USC Coach Ted Tollner has described guard Jeff Bregel as "strong, fast and nasty," adding that he can be as dominating as any offensive lineman in the country.
A reporter asked Bregel about this nasty business.
"Nasty? What does that mean?," replied Bregel, slightly offended. "It probably stems back from spring ball and stuff. I seem to be the guy who gets in the most fights. But everyone gets into fights. You know, you're playing against your own teammates and you get tired of hitting the same guys every day."
Bregel doesn't really come across as nasty. He doesn't growl or glare. He talks moderately and thoughtfully. But at the same time, you wouldn't want to rile him. He stands 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 280 pounds, and his muscles have muscles. He recently bench-pressed 465 pounds, topping all of his teammates.
Bregel has been a starting guard since his freshman season in 1983, and he could become the first USC lineman since World War II to start every game for four straight years.
He is a member of a unit that Tollner says could be among the best ever to play at the school. That's a noteworthy commendation, considering that USC has produced 20 first-string All-American linemen since 1964 and 14 first-round choices in the pro draft since 1968.
Bregel teams with towering tackle James FitzPatrick (6-8, 270) on one side of the line. Guard Tom Hallock (6-6, 260) and either tackle Gaylord Kuamoo (6-4, 285) or Dave Cadigan (6-5, 265) will be starters on the other side, with Tom Cox (6-4, 260) at center. Kuamoo has been unable to practice regularly because of a sprained ankle.
Put all of this together and you have an offensive line that averages 6-5 and 273 pounds with considerable experience. Bregel, Hallock and FitzPatrick are three-year starters.
If Bregel isn't nasty, he's aggressive, at least, and he said he has had to curb his aggressiveness while pass blocking.
"I had problems with that," Bregel said. "You have to concentrate, have patience and sit back until a guy gets into you. I think I'm a better run blocker, where you can really crank it up and get aggressive, but I'm doing a better job as a pass blocker than when I first started playing."
Bregel was both an offensive and defensive lineman at Kennedy High in Granada Hills, but he played defense while being redshirted in 1982.
"I was on the opponents' squad my first year but I had heard rumors that I was going to be switched to offense," he said. "When it happened, I liked the decision. I think I'm a better offensive player. I'm not slow, but I'm not a 4.8 or 4.9 guy in the 40-yard dash. I'm probably 5.1 or 5.2. Considering my build and strength, I'm probably better suited as an offensive lineman."
As defending Pacific 10 champion, there are great expectations for this year's team--and Tollner says the offensive line is the strength of the team.
With that accolade, there is, of course, some pressure.
"We got some results last year, and everyone expects you to be good," said Pat Morris, USC's offensive line coach. "That is the kind of pressure you want and that makes you want to work that much harder. We're (the offensive line) in the position we wanted to be, and now we have to prove it."
The only regret Tollner has about this year's line is that FitzPatrick is a senior. He appeared in only two games as a freshman in 1982, playing just enough that he couldn't be redshirted.
Bregel and FitzPatrick play next to each other and are close friends off the field. FitzPatrick said that Bregel influenced him to spend more time in the weight room.
"I've seen what strength has done for Jeff, and it motivated me in the weight room," he said. "When I first got here, I was as big as Don Mosebar and Bruce Matthews (former All-American linemen), but then I'd watch what they were lifting, and it was embarrassing to me. I kind of shied away from lifting and that made it worse. Strength coach Jerry Simmons got me going on a program on my own level, and that was the key."
Bregel and FitzPatrick are regarded as one of the best guard-tackle tandems in the country, and, although they don't need much help, a new blocking rule might make them even more effective.
"Last year you had to keep your hands within the frame of a defensive player's body and the hands had to be closed," Bregel said. "Now you can keep your hands open, and that allows for a good punch on pass protection."
Said Morris: "If you can sustain contact, the hands can be anywhere. But the initial hit must be in the framework of the body. You couldn't do that before. What is does is give the strong guys a bit of an advantage. They can just press, or push everyone around."
Bregel, a business major with a 2.99 grade-point average, is self-motivated. But he said he's also inspired by the offensive line heritage, which complements the Heisman Trophy-winning tailback heritage.
"It gives me pride," he said. "It makes you want to work for something, being an All-American or just the next game. You know those guys did it. It's quite an incentive."
Trojan Notes Ted Tollner says that nothing has changed in regard to the quarterback situation, meaning that veteran Sean Salisbury is still No. 1, with Kevin McLean and Rodney Peete challenging him for the job. . . . Tollner anticipates that he'll use three or four tailbacks in game situations this season. It's a crowded position. Fred Crutcher is acknowledged as No. 1, with Ryan Knight, Steve Webster, Zeph Lee and Aaron Emanuel contending for playing time. Webster, a slippery runner, will return kickoffs this season. USC hasn't had an explosive kickoff runner since Anthony Davis in the early '70s. . . . USC will engage in a full-scale public scrimmage at 11:30 a.m. today.