August 23, 2008

Practice Insider: Fall camp ends

Usually it takes a big play to trigger the three shrill sounds produced by an air horn, signaling the end of a Trojan practice.

Saturday, after a Taylor Mays interception, it happened.

But instead of the normal walk to gather as a team, some players jumped up and down. Most players smiled.

They knew the opening chapter of the 2008 season had ended.

Head coach Pete Carroll said fall camp was a great success, with few serious injuries and plenty of progress.

"This has been a very good camp for us. We've gone through a lot of situations, and today was a culmination on the mental side of things.

"We're pretty much ready to go as far as the big things are concerned."

Carroll and the Trojans emphasized transitions on Saturday, running special teams units on and off the field, making sure there weren't 12 men in a huddle and other specialty situations.

"It was a good camp," senior safety and captain Kevin Ellison said. "Anytime you come out here, working as hard as we do, you have to take something from it."

One thing Carroll said he's taking out of camp is a deep breath.

Plenty of Trojans suffered minor injuries throughout camp, and the Trojans dodged major bullets with injuries suffered by Mark Sanchez, Joe McKnight, Cary Harris and others.

"It's a beautiful thing isn't it? Sometimes, it doesn't work that way," Carroll said. "We've been really fortunate, and really, our strength and conditioning guys deserve a lot of credit. They came into camp in great shape."

Still, some players aren't ready for camp to be over.

"It's different for me," Mark Sanchez said. "I want to keep going. They're pulling me out of our scrimmage, and I'm pretty upset.

"It's good, though. I want them to kick me off the practice field, out of the film room and out of the weight room."

While players will have a healthy chunk of time to recover before game week starts on Monday, the coaching staff doesn't expect any major adjustments.

"Man," running backs Todd McNair said, "our hours don't change."

Passing the test

Carroll said four-star defensive end Nick Perry is down to his final shot to get qualified, with one last chance to pass a test that would allow him to be cleared by the Sept. 15 cutoff date.

While Perry struggled with his test off the field, Sanchez continues to pass tests between the white lines.

Working in 11-on-11 drills against a live defense, Sanchez was forced to scramble to his left and right, and he even dove on a fumble after a botched snap.

"That was good," Sanchez said. "I think I'm going to need to get tackled a few times. Hopefully, it's by some younger guys and not (Rey Maualuga) and (Brian Cushing).

"I'll get tackled some next week because every new step we take in this process is a little frightening."

Still, Carroll said he was glad to see Sanchez operate without fear, allowing him to operate on instincts.

"This is what we were hoping for," Carroll said. "We were hoping to get some sort of indication before going into game week, and we were able to do that."

Extra Points

• Sanchez still has some equipment issues to deal with. First, there's the issue of a knee brace, which Sanchez and the medical staff have yet to settle on.

While Sanchez said he will wear one, he doesn't know which kind.

Also, Sanchez has yet to practice in cleats.

"I'll probably be in cleats Monday or Tuesday. They just want to be extra cautious," Sanchez said. "There's no real need to rush. I'm going to be back just in time."

• Quarterback Mitch Mustain did not take any snaps in seven-on-seven drills or in the team's brief scrimmage period. Aaron Corp relieved Sanchez with the first unit in the scrimmage, and Garrett Green quarterbacked the service team.

"We just kind of ran out of plays," Carroll said.

The day, though, wasn't intended for the quarterbacks. Carroll said the transitions between units took priority.

D.J. Shoemate returned a kick with the first team, and Drew McAllister worked exclusively with the first team kickoff-coverage unit.

• Carroll said the team has installed all of the game plan for the opener at Virginia. Next week, he said, the team will focus on "cleaning things up" and "staying out of their own way."

Shareece Wright and David Ausberry were among the non-participants in Saturday's finale. Carroll said he expects Wright back in the next few days.

• News on Luthur Brown and Chris Galippo seems to be good. Brown ran sprints on the sidelines in shoulder pads, and Carroll said he could be ready for the Trojans' home opener. Galippo is "way ahead of schedule" and could be back soon after Brown.

Stanley Havili had a nice day, breaking off two big runs and catching a 31-yard touchdown pass from Corp. Corp also found Damian Williams for a 50-yard score after a blown coverage.

Shane Horton blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.


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