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Offensive linemen made presence felt

September 08, 2009|Gary Klein

USC's offensive line has played only one game in its current configuration and is readying for a test on Saturday at Ohio State.

But the unit left quite an impression on San Jose State Coach Dick Tomey.

On Monday, after reviewing tape of the Trojans' season-opening 56-3 victory over the Spartans, Tomey said the Trojans' line was "the best I've competed against as a coach," adding that the Trojans "might have four first-round draft choices in that group."

Tomey, who is in his 29th season as a college head coach, wasn't finished.

"They're fit athletes," he said during a teleconference. "There's not a 300-pounder in the group and they're quick and athletic. And with their scheme of zone blocking and schemes that take advantage of their athleticism, they're just tremendous."

USC's line, which featured center Jeff Byers, guards Butch Lewis and Alex Parsons and tackles Charles Brown and Tyron Smith in starting roles against San Jose State, could become deeper against Ohio State if center Kristofer O'Dowd returns from a kneecap injury.

"My goal is to get back in there," O'Dowd said Monday. "I'm not going to settle for second-string, that's not what I'm shooting for."

Offensive line coach Pat Ruel was flattered by Tomey's remarks but will reserve judgment.

"I keep warning everybody that it's your body of work -- it's not one game, one quarter," Ruel said. "So for us, how good we are will be determined at the end of the year."

Weathering

the Buckeyes

USC could run into more than a tough opponent and crowd at Ohio Stadium.

The Trojans also might have to deal with weather issues.

According to forecasts, there is a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms in Columbus on Saturday night.

USC and rain in Columbus sort of go hand in hand.

The last time the Trojans played at Ohio Stadium, on Sept. 29, 1990, USC won, 35-26, in a game that was suspended with 2 minutes 36 seconds left because of severe weather conditions, including torrential rain, thunder and lightning.

Quick hits

Cornerback Kevin Thomas and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey were absent from practice because of illness, Carroll said. . . . Safety Drew McAllister did not practice because of a hip injury.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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