For the next month, Aundrey Walker and Khaled Holmes are going to be inseparable, because Walker’s going to want the advice of his likely next-door neighbor on the USC offensive line just as much as he did Tuesday, on his first day practicing as the Trojans’ first-string right guard.
The behemoth freshman from Ohio State territory thoroughly impressed the coaching staff with his performance behind Kevin Graf at right tackle in Monday’s scrimmage at the Coliseum – so thoroughly, in fact, the coaches decided to scrap plans to keep him at tackle for the time being and move him to right guard immediately.
Redshirt sophomore John Martinez had been playing the position in the first week of camp. Walker will take over the starting spot for at least the immediate future and could very well end up starting the Trojans’ opener against Minnesota in less than four weeks.
“Aundrey did some really good things in the game,” coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday. “He’s showed us enough with the things he did. Especially at 364 pounds, to play the way that he did was pretty special.
“He’s still got a long ways to go before he could really play in a game, after only six practices now, but he looks very talented, so we’re gonna move him in there and give him a shot to start.”
Walker’s officially listed at 6-6, 375 pounds. Various Trojan coaches have described him at various weights, typically in the 360-something range. But he’s clearly big, mammoth, gigantic – whatever you want to call it. The thing is, though: that’s not it. Walker can also clearly play, as he demonstrated Tuesday in an impressive starting debut.
“He’s the biggest 18-year-old I’ve ever seen, and he plays like it, which is even more rare than his size,” said Holmes, in his first year as the Trojans’ center after starting at right guard last season. “He’s really helping me coming in and the whole O-line, really, by coming in and bringing the effort.”
Walker stayed on the first team throughout Tuesday’s two and a half hour practice, but he wasn’t without help. Holmes would often look over to him while they were at the line of scrimmage and guide him for the next snap. Walker also asked him for advice a few times as the two ran down the field for the next snap.
“I was surprised at how well he handled it,” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “We had to kinda help him with some of the calls in the two-minute drill because everything was fast, but he caught on quick. He was playing hard, playing fast. He didn’t look fazed at all.
“He always looks like a bad dude. He always has that look on his face like he’s going to eat somebody, which is a good thing.”
After Tuesday’s practice, Kiffin was in awe at how his freshman lineman finished off the practice. The Trojans concluded the team-drill period of the session with an 80-yard run and Walker kept up with his teammates all the way down the field as they readied for a potential next play.
“It’s extremely unique for him to be able to move, at that size, the way that he does,” Kiffin said. “That’s very abnormal. We have ourselves a very, very special athlete. Now we have to put the other stuff together so he can be a special player.”
With all that, Kiffin shied away from declaring Walker the likely starter on Opening Day or anything of that nature. He merely expressed excitement as to the possibilities, and then stopped short of proclaiming anything more.
“We’ll see how far he can take it,” Kiffin said. “Our system puts those guys out there and it’s their job to see how long they can stay, as far as the freshmen.
“Sometimes they can stay; sometimes they can’t handle it and they move back down.”