Vandermade Adds To Lineman Tradition
Oct. 27, 2000
LOS ANGELES - There is a pipeline that runs from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., tothe practice fields of USC in Los Angeles.
About a dozen talented football players have come through that pipeline toTroy. For instance, former USC fullback and current running backs coachKennedy Pola was one of them, as was 1999 All-Pac-10 safety David Gibson.
The latest Mater Dei alum to make an impact at USC is redshirt freshmanoffensive lineman Lenny Vandermade.
'I have no idea why there is a Mater Dei connection with USC,' saidVandermade, who has started five games at left guard and two games atcenter this season. 'I think it is just a trend. I don't know who startedit, but every time USC comes to recruit at Mater Dei, there is already aMater Dei guy on the team and he just lets you know how it is.'
Vandermade's reason for coming to USC can pretty much be summed up in oneword: tradition.
'I did want to stay close to home, so it was either USC or the other schoolacross town,' Vandermade said. 'I looked at various things. It just seemedlike this was the place to be, with all its tradition. Mater Dei was prettymuch built on tradition so I wanted to come here and help restore USC'stradition.'
Vandermade certainly has the credentials to do his part. He was a prepAll-American left tackle as a 1998 senior at Mater Dei. He did not allow asack all season as the Monarchs went 13-1, won the CIF Division Ichampionship and were ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today. Vandermade wasa three-year starter and Mater Dei went 40-2 during that span. But for allhis experience at a big-time high school program, nothing could prepare himfor his first start as a Trojan in this year's Kickoff Classic against PennState.
'I was just drawing blanks,' said Vandermade, who was starting at leftguard for an injured Trevor Roberts. 'I didn't know what was going on. Iremember not being able to catch my breath and that things were just flyingaround. But once I got settled in, then it was just football. I justplayed the game and it was just another game.'
Vandermade has experience at three positions: tackle, guard and center. Heplayed tackle in high school, but has concentrated on guard and center atUSC. He much prefers working on the inside of the line.
'When you are playing tackle, you are on an island most of the time,' saidVandermade. 'You are more by yourself. But when you are playing the threeinside positions, you usually have some other guys helping you.'
After starting the Trojans' first five games at left guard, Vandermade hasstarted the last two at center due to an ankle injury to regular starterEric Denmon. If Vandermade had his way, he'd stay there.
'I prefer playing center,' said Vandermade. 'I see myself playing center inthe future. I was a little rusty coming back from playing left guardbecause the technique is different. I just had to get back to my centertechnique. Once I got back to it, I started feeling comfortable again.'
Vandermade made such a quick impression on the coaches upon his arrival atUSC that he almost got into a few games as a true freshman in 1999. But itnever came to be and Vandermade is glad he got the chance to redshirt.
'I'm very happy that I had the redshirt year,' said Vandermade. 'You alwayswant to play, but I needed to get stronger and learn the offense better. Iknew the offense, but I didn't have a feel for it. Now, I have a feel forit and I know what everyone is doing.'
The extra year also helped him to adjust to the strength and speed of thecollege game.
'College players are a whole lot faster and everyone is bigger, too,' saidVandermade. 'Technique becomes that much more important. I consider myselfmore of a technician, but you also have to have a little bit of attitudeout there.'
Vandermade looks to USC's lineman tradition to keep him motivated and helpshape his game.
'I try to get bits and pieces from as many of them as I can,' saidVandermade. 'There are the prototypes like Tony Boselli and Travis Claridgethat were here, so I try to learn from them. But mostly, I try to be my ownplayer.'