Here’s the fifth thing we learned this spring about USC football:
No. 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 .
10 THINGS WE LEARNED SCHEDULE
- Thursday, April 30: No. 1 — Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is really, really good
- Friday, May 1: No. 2 — Junior defensive end Everson Griffen can be as good as he wants to be
- Monday, May 4: No. 3 — The Trojans have more viable tailbacks than they have spots to play them
- Tuesday, May 5: No. 4 — The Trojans are crazy deep at cornerback, and that’s a very good thing
- Wednesday, May 6: No. 5 — All-Pac-10 center Kristofer O’Dowd is worthy of all the hype
- Thursday, May 7: No. 6
- Friday, May 8: No. 7
- Monday, May 11: No. 8
- Tuesday, May 12: No. 9
- Wednesday, May 13: No. 10
More from the USC blog:
- USC football: 10 things we learned in spring (No. 4)
- USC football: 10 things we learned in spring (No. 3)
- USC football: 8 kickoff times set for 2009
- USC football: 10 things we learned in spring (No. 2)
- USC Football: Robinson in CFB Hall of Fame
- USC football: 10 things we learned in spring (No. 1)
- USC basketball: Net result of the comings and goings
- USC football: Pryor engagement already on their minds?
- USC football: The secret to Jethro Franklin’s success
- USC football: A pair of unsolved mysteries
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