USC coach Steve Sarkisian said the offensive line is an area for concern as the Trojans prepare for fall camp... How many pieces are in place on the line and where will the others fit?
coach Steve Sarkisian
only seems to know have one certainty about his offensive line as coaches begin to plot their plan for fall camp opening in August -- his starting left tackle will be Chad Wheeler
"I feel great about our left tackle," Sarkisian said during a Thursday Pac-12 coaches conference call. "I think he's a tremendous player. He is still somewhat new, he only has one year under his belt at the position, but he's a very talented guy. He is competitive, he has an unbelievable work ethic."
The rest of Sarkisian's offensive line will be a jigsaw puzzle, at least through the first week of camp. It's a position group he admitted is of top concern.
"We've got a lot of talented players, talented guys on the current roster that are healthy and we have some talented players that were somewhere injured in spring and some guys that missed the entirety of spring and then we have some talented players coming in the fall," he explained. "Solidifying that front five and then figuring who is going to be where and the depth and all that – that is just one key component for us."
Two year starter Max Tuerk
, who spent his freshman season at left tackle before moving to left guard his sophomore season, spent the spring at center.
Sarkisian praised Tuerk's efforts and progress throughout the 15 spring practices, but Thursday the head coach spoke with uncertainty about the junior's future at the position for the Trojans.
"I do feel Max Tuerk is a tremendous football player," said Sarkisian. "He has played a lot of football. He's going to play for us this fall. He went through the entire spring at center. We'll obviously take a good hard look at that early in training camp along with a couple other guys."
Sarkisian says incoming freshmen Scout four-star Viane Talamaivao
and five-star Damien Mama
will be tried out as interior linemen when they arrive on campus at center and guard.
Redshirt sophomore Zach Banner
showed improvement at right tackle, but it remains to be seen if he'll be up to game speed by the end of fall camp.
is a true freshmen who plugged the hole at left guard. Lobendahn will compete for the starting job there. Redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers
plugged the hole at right guard. He'll compete there.
So what about the injured players? Jordan Simmons
and Aundrey Walker
spent the spring on the sideline observing. Actually, Walker was completely missing in action the last three weeks of spring ball – not even seen on the sideline.
Rumors continue to swirl about Walker, a two-year starter whose season ended prematurely in 2013 due to a broken ankle suffered against UCLA
, and his academic standing going forward with the Trojans. Sarkisian spoke of Walker during the call as though he will indeed be on the field for USC come fall camp, "One of the keys is integrating Aundrey Walker back into the unit," he said.
Simmons has yet see any significant time on the offensive line in his Trojan career as he enters his third season with the team. It remains to be seen where he will fit in with the line.
"Our goal is to put [players[ in the best position to be successful because the more successful they are, the more successful we'll be as a team and as a program," Sarkisian said. "So that's going to be our challenge that first week of training camp – figuring out what these guys do best, where they are most comfortable so they can be highly successful."
USC is set to open fall camp August 4.
USC's offensive line depth chart entering the spring game
Left tackle: Chad Wheeler, Jordan Austin
Left Guard: Toa Lobendahn
Center: Max Tuerk, Giovanni Di Paolo
Right Guard: Khaliel Rodgers
Right Tackle: Zach Banner, Nathan Guertler
Injured Players: Jordan Simmons, Aundrey Walker
Incoming Freshmen: Damien Mama, Viane Talamaivao, Chris Brown
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