Saturday, August 6, 2011
Assessing Walker and O-Line
By Pedro Moura
USC offensive line coach James Cregg says he has coached only one other player like freshman guard/tackle Aundrey Walker in his 14 years of coaching at the collegiate and NFL levels: former Tennessee tackle Chris Scott.
Walker, a Glenville, Ohio product who the Trojans stole from under the nose of Ohio State, is listed at 6-6 and 375 pounds. Scott, a Parade All-American as a Georgia prep, was listed at 6-5, 346 while with the Volunteers, although some reports had him as high as 370 pounds at various points during his five years in Knoxville.
The comparison's valid, to be sure. But, in comparing photographic evidence, Walker seems even bigger, although a lot of the weight does seem to come from his massive frame.
"He’s not fat," Cregg said Saturday of Walker. 'He's just a big-boned kid.
"Aundrey’s in a growing process. He’ll get it down. But he is athletic for how big he is. He wants to work hard and he’s grinding, getting better on a day like today. He’s learning how to work harder."
A big-boned kid who absolutely flattened 265-pound defensive end Wes Horton on the second day of USC's fall camp this week. But the 18-year-old Walker has been wildly inconsistent in one-on-one drills, with some great performances and some not-so-great.
He's getting a look at right tackle right now, but that doesn't seem like a long-term option. Both Lane Kiffin and Cregg have layered extensive praise on Kevin Graf's early play in camp at that spot, and he's already in the early stages of solidifying a starting spot there.
Both guard slots are wide open, though. Cregg wouldn't say when Walker would get a shot at one of those positions -- "Shoot, it’s only his third practice," he said -- but it seems he will at some point soon.
And, for what it's worth, Scott started his Tennessee career at right guard before switching left tackle as a sophomore. There's a precedent for Kiffin- and Cregg-coached for behemoth linemen with massive potential to start their college careers at guard.
As for the other offensive linemen, there a number of players in competition for the two guard spots -- among them juco transfer Jeremy Galten and returners John Martinez and Martin Coleman. Giovanni Di Poalo, another potential player there, missed part of Saturday's practice with a shoulder injury.
With the Trojans in half-pads for the first time, the linemen vs. linemen action was amped up a notch compared to the first two days, and the offensive guys struggled to keep up. End Devon Kennard, in particular, terrorized whoever was assigned to him on many a play.
"It was a big test today with the pads and we didn’t dominate today the way we wanted to, so I’m curious to see, as camp goes on, where we’re gonna be on each day," Cregg said. "But there’s a couple core pieces in there and the guys want to do well and they’re working together, so it’s just important that we get better, day in and day out."
And, on Walker, Cregg said he's down to 364 pounds the last he'd heard. The eventual goal would be to have him at 330 or 335 in game situations. But, Cregg said, "if we could get him at 340 right now, we’d be in good shape."