USC football: 10 things we learned in spring (No. 5)

Halfway there!

Here’s the fifth thing we learned this spring about USC football:

odowd0505No. 5 — All-Pac-10 center Kristofer O’Dowd is worthy of all the hype.

How can this be? How could Kristofer O’Dowd prove his value without taking a single spring snap?

It seems counterintuitive, but hear me out:

Sometimes we don’t realize the value of a player until he’s gone. Quick example: In the Phoenix Suns’ run-and-gun heyday from 2004-08, they won 70.7 percent of their regular-season games. Out of the 17 games Steve Nash missed, they won all of four.

The O’Dowd-less USC offensive line didn’t have a bad spring, but it didn’t have a great one either. It was one of the Trojans’ more inconsistent units, and arguably their most disappointing given the number of returnees with starting experience (even without O’Dowd).

A lot of variables contributed to that. One was the daily dominance of a deep, talented defensive line that probably would have made any college O-line look bad. Another was a spate of minor injuries that had several players shifting around. (Tackle Butch Lewis briefly played guard — for the first time.) Yet another was the force-feeding of talented but still-learning young tackles Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil.

The constant was the absence of O’Dowd, who missed spring ball while recuperating from shoulder surgery.

It’s hard for even a football fanatic such as myself to truly judge offensive-line play, and it’s especially difficult to assess the interior linemen when so many bodies converge and the ball is often elsewhere. But it was clear during spring drills that USC’s offensive line missed O’Dowd, who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore. There were far too many tackles for loss and far too many one-sided blitz periods.

The offensive line hadn’t looked that shaky since the start of training camp last year, when guard Jeff Byers was out because of an illness. O’Dowd took just about every snap then, so maybe it’s the combination of him and Byers that makes the O-line click. Once Byers returned, the line jelled.

I expect the same to happen this year when O’Dowd comes back — and adds “All-American” to his growing résumé .


More from the USC blog:

Post from: USC

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s