Offensive line is on guard

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Drew Radovich answered almost before the question was asked.

"It's a non-issue," USC's right tackle said on Monday in reference to UCLA's pass rush.

Radovich played guard last season when the Bruins swarmed USC's offensive line, confusing the Trojans into false starts and harassing quarterback John David Booty during a 13-9 upset that ended USC's national title bid.

Radovich, a fifth-year senior, moved to right tackle before this season and is confident that he can help neutralize the Bruins when the eighth-ranked Trojans play UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum in the 77th meeting between the crosstown rivals.

"Last year, we had some gap control calls that were a little confusing at times for our tackles," Radovich said. "Now, everyone understands the system."

UCLA defensive ends Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman gave the Trojans fits last season, pressuring Booty and helping the Bruins end seven years of USC domination. Hickman is gone, but Davis remains a force.

"He has a great motor and finishes to the ball really well so you just have to lock up and fight him the whole way through the whistle," Radovich said. "Hopefully, with our size and athletic ability, we won't make him an issue."

Booty certainly hopes so. "We have to figure out a way to somehow slow them down," he said.

A fifth-year senior, Booty said he was prepared for questions about last year's game against UCLA, when linebacker Eric McNeal tipped and then intercepted a pass that preserved the Bruins' victory, but the defeat apparently has not lingered.

"That's not something that I've really thought about one time until [reporters] mention it," Booty said.

Booty said that during the week before last year's UCLA game, "we got away from maybe what really our focus should have been on. And I don't think we're going to let that happen this year. I hope not at least."

When asked if he would use last year's game as motivation with his players, Coach Pete Carroll said, "Not a bit. . . . I don't talk about anything that happened in the past so I'm not going to talk about that."

Later, however, Carroll said, "If anything, that's what you take from last year: That you know. You know they're good enough to throw up a heck of a football game and beat you. And that's basically all there is that we draw from last year."

Carroll is downplaying that the game Saturday will be the seniors' last at the Coliseum.

"We've been recognizing the seniors and their finish to their careers for a month now so that we don't have to have this enormous celebration that makes a guy break down and cry for the first quarter like Matt Leinart," Carroll said. "We're trying to avoid that a little bit."

In 2005, Leinart was overcome by emotion after seniors were introduced before the kickoff. USC rushed the ball seven consecutive times to start the game and Leinart overthrew receivers multiple times in the first half. He ended up passing for three touchdowns in a 66-19 rout.

Tight end Fred Davis is one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, presented to the nation's top tight end. . . . Defensive tackle Fili Moala did not practice because of a concussion he suffered against Arizona State. . . . Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he had not been contacted regarding any vacant head coaching jobs.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad