Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
Khaled Holmes' transition from right guard, where he started all 12 games last year, to center is business as usual for the team-first redshirt junior. For the Trojans, having one of their smartest players conduct the offensive line is invaluable.
With the departures of center Kristopher O'Dowd (Cardinals), left guard Butch Lewis (Chiefs) and left tackle Tyron Smith (Cowboys) to the NFL, USC will enter their home opener against Minnesota next month with three new starters on the offensive line, so the need for veteran stability is paramount.
"It hasn't quite been seamless, but so far the move has been a pretty smooth transition," Holmes said after his first few days at center. "Obviously I knew the change was coming, but it just feels so great finally getting a chance to come out here and take reps with the team."
Although he admits that recognizing blitz packages still is a work in progress, getting the chance to finally make the position move is a victory within itself. After all, fall camp represents the first time in months that Holmes has been able to practice full-time with his teammates.
"Health-wise, I feel great and am definitely gaining more confidence with every snap," said Holmes, who missed all of spring camp due to a neck injury. "Right now I haven't even been thinking about the injury. My only focus is keeping up with the offense and keeping up with the plays."
While the team is just a weekend into fall camp, Holmes has looked more and more comfortable in his new role with each passing day, but asked how long it will take for the center position to feel like home and the second-year starter hesitated to give any sort of definitive timetable.
"To be honest, I don't really know," said Holmes. "Like with anything you do in life, it obviously requires more practice and more repetition. I don't know if there is a specific number of days or practices because of all the specific plays and techniques we have, but I feel like I am making strides every day."
Despite Lane Kiffin admitting on Sunday that only 25 percent of the offensive playbook has been unveiled thus far, Holmes believes the learning process, both as a center and as a team leader, is well within his grasp.
"For me, I will take all the time I need to devote to improving my technique and footwork because there are no distractions, it's just football," said Holmes. "Right now though, helping everyone else is a major priority. Obviously, there are spots open on the line and guys need to step up. They are doing that right now, but we all have a long way to go."
(Photos by John McGillen)