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Each Spring, USC Tries a New Approach : As Football Practice Ends, Tollner Starts Looking Ahead to Fall

Times Staff Writer

Jones Ramsey, the retired sports information director of the University of Texas, once said that there were only two sports worth mentioning in Texas--football and spring football.

But is spring football really necessary, considering that the players will have to do it all over again in the fall when the real season begins?

USC Coach Ted Tollner thinks so. His Trojans just ended 19 days of spring practice.

“Our approach to spring football is to experiment with new things you might want to do in the fall, but the major emphasis is on improving technique without pressure of a ballgame on Saturday,” Tollner said. “So I think spring ball is valuable.”

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A breakdown on some of the areas of the team with comments from Tollner:

DEFENSE

Line--"We don’t have anybody back who played football for us last year except Gary Willison, who is injured and didn’t participate in spring drills.” The newcomers: sophomore tackles Anthony Ervin, Joe Walshe and Darryl Henderson and freshman nose guard Dan Owens.

Linebackers--This unit is the strength of the team, according to Tollner. Marcus Cotton and Ron Brown are the outside backers, with Sam Anno and Keith Davis inside, backed up by Rex Moore.

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Secondary--Another experienced unit: cornerbacks Louis Brock and Greg Coauette and safeties Tim McDonald and Junior Thurman. Coauette, a linebacker last year, has returned to the position where he belongs, Tollner said. He also said that McDonald is one of the best players at his position in the country.

OFFENSE Line--All-American guard Jeff Bregel and tackle Dave Cadigan, veterans of last year’s team, are now operating on the strong side. The weakside linemen, 320-pound tackle John Guerrero, a sophomore, and guard Brent Parkinson, a freshman, are inexperienced. Center Bruce Parks, a senior starting for the first time, is probably the team’s most improved player.

Wide receivers--More inexperience with junior Ken Henry, sophomore Erik Affholter and freshman John Jackson, the surprise of spring camp. Jackson, 5-11 and 175 pounds, is the son of John Jackson, the former USC backfield coach. Missing: Randy Tanner, Al Washington and Gene Arrington, with knee surgery, and Travis Knox, broken arm, and Lonnie White, broken finger. Washington and Arrington may not be able to play next season.

Tight ends--Erik McKee is the returning starter, and Paul Green, who was redshirted last year, is the tight end in motion, who will be moved around to take advantage of his versatility.

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Running backs--"I couldn’t be more pleased with (tailback) Ryan Knight. He’s running through tackles and he appears quicker than he was last season.”

Knight, a junior, worked with USC’s sprinters to improve his explosiveness before spring practice even started. Aaron Emanuel, a sophomore tailback, who missed a portion of last season with injuries, was active for only 8 of 19 days with more nagging injuries.

“He has potential greatness, but he has to show some consistency. He practices a couple of days and then he’s hurt. And then he reverts back to being a wild stallion,” Tollner said. “You want some of that wildness, but it has to be controlled wildness. He’s very strong. He goes right through tackles. If he can play each week at full strength, he’ll wear you down.”

Tollner said he is also pleased that Knight and Emanuel, who weren’t used as pass receivers in high school, have developed a knack for catching the ball, something they must do in USC’s new split backs formation. Look for redshirt freshman Leroy Holt to be the starting fullback in the fall. “He’s tough, talented and plays with a lot of enthusiasm.” Veteran Todd Steele missed spring drills with a broken left shoulder.

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Trojan Notes Quarterback Jason Schmid, a junior college transfer, had surgery on his left shoulder Friday. He’s right-handed, and is expected to be available in the fall. . . . Coach Ted Tollner said USC has its most attractive schedule in the four years he has been at the school. “It’s easy from a travel standpoint, but difficult from the standpoint of opposition,” he said. USC will open against Illinois Sept. 13 at the Coliseum, has home games against Washington, Oregon, Arizona State, California and Notre Dame, and will play UCLA at the Rose Bowl. The longest trip will be to Waco, Tex., Sept. 20 for a game against Baylor.


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