USC Football Fall Notebook: Walker, Tuerk Fight For Left Tackle Job
While coach Lane Kiffin and the players seemed eager to talk about this week’s upcoming game against Cal, much of the questions still centered around last Saturday’s defeat. It’s to be expected for a program that many had penciled to play in the BCS Championship Game, And while the squad is anxious to face Cal, it was obvious that they still had a bitter taste in their mouth from their showdown with the Cardinal.
One of the biggest criticisms of Saturday’s performance was the play of the offensive line, which was a hot topic today.
Currently, there is an open competition at the left tackle position between current starter, redshirt freshman Aundrey Walker, and true freshman Max Tuerk. Walker struggled against Stanford prompting Kiffin to give Tuerk a shot with the first-team this week.
“We’re looking for ‘finish,’ for great effort,” Kiffin said of what he is looking for in deciding the competition. “Guys are gonna get beat…you’re gonna make mistakes, but we won’t tolerate lack of great effort, not when you put on these jerseys that all these great players have worn before. I think Aundrey is going to respond well to this.”
Speaking of Walker, he had an interesting session with the media today, one in which he never removed his mouthpiece.
Walker spoke of wanting to put Saturday’s game behind him and talked about the entire position group’s attitude toward getting out on the field against Cal.
“Just watch Saturday, that’s all I gotta tell you. Just watch Saturday,” Walker said.
Against Stanford, USC struggled to run the ball effectively, something that clearly still is wearing on starting running back Curtis McNeal.
“I did alright, I can do better,” McNeal said. “[I need] to read blocks better, just see it and go. Don’t hesitate and just hit it. I did last year.”
McNeal also noted he wasn’t surprised that the running game hasn’t been a bigger part of the offense thus far. “I expected it. I guess when you have a big-time quarterback, big-time receivers, you have to expect it,” McNeal said.
Quarterback Matt Barkley had one of his worst performances as a Trojan, and some felt that Kiffin may have blamed Barkley too much in the media. But Barkley quickly shot down that assessment.
“He’s gonna be real. He’s gonna defend me when he has to, and he’s gonna be real when he has to,” Barkley said. “I am glad he’s not hiding me behind a curtain or anything like that. I know what I did, it’s not like he’s making fun or me something to the public. It’s something that I definitely learned from, and know not to do again.”