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USC Is Building on His Blocks : Football: Former Workman High lineman Norberto Garrido says the Trojans are on their way to regaining status as Tailback U.

August 19, 1993|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LA PUENTE — John Robinson has promised USC alumni and fans that the school will once again adopt the run-oriented attack that helped it become known as Tailback U.

Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles White and Marcus Allen have been among the backs to wear the Trojan uniform.

Tailback U., however, would have certainly been Tailback Who? were it not for the outstanding Trojan offensive linemen.

Ron Yary, who won the 1967 Outland Trophy, and Brad Budde, who won the 1979 Lombardi Award, are among the 25 first-team All-American offensive lineman that the Trojans have produced since 1964. Yary and Budde are also among the 17 Trojan offensive linemen who have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 1968.

Norberto Garrido, a redshirt sophomore from La Puente, is well aware of the Trojan tradition of excellence on the offensive line--including returning All-American Tony Boselli--as he prepares for USC's opener against North Carolina in the Kickoff Classic at Anaheim Stadium on Aug. 29.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Garrido is slated to be a starting tackle for a Trojan team trying to improve on last season's 6-5-1 record.

"There's a different atmosphere this year," said Garrido, a former standout at Workman High. "When we're out at practice, the running game seems much more explosive. I believe the running game is going to come back to what it used to be."

Garrido, The Times' San Gabriel Valley lineman of the year in 1989, could barely believe he was signing a letter of intent with USC during his senior year at Workman. He had grown up rooting for UCLA despite his admiration for former Trojan offensive linemen such as Anthony Munoz.

"I never liked USC at all because they were all cocky," Garrido said.

Garrido said he would have signed with UCLA, but changes in the Bruin staff at the time turned his attention to USC, where he was recruited as a defensive lineman.

To qualify academically for USC, Garrido attended Mt. San Antonio College as a part-time student in 1990, improved his national test scores and transferred to USC in the fall of 1991.

But during the first day of two-a-day workouts, Garrido, a nose guard at the time, broke his left foot and suffered a leg injury. He was on crutches for eight months--four with a cast on his right leg, four with a cast on his left.

"I wasn't thinking about football too much," Garrido said. "I was thinking of leaving this place."

Garrido returned and was switched to the offensive line. His only game action came on special teams against Fresno State in the Freedom Bowl.

"That was no big deal," Garrido said of his collegiate debut.

This season figures to be different.

Garrido won the starting right tackle job during spring practice and has held it during preseason camp at UC Irvine.

And despite the Trojan coaching staff's fondness for 300-pound tackles, Garrido feels comfortable and able at 295.

"When I weigh 280, I feel like I'm being pushed around," Garrido said. "At 295, I feel just right."

Garrido intends to help the Trojans right themselves after last season's inconsistent performance. He is also confident that the Trojans will return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1990.

North Carolina finished 9-3 last season and defeated Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl. The game at Anaheim Stadium is a return to the site of the Trojans' 24-7 Freedom Bowl loss to Fresno State, a defeat that marked the end of Larry Smith's tenure as coach.

Garrido is looking forward to playing at Anaheim Stadium again. He is no longer a special-teams player. He is part of an offensive unit that Robinson expects to reclaim the glory of the past.

"Now it's a big deal," Garrido said. "Now it's my moment to shine."

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