ST. LOUIS -- In college at New Mexico, offensive guard Claude Terrell wrote a column called "Inside the Trenches With Big C" for a fan Web site.
As a rookie with the St. Louis Rams, he's already in the middle of things. In what's likely partly a nod to an impressive start and partly a motivational ploy, coach Mike Martz on Sunday elevated the fourth-round pick to starting left guard ahead of free agent Rex Tucker.
"He's there for somebody to beat him out," Martz said. "We're not handing anything to anybody."
Tucker appeared to be the answer to the Rams' problems at what has been an injury-plagued position when he signed with St. Louis in April, only a few days after being released by the Bears. But he has been hurt a lot himself, last playing an entire season in 2001, and Martz doesn't seem inclined to be patient even if it's only four days into training camp.
"I thought he did a real nice job this morning, but up until today he's been struggling," Martz said. "I think he's trying to learn our system.
"He has to show something from the very beginning. Absolutely."
The 6-2, 343-pound Terrell was a four-year starter at New Mexico and helped the team rank 16th in the nation in rushing as a senior. He has quickly caught Martz' eye.
"He's just such a physical presence inside," Martz said. "His weakness is, as you would imagine, pass protection, but he's getting better at that.
"He's a tough guy, and he's that violent physical guy inside you've got to have."
Terrell likes life in the trenches.
"It's brutal down there, but it's fun," he said. "You get to try to dominate the man in front of you, and that's what it's all about, just being out there competing and being physical."
Terrell expects he'll melt about 10 pounds off his huge frame by opening day, but he'll be the Rams' largest lineman.
"You've got to have some bulk in there for pushing against the big guys," Terrell said. "We've got a lot of big interior tackles on the schedule this year so you've got to have some mass down there in the trenches."
Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who weighs about 330 pounds, already has butted heads a bit with the hefty rookie.
"It's nice going against somebody bigger than me for a change, because I'm bigger than most offensive guards," Pickett said. "He's way bigger than me."
Martz gave Terrell the news he would be lining up next to perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace on Sunday morning while the team was stretching.
"It was like, 'It's time to go to work,"' Terrell said. "That's an opportunity, that's what I dreamed about, so I'm trying to make the most of the opportunity and stay with the 1s."
He doesn't appear at all overwhelmed by the complexities of the Rams' playbook or the two-a-day workouts. Unlike previous seasons, the second practice has been at half-speed.
"It's just football," he said. "I'm trying to adjust to the speed of the game, and it's a little more physical, but the older guys say this training camp is cake compared to what they've been through.
"So, I'm out there just trying to pull my weight."