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Monday, August 15, 2011
Offensive line still struggling

By Pedro Moura

Lane Kiffin thought he was starting to get his offensive line figured out when he penciled in Kevin Graf at right tackle to join Matt Kalil and Khaled Holmes and moved mammoth freshman Aundrey Walker over to right guard last week.

Not so fast, coach.

The Trojans' offensive line, the team's biggest weakness, struggled mightily in Sunday's three-hour scrimmage at the Coliseum -- even Graf, who Kiffin had previously complimented earlier in camp. They allowed sacks, they failed to create significant room for running backs to roam and altogether hardly ever dominated, even when going as a first-string unit head-to-head against second-stringers.

“Same story,” Kiffin said when asked about his line. ”The center and left tackle are playing well. The right tackle was a little shaky today, as you saw out there. He gave up a sack and one or two false starts.”

The guards were the weakest link, Kiffin said. Walker started at right guard and didn't do particularly well, and the next player to earn a shot at left guard, Abe Markowitz, didn't either. And backups John Martinez and Martin Coleman also weren't on top of their games.

“It didn’t feel or look like anybody played well at guard,” Kiffin said. "They’re just not performing consistent. It’s kind of expected from Aundrey (Walker) for a guy that’s not only a true freshman but just moved positions five days ago.

"We just have to continue to improve.”

This isn't a surprise, of course. Kiffin has long known picking his guards would be an issue, especially when Michael Reardon retired early this offseason and Tyron Smith left early for the draft, forcing Graf to play right tackle. But did he anticipate it being this difficult?

We don't know, but we do know this: the Trojans have fewer than 20 days left before their season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 3. At this point, it appears like it will be two of four players who win those spots -- the same four, Markowitz, Walker, Coleman and Martinez, who played extensively in Sunday's scrimmage.

Juco transfer Jeremy Galten may also still have a shot, but that's about it. Freshmen Cyrus Hobbi, Marcus Martin and Cody Temple, who's been out with a back injury, never got any sort of look in camp at the guard spots, and neither did David Garness, the other juco lineman.