July 16, 2008

Healthy Spicer in the mix at tackle

Good things happen to those who wait.

At least, that's what defensive tackle Averell Spicer had thought.

Backing up all-American tackle Keith Rivers for two years, Spicer knew it'd be his turn to fill those shoes when the Trojans entered spring ball following Rivers' departure to the NFL.

But, it didn't quite work out that way.

Spicer missed spring practices after surgery on his left knee, an injury that had festered since late in his sophomore year.

"It was one of those injuries that came from wear and tear. I started to feel it at the end of last year. I first started feeling it in the weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl," Spicer said. "Then when we started working out again before the spring, we were doing jumps and I landed on it funny. I stopped working out."

The diagnosis wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't good news.

"I had a crack in the bone that continued to get worse. It kept getting saturated with blood," he said. "It was a bone bruise from the crack and some torn cartilage in there that they cleaned up with the scope."

Forced to the sideline just days before the start of spring practices, Spicer was left alone with his thoughts.

"It bothered me a lot. I was really looking forward to spring ball, and I didn't find out until like three days before it started that I couldn't go," he said. "I knew I was injured, but I kept thinking I'd just go on it and take care of it after spring ball."

Instead of sulking away, Spicer began the rehabilitation process, and he's turned the injury into some new strength.

"Since I got injured, I've been doing a lot of upper-body lifting - pretty much every day," Spicer said. "Since I started that, my upper body has gotten really strong - enough to match my lower body. I couldn't do any squats or leg lifts when I was hurt."

Spicer said he's confident he'll be 100 percent when the season starts, and he's looking forward to battling sophomore Christian Tupou for first-team reps.

"It's doing a lot better than it was. I'm back running already, and it's not bothering me very much," he said. "We still have a little over a month and a half until the season starts."

Working with a brace but hoping to get rid of it soon, Spicer, now at 294 pounds, said the USC staff helped him navigate the road to getting back to healthy.

"I was limited early on," he said. "They really eased me in to it. Once I got back into it full go, my speed was about the same.

"As a team, we did timed 10-yard get-offs, and I was as fast as I was before."

With new energy heading into fall camp, Spicer said he's excited about working with seniors Kyle Moore and Fili Moala on the defensive line.

"They're both experienced players. You can always count on them to do what they're supposed to do," Spicer said. "That's really the number one thing on the defensive line. If everyone is doing what he's supposed to do, it makes it hard on the offense. That's what I like about our d-line.

"They don't make very many mistakes."

Spicer said he's still suffering some soreness in his knee when the Trojans run a lot, but he's not been hampered by any serious swelling.

The injury hasn't slowed his enthusiasm for his second chance.

"Everyone's looking forward to it, especially me," Spicer said. "We all know we have the opportunity to be a very good team.

"We just have to play football and work hard, and everything should end up going our way."

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