While never scoring touchdowns, calling plays or even receiving the recognition they deserve, the offensive line is one of the most important positions on the Trojan roster.
“We are a collective organization, a family working together,” is the common rhetoric amongst the USC Trojans’ Hogs. “That’s all we are doing, just trying to grind,” they say.
From Howard Jones’ Thundering Herd to John McKay’s Tailback University to Pete Carroll’s version of Thunder and Lightning in the early 2000s, a vaunted rushing attack has been the calling card of success for USC in each of its most dominant stretches.
While the deadly combination of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods were racking in yards by the bucketload last season, the Trojans struggled down the stretch finishing 7-6 on the year.
Lane Kiffin was the first to recognize the need to pound the rock, and made it a priority for this upcoming season. “I hope that as we get to this season here that we are more consistent in our running game,” said Kiffin during Pac-12 Media Day.
As for the players, they know exactly how pivotal their success and development is to USC’s ground game.
“It’s a lot of things going on before the play starts,” said offensive guard/center Marcus Martin, who is set to start his 21st game on the line this fall. “You gotta have your eyes open and your head up to help out the offensive line and the running game.”
This preparation may go largely unnoticed in the box score, but certainly not when determining how the O-line’s performance impacts that very score.
Recent success for offensive lineman like Matt Kalil, the fourth overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by Minnesota, played alongside the likes of Martin and Kevin Graf. Kalil’s tutelage paved the path towards success for many of the leaders on the Trojans’ current offensive line.
That confidence pours into the Trojans’ new rushing attack, which Kiffin has demanded more contributions and success from this Fall.
“We anticipated a lot of yards this year just working together as an offensive line,” said Martin, who will likely be stepping up at center this season.
What better way to prepare for the season then to battle against arguably one of the top defensive lines in the Pac-12 on a daily basis?
“We love the competition,” said Martin of his defensive counterparts. “It’s lot of fun, makes things a little lively on the field.”
Aside from Martin and Graf, veteran prospects like Martinez and Aundrey Walker all bring game experience to the line. This group is coached by James Gregg along with new addition from Kentucky Mike Summers.
“It’s nice because we get two different perspectives but one style,” said Martin about the two-coach dynamic. “When they collaborate its awesome because the cohesion and the clarity is just awesome.”
With four returning starters on the line, the cohesiveness up front will hopefully lead to a lot more success and perseverance towards running the football down opponents’ throats this season. Propositions that excite not only the bevy of running back options, but also the hogs up front that will pioneer the efforts on the line.
“I like to run the ball,” said Kevin Graf, the Trojans projected right tackle this fall. “It’s a lot more fun getting your pads into somebody and driving them off the ball.”
In three weeks, the changes this unit has gone through in pursuit of a better, less stagnant front line than in 2012 will be put to the test.