Less than a week remains until the Trojans head out to Howard Jones Field for the beginning of spring football. As we continue to take a look at the ten Trojans we'll be keeping a close eye on, we look a little closer down in the trenches at one of the key cogs in the offense.
Size: 6-5, 300 lbs.
Last year: Eight games played with seven starts
Position Coach: James Cregg
Contenders for his position: Michael Reardon, John Martinez
Why he's number eight:
After high expectations last year, the offensive line never really came together due in part to injuries to players like O'Dowd. As the starting center, the line needs leadership and strong play from O'Dowd to turn the unit into one of the strengths of the team this year. Because there is a new system in place with the offensive line, how quickly O'Dowd picks things up and gets back to dominating in the trenches like he did his freshman and sophomore years will be key for the entire offense to perform well.
Questions to be answered:
1. How healthy is he?
Really the only question there is on O'Dowd is his health but it's certainly the biggest. At times you could tell that he was not coming off the ball and driving his blocks after returning from a knee injury early in fall camp. With inconsistent playing time throughout last year, it's really been two years since O'Dowd was truly healthy and able to handle a full workload. If he handles Jurrell Casey with no problems the first day of camp like he can, then the whole team will have a lot less to worry about.
2. What will he do without someone to push him?
The departure of Jeff Byers to the NFL Draft means there's not a whole lot of depth behind O'Dowd if he's unable to go. Michael Reardon seems like he'll get first crack with John Martinez getting more of a look at guard during the spring. Both players don't have a ton of experience so it's hard to say how much O'Dowd will be pushed into performing during the spring. As a hard worker who enjoys the game it's hard to see him taking a few plays off but without the real threat of someone taking his job you never know.
3. How quickly will he adjust to the new system?
O'Dowd has spent hours in the meeting rooms of Heritage Hall watching film and talking with coach Cregg trying to learn the new concepts for Lane Kiffin's offense. Though the offense is very similar to what the Trojans ran under Carroll, most of the line calls are different. As the "quarterback" of the line who is in charge of directing everyone, O'Dowd has to be sure he is ahead of the curve and knows what everyone has to do.
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