In February, Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell raved about offensive tackle Na’Ty Rodgers, who was on his way to South Carolina.
Farrell said toughness is one of the most challenging things for college offensive line coaches to teach young players. Often, either you have it, or you don’t. And Farrell knew Rodgers had it when he watched him get knocked down and his lip bloodied at a camp, only to come back and play even angrier.
“He’s a kid they don’t really have to worry about, the first time he gets hit, going home and crying,” Farrell said.
During Friday night’s first practice, Rodgers did not shrink away. Late in the practice, he exchanged punches with third-year sophomore defensive tackle Deon Green. Again, this was the first time Rodgers had ever participated in an official college football practice, and he was out there throwing blows at a teammate’s face.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Quarterback Connor Shaw praised Rodgers’ intensity. Rodgers almost certainly will redshirt this season, even though he was a highly regarded recruit coming out of Waldorf, Md. – No. 15 offensive tackle and No. 181 overall prospect by Rivals.
While Rodgers raised eyebrows Friday, he is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the future. He probably won’t be a factor in games this season, unless injuries strike the line. But for Friday, he spiced up an otherwise routine Day 1.
“It was funny,” senior defensive end Chaz Sutton said of the fight. “I was yelling at the younger guys to jump in, but they don’t know. They’re new. We’re a big family out here, so after that happens, we just go in the locker room and hug each other and become friends again, brothers.”
Some other Day 1 notes …
** Two sophomores, tight end Jerell Adams and receiver Shaq Roland, were absent because of academic problems.
“Shaq and Jerell were academically out today, so hopefully they will learn to go to class better and they’ll be here (Saturday) night,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier.
** Because of the attention that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will attract, the other end, Sutton, is one of the most important players on this team.
“Any time you’ve got a young man like Clowney on the other side of you, you should be licking your lips as another defensive end,” said defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “I think Chaz knows that and we’ll see some exciting things from Chaz.”
** Spurrier’s overall impressions of practice: “Nothing special happened. We’ve got a ways to go and we need a lot of practice. I figured it would be a good crowd (of fans at practice). There’s a little extra enthusiasm. Hopefully we can live up to it. We probably couldn’t tonight if we had to play anybody.”
Finally, this is the last blog I will post before heading north to cover the New York Jets for The Star-Ledger in Newark. I will have a story in the paper on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and then I am done on the beat. But since there are no post-practice interviews Saturday, and I’ll be moving Sunday when media day is happening, this is the final blog.
Andrew Miller will be our interim USC beat writer, and he will cover Sunday’s media day. You can follow him on Twitter here, though all of our USC coverage until we hire a permanent replacement (the search is currently ongoing) can be found on Twitter here. So follow that account, and feel free to follow Andrew as well, though he does tweet about some Charleston-based, non-USC sports, because those are his primary beats.
I mentioned a lot of this in my blog announcing the job change, but I again wanted to thank those of you who took the time to read the stories and blogs, and banter on Twitter, since I started on this beat in November of 2011. I enjoyed the opportunity to cover this team and interact with you. If you want to keep up with the Jets – and a few random observations from Hoboken – you’re more than welcome to continue following on Twitter.
But for now, thanks and farewell.