Graf the probable starter at LT

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
6:39
AM PT
USC offensive tackle Kevin Graf doesn't remember the Arizona State game last season, when he was single-handedly torched by the Sun Devils defensive line and called for three personal-foul penalties in the Trojans' worst loss of 2011.

Or he's trying not to remember it.

Either way, he won't tell you anything specific about what happened to him that awful night in Tempe -- only that it was his "never-again game," he hopes like heck he'll never have to go through it again and that he weighed in at his lowest number in years (276 pounds) a couple days before the contest.

Nothing else.

"As much as I can, I'm putting that game behind me," the 20-year-old Graf said this week, after a USC throwing session on Howard Jones Field. "I took every memory of it and tried to flush it out as much as I could."

The thing is, Graf actually performed quite well at right tackle during the Trojans' other 11 games last season -- especially in the eight following the ASU loss. And now, with left tackle Matt Kalil gone for the NFL, it looks like he'll be the guy protecting quarterback Matt Barkley's blind side next season.

That is, unless gargantuan sophomore Aundrey Walker can continue to shed pounds and get down to a manageable weight come fall camp, in which case he could challenge Graf for the spot. But Graf and Walker make sense as bookend tackles, and that's where they're going to start in spring practice, which begins in less than three weeks on March 6.

Before last season, Graf had never played any other position on the line besides left tackle. So he still feels more comfortable there, even with his only in-game college experience coming on the opposite side.

"Going back to left, for me, is a blessing," he said. "I love playing left and I feel more natural at it."

About the weight issue that contributed to his problems at ASU, the 20-year-old Graf is back around 285 pounds, where he started out last season. But his goal is to get up past 300 in the next few months and hopefully sit around 305 in the fall.

"The difficult part isn't gaining the weight," Graf said. "The difficult part is gaining the right kind of weight.

"Let's say I want to gain 10 pounds. I want eight or nine of those to be muscle and maybe a pound or two to be fat."

He jokes his parents, dad Allan and mom Betty, are "pissed off" at him because he currently looks "more like a tight end than a tackle."

There's certainly some warrant to that. But Kalil only weighed 295 pounds last season, and he was a good inch (if not two) taller than Graf. If Graf ends up playing the 2012 season at that weight, it's not a complete disaster.

"He is probably a top-five pick in the NFL draft, so he's clearly doing something right," Graf said.

Graf also said he "absolutely" expects competition from Walker in spring practice -- and in the fall, too.

"We're always competing here at 'SC, and that's what made us so good last year," he said. "And it's also why we're hoping to have an even better year next year."

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