August 13, 2008

Practice Insider: Offense comes through late

Maybe they had enough. Maybe the trash talking had finally done them in. Or, maybe it was the promise of a reward.

Either way, the players on the Trojan offense pit a stop to a brief skid Wednesday afternoon.

With solid quarterback play and improvement on the ground game, the offense handled its business, ending the day with a win in the competition period.

"We always want to work to crescendo a day, to finish with a lot of focus and win it when it's on the line," head coach Pete Carroll said. "It's nice having something at stake.

With the win in the competition, the offense got first crack at seats during the Trojans' latest fall camp field trip - a bus ride to the movies to see The Dark Knight in IMAX.

"I really like Batman," quarterback Mitch Mustain said. "I really wanted to see it again."

Mustain helped lead the offense to the win, dropping a great move on linebacker Nick Howell on the way to the end zone. The run, however, was contested, and the competition got settled in a kick-off.

Jordan Congdon outlasted Joe Houston, securing the win for the offense.

Despite success on the final drive, Mustain's still not satisfied with his performance.

"I still felt like things were off and on for me," he said. "I did some stuff I was pretty frustrated with, but again, it was easy stuff and easy stuff to fix.

"That's just kind of where we are in camp. I didn't expect to come out here and just nail everything in the first week."

Mustain and Aaron Corp shook off a run over botched snaps earlier in the day, fumbling just once in the afternoon. That fumble, Carroll said, was due to a problem with the cadence - not the exchange.

"We won the drill, and I didn't have any fumbled snaps. That was something we worked a lot on after the first practice," Corp said. "We were OK. We can still get better; we need to get better."

Take a chance on me

Carroll has always believed in using fall camp to get reps for players looking to move up the depth chart.

Marc Tyler is taking his chances - and running with then.

Tyler turned in another solid practice after breaking free for a huge run early in the morning.

"He's starting to show regularly that he can make plays," Carroll said. "We know he's a good runner, and we've been trying to work him into the throwing game. He did some nice things in the throwing game today."

The preseason, in Carroll's eyes boils down a lot to making the most of rare chances. With all the talent in coach Todd McNair's "Stable," Tyler's still standing out.

"He's taken advantage of this early opportunity to get a lot of looks," Carroll said. "That's what we're hoping guys do. He continues to show up; it's good."


The biggest injury concern inside the Trojan locker room right now isn't bad knees, turned ankles or tweaked hamstrings.

It's some serious chafing.

Joe McKnight and Travon Patterson both missed the afternoon practice with irritation caused by some, um, protective equipment. T.J. Bryant's also missed practice time with the same problem.

"We've had way more than usual," Carroll said. "We've had to adjust some new equipment we're wearing and it didn't work our right.

"It's funny how this has happened. I've never seen anything like it."

Finally 18

Damian Williams continues to look like one of the Trojans' biggest weapons in the passing game, and he continues to show why on a daily basis.

Williams notched a pair of spectacular passes, going up over Bryant along the sideline on third-and-long for a key first down late in the competition period.

"He's been really steady. He's got a savvy about him like he's a really veteran player," Carroll said. "For whatever reason, he understands the game beautifully, he can adjust and he can play all three of the receiver spots. He's really picked things up quickly. He's got that savvy for the game, and we can tell.

"We really like him. He's come on like gangbusters."

Extra Points

• News continues to be good concerning quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez walked past some reporters Wednesday and said, "Look who's up and around."

Carroll said things are progressing nicely with the rehab, and he expects it to be heard to keep Sanchez off the field for an extended period of time.

"He's rearing to go," Carroll said. ""I just can't imagine it's going to be a real long time."

C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford, Stafon Johnson and Broderick Green all did really nice things on the ground, each breaking free for at least one 10-yard run.

Armond Armstead and Christian Tupou starred in one-on-one work against the offensive line. Nick Howell also looked impressive holding off the pass rush.

David Buehler and Drew McAllister are both sporting Chuck Liddell-esque mohawks.

Rey Maualuga returned a Corp pass for a touchdown in 11-on-11 work, as the offense still is struggling with the blitz.

• Linebacker Mike Morgan had the most physical day, notching a pair of good shots.

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