKnight came into summer workouts with a full beard that would make Grizzly Adams proud.

His teammates responded to the face sweater by calling the sophomore running back "Baby Kimbo" - a reference to the full-bearded mixed martial artist.

Best nickname (self-derived)

During the final throwing session of the summer, sophomore fullback Stanley Havili dropped back and unleashed a streak of pinpoint deep balls to Trojan receivers.

Boastfully, he said, "I'm the Tongan Jimmy Clausen."

Most memorable wardrobe

This competition was a lot closer than you'd expect. There's Rey Maualuga[.db]'s now-infamous pink thong, [db]Taylor Mays' tights and the always-shirtless David Buehler.

The nod goes to Brian Cushing, though, for his wide-array of do-rags and his "I Hate Haters" T-shirt.

Most out of place

Surrounded by receivers, running backs and quarterbacks, center Kristofer O'Dowd stayed on the field longer than any of the other offensive lineman, working exchanges with Sanchez and the rest of the other Trojan quarterback.

O'Dowd would snap the ball, step back and begin to block imaginary pass rushers - over and over again.

O'Dowd's extra work should help him solidify himself even more as one of the top leaders on the young offensive line.


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