For the first time in their collegiate careers, freshmen were available to speak with the media following practice. Among the players on everyone's watch list, the gigantic offensive guard Damien Mama collected his thoughts and addressed nearly 10 minutes of questions about his future with the Trojans.
The biggest of such besides his playing weight, which was now down from 397 to 377 pounds, along with his overall conditioning under coach Drevno, stemmed around the desire of still taking his Mormon mission after this season.
"I am actually not sure," Mama said following Wednesday night's practice. "I can see the depth isn't there, so I love to be a team player. But if that means leaving and putting the team hanging, I don't want to do that."
While Mama has stated throughout the entirety of his recruitment process that a possible mission would be eminent after his first season, recent injuries to Khaliel Rodgers and Aundrey Walker have opened up his thought process. "Yes sir. It would be a goal later in my life," Mama said, realizing the unique timing of his new-found role on offense.
In terms of what Mama has done on the field, the 377-pound lineman who wants to one day play around 360 has made an immediate impact on the first-team offensive line. Coach Sarkisian has praised Mama's mental makeup throughout this entire process, calling him a calm, cool guy that really brings the intensity out on the field.
"It wasn't the deepest group for us up front on the offensive line," Sarkisian said about a unit that could feature a starting true-freshmen on the offensive line for the first time since Kris O'Dowd. "But to Damien's credit, he's worked at it."
Being pushed every day by his coaches and teammates, Mama feels that his opportunity to play could come right at this moment. Whether that come by battling Leonard Williams, someone who physically baffles Mama, even running extra sprints with the assistance of his teammates to keep up with the pace, the transition has been rewarding.
"I was always telling myself coming out of high school that it was gonna be fast. So I went about asking a lot of questions throughout my recruitment process, just players --how their transition was-- just getting a mental mindset of how it was like," Mama notes about the transition. "And I gotta thank the older guys, they've taken me under their wing. (They've been) Pushing me every day to get better and better."
The team player recognizes that the extra conditioning in practice has been crucial for his success, adding that whatever happens throughout the season will be all part of offensive line coach Tim Drevno's grand scheme.
Mama does not doubt whether he can run 80-plus plays in coach Sarkisian's offense, feeling that his hard work over the course of summer and fall camp practice has allowed him to strive and will keep him right on track.
"Its an honor and a blessing," Mama said, talking about increased reps with the first-team offense during the last few practices. "I love contributing to the team."