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September 17, 2011
Chris Pousson - The unknown Trojan
Imagine performing in front of tens of thousands in a high pressure situation and not making a mistake for four years.
That is the reality of USC long snapper Chris Pousson's Trojan career.
Pousson started snapping on placekicks back in 2008 for Pete Carroll and continued to fulfill that role in 2009. Last season Pousson added punt snapping to his duties and the senior is now in his fourth season as USC's steady snapper.
Not a lot of Trojan fans even know who Pousson is despite his impeccable record. Incredibly after all those snaps, not a single one was off the mark.
"Not from me, knock on wood. So far I have been doing my job," Pousson said about his perfect snapping record. "The lack of recognition is a compliment because if everyone knows who I am, then I am not doing my job.
"A big part about being a long snapper is just trying to stay consistent. I am a role player so I am just trying to do my job and help out the team anyway I can."
Pousson did have his name called for a false start penalty against Utah during a long field goal attempt. The penalty pushed USC out of range and forced the Trojans to punt the ball away.
But Pousson modestly pointed out that the infraction wasn't his, keeping his streak intact.
"I know they called it on TV and at the game on 62, but it was on the left guard," he said. "I don't know how I am going to false start on a kick as a long snapper."
Last season with the hiring of John Baxter a new focus was placed on special teams.
"[With Coach Baxter] my approach hasn't changed too much, but the schematics on special teams have changed enormously," he said. "We changed from the pro pocket to shield on punts and that was the biggest change for me. Just understanding all of the little things that go on in the kicking game I think is the biggest part of what Baxter has brought to us."
That shift to "shield" protection essentially turns everyone but the punter into a gunner, including the snapper. Players execute their block and then quickly release downfield.
"The majority of the guys will be out in coverage before the ball is even kicked," Pousson said. "Coach Baxter is all about net punt and no return yards so that is what the biggest part of the shield is."
Against Utah, the punt formation made late shifts to help protect against the rush.
"That was something new we had last year, just to give different teams different looks," he said. "But that was something that we schemed up for Utah to help a little bit with the coverage because they brought a lot of guys up the middle and we wanted to be able to stop that."
While Pousson has been a steady force for USC special teams, the Trojans have turned to a new punter in Kyle Negrete and a new kicker in Andre Heidari.
"They have come along for two guys who have never kicked in a game before," Pousson said. "Andre is a true freshman and he is doing real well. Kyle was here last year so we got a lot of work in . . . They have both definitely impressed me and they have both been doing well in the kicking game."
Normally PAT plays can be rather pedestrian, but with the controversial "swinging gate" formation, all eyes are on what the Trojans will do after scoring a touchdown.
"I kind of like [the swinging gate] because it is another opportunity for me to play football, if I can get a block in or something different," Pousson said. "It doesn't really change my approach, I just have to keep my mind right when we bring it back and focus on the PAT instead of running a play."
Much more practice time has been dedicated to the kicking game, giving Pousson a welcomed, not to mention increased, role.
"I am liking the emphasis on special teams, definitely," he said. "We have way more meeting time and everyone on the team starts to realize the importance of field position and what that plays in the game.
"That is all what special teams is all about, winning the field position battle."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates as the Trojans try to stay unbeaten.
Ryan Abraham is the publisher of USCFootball.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter at @insidetroy.