Tuerk impressing Trojans coaching staff at LT
LOS ANGELES -- USC Freshmen received a "Welcome to USC" moment on Tuesday.
As the Trojans concluded practice at Rod Dedeaux Field, the freshmen did up-downs as they were given a Powerade bath by the upperclassmen along the outfield warning track.
"(It's) just some freshmen stuff we do every year," said USC center Khaled Holmes. "I did it in '08. We all do it. Just fun stuff."
Included in that group was freshman offensive lineman and Santa Margarita alum, Max Tuerk.
His list of off-the-field freshman duties aren't quite done yet. He'll have to sing, a song of his choice, for his fellow offensive linemen. Anything else on that list is still TBD by the rest of the offensive linemen.
"We always figure something out for the young pups," Holmes said.
The "young pup" has grown into a topic of conversation in recent days, since being pegged at left tackle for Aundrey Walker who's been out with a reported wrist injury. Given the opportunity, Tuerk has been able to turn some heads with his play.
"I think Max is doing really well," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "You don't call his name a lot which is a good thing with linemen and it's very unusual. Usually those guys struggle and so to play left tackle for us and go against a really quality right end, he's done a good job."
The staff is impressed with how well Tuerk has performed in the running game. In the pass game, Kiffin says "He's got some work to do."
Tuerk is tested daily lining up against the Trojans' most experienced defensive linemen, Wes Horton. At times it doesn't look fair for the true freshman having the responsibility to block the fifth-year senior, who's savvy and expertise, at times, can seem overwhelming. Still, the coaching staff has been able to live with the mistakes of Tuerk and battling Horton every day can only make him better.
"It's kind of like a trial by fire," said Holmes. "The best way to learn is to go against great competition. It's just making him better. He's getting better every day. The one-one-one's have gotten better every day and his technique's getting better, so honestly, it's the best thing for him."
The best thing for the Trojans may be to have Walker healthy and in the lineup for the season opener against Hawaii on Sept. 1. When asked how he feels about Tuerk potentially being thrown into the starting lineup, Kiffin responded, "If he has to, he has to."
Holmes echoes those thoughts.
"We'll figure out something at the left tackle spot either way," he said. "We'll be alright. I'm not concerned."
Kiffin executed a number swap earlier in the week, giving Tuerk jersey No. 75, because "it's just a better tackle number."
Ironically, it's the same number worn by Minnesota Vikings first round pick, Matt Kalil, when he was a Trojan.
Kiffin says the number swap may have been "wishful thinking," but there was nothing to make of it.
"There's a lot of difference between those 75's," Kiffin said.