GameDay Arizona Notes; Homecoming for Kristofer O'Dowd, Nickell Robey's Resilience

It is almost hard to believe that Kristofer O'Dowd is in the home stretch of his USC career. The senior center from Tuscon has been an anchor on USC's line for most of his time at USC.

With his college career in the home stretch and without any post season play in USC's future this season O'Dowd is savoring his final games in the Cardinal and Gold. Playing against Arizona in front his home town crowd for the last time will be both exciting and probably bitter-sweet for O'Dowd...

O'Dowd, a senior, grew up in Tucson and attended Salpointe Catholic High. He regularly attended Wildcats games and knows several players on Arizona's roster.

"It's exciting being able to go in to a place I grew up, pretty much going to games and stuff," O'Dowd said this week. "So it will be a great atmosphere, and I'm excited for it."

O'Dowd was victorious in his last homecoming game. The Trojans defeated Arizona, 17-10, in 2008, a season in which league coaches voted O'Dowd first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference.

Short of winning an MNC it is safe to say that O'Dowd has had a great carer at USC.

O'Dowd came into USC with a ton of hype and for the most part he has lived up to it. I mean center's don't usually make headlines like the skill players but getting significant playing time as a freshman and having significant responsibilities as a sophomore show O'Dowd's maturity. I remember this article about O'Dowd in 2008...

But O'Dowd (6-5, 300) started three of the Trojans' first four games as a freshman. Then he asserted himself as the line's leader during spring practice, much to Carroll's liking.

"He just took over making the calls," Carroll said. "We were really thrilled about that."

O'Dowd's personality differs from Kalil's, Carroll said, and that should help the line deal with some difficult opening assignments.

Seems like yesterday.

No doubt we will miss him next season.

- - -

As one players career is coming to and end, another is blossoming quite nicely.

Nickell Robey at times seems like a veteran out there. Yes, Robey is a true freshman and in the early part of the season he had some issues on the field but I don't think there is freshman on this team that has had to overcome more and who has put the work that he has into improving his game like Robey has...

"He's got alligator skin," Garza said after a recent practice.

That's Garza's way of saying Robey is tough. Resilient. Almost impervious.

Not that he has much of a choice. As a cornerback enduring a trial by fire, Robey has to have a short memory. As a son adjusting to life without his mother, he has to stay strong.

Lane Kiffin said it earlier this season about Robey, and it still holds true: Surrendering a touchdown is "nothing compared to what he's been through." Robey lost his mother to a heart attack in February, shortly after he signed his letter of intent to attend USC.

I said early on that Robey was going was to be one of my favorites on this team. Not just because he lost his mother but because he stuck with his decision and is making the most of it.

This team has wrapped Robey up in their arms.

He gets challenged in practice and in games. Shareece Wright has taken Robey under his wing on the team and that influence is bearing fruit on the field.

The coaching staff probably overused him early on but all that did was increase his experience. Opposing teams will still try to exploit Robey's youth and size but he is coming along nicely and sooner or later teams will get the message to not take Robey lightly.

I have no worry that Robey will be one of the most respected players that this program has ever seen by the time he leaves USC.

The kid is a grinder!

- - -

Here is Robert Woods in the Friday night wrap-up from ESPN-LA

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