USC Football: Previewing the offensive line

At this time in the offseason, this unit is looking like the most uncertain of all the position groups. A group that struggled at times last season and is missing the most consistent performer, Marcus Martin, who was drafted by the 49ers, is looking to come together in the new offensive scheme. Max Turek has moved over to the center position, and will be counted on to lead this group of players and keep the organization necessary to make Steve Sarkisian’s fast-paced offense work in the Pac-12. Younger players such as right tackle Zach Banner, who missed last season due to injury, are looking to become the players they were supposed to be coming out of high school as highly touted recruits. Even two true freshman could play an important role on the line if necessary, and if they are able to gain an understanding of the system quickly, could be possible upgrades over the older players.

Starting Lineup

Left Tackle: Chad Wheeler; RS Sophomore, 6-7, 275 pounds

Wheeler started at left offensive tackle as a redshirt freshman and improved as the season went on. He earned multiple postseason accolades, including the 2013 Athlon All-American third team. As a strong, physical tackle, Wheeler should continue to improve his technique and be a leader on the offense line in his second season as a starter.

Left Guard: Toa Lobendahn; Freshman, 6-3, 290 pounds

After enrolling early to be eligible for spring, Lobendahn proved his ability to earn playing time as a true freshman. At a position with a crop of young players, he looks as though as long as he is able to grasp the playbook and offensive schemes, than he should be able to play meaningful minutes from the beginning.

Center: Max Turek; Junior, 6-6, 285 pounds

The most versatile of the Trojans lineman, Turek is playing his third position in three years with the program. After becoming the first true freshman to start at left tackle in USC history, Turek excelled at left guard last season. As the most experienced on the currently projected offensive line, Turek has moved into the role of starting center and throughout the spring seemed primed for another successful season at a new position. With Marcus Martin, the starting center in 2013, being drafted, Turek seems ready to fill the hole left by Martin’s absence.

Right Guard: Khaliel Rodgers; RS Freshman, 6-3, 310 pounds

Even though he came in as a highly touted recruit, Rodgers redshirted last year and drew raves during his time on the scout team. With guidance from players like Turek, as well as his natural athletic ability, Khaliel should be able to develop into the type of lineman that people expected him to become out of high school.

Right Tackle: Zach Banner; RS Sophomore, 6-9, 345 pounds

Banner missed all but two games of the 2013 season after requiring surgery on both hips, but is expected to become a stalwart at tackle during his redshirt sophomore season. A towering presence, if he is able to stay healthy, Banner should be able to help pave the way for the talented Trojan running backs.

Potential Players to Break Into Starting Lineup

Guard: Damien Mama; Freshman, 6-5, 370 pounds

As a freshman that did not enroll for spring practice, this projection is based off of the scouting reports on Mama coming into college. A mauler at 370 pounds, Mama could find his way into the lineup because of his ability to open holes for the ground game. If he is able to understand the offensive system and adapt quickly, it would surprise nobody if Damien Mama is starting or playing a high number of minutes within just a handful of games into the season.

Guard/Tackle: Aundrey Walker; Senior, 6-6, 300 pounds

Although he has been getting playing time since 2011 and has eighteen career starts, Walker will be battling as a senior for a starting position. Even with his experience, the talent and upside of players such as Banner and Rodgers, as well as the injuries that have hindered Walker over the past few years, have opened the door for younger players to step in and earn a larger role. If he is able to avoid injuries and improve his consistency, Walker’s versatility across the line should allow him to find minutes at a number of positions.

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