March 24, 2009

Horton feeling more confident

Players entering the USC program are told how much bigger and stronger they can get after going through the Trojans' offseason workout programs.

Still, until they see the results, players like redshirt freshman Wes Horton aren't sure if they'll ever be able to catch up.

"The first time I went against Charles Brown I knew things were different. You're so used to dominating in high school," Horton said. "When you go against guys like him and Butch Lewis - guys who have been around and are strong as hell - they'll push you around.

"When you're new, you don't know the system and you don't know what you're doing, you can't play as hard."

But with winter workouts winding down, Horton has become a believer in strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle's plan.

"The biggest thing for me is strength. Coming into fall camp last year, everyone was just so much stronger. I was honestly so unsure why everyone was so much stronger," Horton said. "Going through this offseason program, I see why. I think going through this for a full season, by the time fall comes, I'll be up to par.

"I've been slowly putting on weight. After the season, I was around 248. I was really light. I just slowly added weight through this amazing weight program. The weight room, out here, everything, I just feel a lot stronger and a lot heavier."

Horton's currently 260 pounds, and he's feeling ready to contribute for Jethro Franklin and the rest of the team.

"The chance is there. When I had my meeting with Coach Franklin, he told me the spot is open. I need to go get it," Horton said. "I don't have any specific goals set right now for next year. As far as spring ball goes, I want to be playing at 265. I want to be aggressive and nasty and just get after it.

"I want to do as much as I can to impress the coaches so going into fall camp I hopefully have a spot. If not, I'm going to keep on competing until I get that spot."

The work with Franklin during coaches' conditioning practices has helped set a foundation for Horton as he prepares to battle for time at defensive end.

"Working with Coach Franklin, we've really focused on the basics. It's been baby steps - footwork and other fundamental stuff," he said. "I'm glad we're not skipping steps."

It's all about adding to the base, with the foundation being formed during his redshirt year. Horton said not playing wasn't easy, but having his brother Shane Horton - sitting out last season after transferring from UNLV - around made things easier.

"It was a blessing to be able to play with Shane. Redshirting really isn't fun. You don't get to play; you have to sit and watch. But, having my brother to go through it with me was really a blessing," he said. "He'd let me know that next year was going to be my year. It's always good to be looking at that opportunity. That support system was so good to have."

With his brother's support, added weight and strength and a better understanding of the USC defensive scheme, Horton believes he's ready to help the team win more games.

"I'm a lot more confident this year. I'm definitely glad I redshirted," Horton said. "The year underneath me did so much because I got to learn the plays and the system and what's expected of me. When I came in, I didn't have the confidence where I could compete with those guys.

"Now, I do."

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