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August 17, 2005
Fall camp: August 17th practice
Wednesday was move in day at USC and the campus was buzzing with students returning school from their summer vacations. The practice field was buzzing as well with the team running various special teams drills and situational scrimmage situations for the offense and defense.
One of the most heated battles this fall has been at the middle linebacker position. Several players have worked out with the first team at the position and lately the coaches have settled on Oscar Lua as the leader.
"I have a lot of confidence and the guys are responding well to me," Lua said after practice. "Stopping the 'O' was a little shaky at the beginning of camp but now we seem to have it locked down so we are doing good."
In fact the first string defense had one of their best days of camp stopping the first string offense on Wednesday.
"We were doing good, just following Coach Carroll's plan," Lua said. "Everybody seems to be doing well on the defense and tightening down the screws."
Following the depth chart of the linebackers has been a rollercoaster during the first two weeks of camp.
"We have a lot of bodies there but Coach Carroll likes to keep tight competition," he said. "We have been rotating four guys in at middle linebacker, three at SAM and about four at WIL. It is competition and the best three people are going to play."
The internal competition has been intense but Lua and the guys are ready to start hitting someone wearing a different colored jersey.
"It is about that time," he said. "Everybody is feeling a few aches and pains so most definitely we are looking forward to getting out there and beating on Hawaii."
One of the reasons the linebackers get so fired up is Ken Norton Jr.. He is always one of the loudest voices on the field and isn't afraid to mix it up with the players.
"That is just the way he is," Lua said. "He is out here for the fact that he misses the game so much. He still has a lot of player in him and he likes to do player activities."
Aiding the great competition has been the influx of excellent freshmen linebackers coming into camp.
"They are all real solid," Lua said. "They are all picking up the defense really well, but it is just a little different X's and O's compared to the real deal. I think once they get on the playing field they will be just fine."
Wednesday the team spent extra time working on different aspects of special teams. Punter Tom Malone is the star of the unit, but he is still being held out. He should be ready to go by the Hawaii game, but for now he is helping out some of the younger guys and their games.
Malone was tutoring kicker Troy Van Blarcom not with his kickoffs but with his punting. Troy was showing how live his leg was in practice punting some balls that were sky high but not very deep. Malone gave him a few pointers and his punting was getting notably better. Van Blarcom has raw power and if he gets more consistent he might fight for a spot to backup Malone.
The team also ran several punts, kickoffs, safety kicks and onsides kicks on Wednesday. They practiced kick coverage, kick blocking and protection. Most every aspect of special teams was being worked on to get ready for the season.
Click here for Fall Camp Central
Click here to discuss fall camp in The Peristyle