For Max Tuerk, playing in shotgun is a snap

LOS ANGELES -- As USC Trojans starting junior center Max Tuerk knows full well, executing a shotgun snap to his quarterback, is more than meets the eye. It's tantamount to playing the old game of Blind Man's Bluff.

"It takes repetition," said Tuerk, previously a former two-year Trojans starter at either guard or tackle. "The more repetition you have in a live drill against a live defense the better.

"When you're snapping alone, it's a little bit easier because you don't have a guy right in front of you, in your face, about to come at you and block you. So it just takes repetition and it takes time."

In a game of touch or flag football, a center usually looks between his legs before he snaps the ball in order make sure the ball arrives somewhere between the quarterback's head and waist.

So how does a center at the collegiate level -- who doesn't even look at his quarterback before the snap -- execute a perfect shotgun snap?

"It's just a feel," said Tuerk, who spent much of his summer watching video of NFL centers and their shotgun snaps. "I know when the quarterback is the gun and when he's under center, so when he's in gun it's just a feel and I listen to his cadence."

And can the 2014 Outland and Lombardi Trophy candidate, who tips the scales at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, instantly know when he's not on target with his shotgun snap?

"Yes, I can tell by my release point," Tuerk revealed.

Considering the Trojans will run the majority of their plays from their no-huddle, shotgun formation, there is obviously an extraordinary amount of responsibility for a center to make a near perfect snap each play and for an entire game.

"Definitely, there's pressure," said Tuerk, a public policy major on a real estate track. "It takes an insane amount of repetition actually to get it right. You have to keep practicing day in and day out."

The former Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic prep All-American gives much of his shotgun development to Trojans first-year offensive line coach Tim Drevno, who last season mentored the San Francisco 49ers' offensive line.

"Coach Drevno is the one actually who has helped me with my technique," Tuerk said. "He's a great coach and he's helped me every day. He really works on my timing, how I hold the ball, and my release point on the ball."

Tuerk is also taking time to work with a number of his potential backups, which includes true freshmen Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao and redshirt freshman Nico Falah -- all have had problems snapping the ball back from the shotgun cleanly.

None of Tuerk's backup have much experience playing center, so No. 75 knows that inexperience combined with an uneasy confidence make for fragile egos.

"When you come in straight out of high school, the competition is really different, especially coming into college and these practices," Tuerk said. "Guys definitely can't get down on themselves and when they get in there they have to play with confidence. I try to tell them that everyday, keep'em up, and try to help them out the best that I can."

Tuerk also knows his unit overall is a work in progress.

"We definitely have some work to do and we can definitely get better," Tuerk said. "We came in really close together [before training camp]. Our goal is to be very physical and to communicate well together between us. Obviously, we can always improve and keep on improving."

Whether getting the snap back cleanly or blocking precisely, the goal of the 2014 offensive line is to be very physical in Steve Sarkisian's power running game.

"Being physical is probably our number one goal right now as an offensive line," Tuerk said. "We're practicing it individually and during a walk-through, and everything we do is to become more physical and that translates over."

And if all the work, repetition, and physical play of training camp comes to a positive outcome, Trojans fans are hoping it'll just be a snap for Tuerk and his fellow linemen when USC hosts the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Coliseum on Aug. 30.