The Santa Monica (Calif.) three-star recruit spent the Trojans' 7-6 season redshirting, "It was great," Wheeler told FOX Sports NEXT after voluntary summer workouts. "I was a little light so I had time to put weight on."
The 6-foot-6 offensive tackle was just 230 pounds when he enrolled at USC. He's now up to 280, "It was good to get that redshirt in and get my body right," he said.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin listed Wheeler as a co-starter on the post-spring depth chart at the conclusion of 2013 spring practices with redshirt senior Kevin Graf, to the surprise of nearly everyone reading the chart, including Wheeler. "Of course I was [surprised]," he said. Adding to the shock was the fact Wheeler injured his knee the first week of spring drills.
Asked what could have earned him the spot on the top with Graf, a two year starter for the Trojans, Wheeler says it had to be his work ethic. "I kept putting in work, kept improving, and just doing the right thing," he said.
Adding to the surprise element, Wheeler was a left tackle in high school and just recently transitioned to the right side. "It's an adjustment," he said. "I didn't take any reps during spring so I have to get my right hand stance right and keep practicing my footwork."
Wheeler says the transition has gone smoother than expected with the coaching of new offensive line coach Mike Summers. "[He] is a great coach and a great guy," Wheeler explained. "He's been teaching us the game from every perspective, not just the offensive line."
The redshirt freshman knows he has a tall task at hand if he wants to beat Graf for the starting spot, "I have to do everything right with no errors at all," Wheeler said.
It's more likely, at this point, that Kiffin listed Wheeler as a co-starter with Graf to ensure a competitive atmosphere that Kiffin believes was lacking in 2012.