Pass blocking and run blocking. They’re similar, but different at the same time. In run blocking, you know where you need to block a guy before the ball is snapped, but in pass blocking, you don’t know where the defender is going and need to adjust to wherever the defender attacks. Many offensive linemen prefer run blocking to pass blocking, but some have varying opinions. So does redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Chad Wheeler prefer having Buck Allen run for 200 yards instead of having Cody Kessler throw for 400 yards?
“Maybe,” Wheeler said. “But don’t tell Cody that… They’re both very important (run blocking and pass blocking). I take pride in both of them, but it just feels good to run block. It feels good to hit them… It always feels good when your runner gets to three digits. He (Allen) was excited. He was proud of us. He just wanted us to keep doing it each week.”
Wheeler is in his second year as a starter at the left tackle position and he’s looking to build off a solid redshirt freshman campaign. The USC coaching staff has rotated linemen in and out of games every week, but one of the players who has been steadfast at his position is Wheeler, which goes to show how good of a job he’s done this year. Despite the exceptional showing thus far in the season, Wheeler isn’t satisfied.
“I’m just trying to continue to get better,” Wheeler said. “I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m going to keep working and stay prepared. I’m trying to work better on my pass set. Trying to stay lower and replace my hands, retrace them.”
This past weekend, the Trojans traveled to Tuscon to take on the No. 10 ranked team in the nation. In front of a sellout crowd, USC snuck by Arizona. Wheeler was impressed by the atmosphere, but it was just another game for the left tackle.
“It was loud, exciting,” Wheeler said. “That’s pretty much how I felt about it… Every game is a championship game, that’s what coach tells us. We’re always motivated to perform our best.”
Overall, the offensive line is pretty young. With two true freshmen starters at the guard spots, it would be easy to think that the line would be a relatively weak position group on the team this year. But it’s been just the opposite. The offensive line’s play has progressed each week and Wheeler is very pleased with the young group.
“We’re evolving,” Wheeler said. “We’re communicating better. The young guys are learning and are becoming more experienced each week. That’s very good… There’s a rotation going which is good because it keeps us fresh. That’s a good strategy… Toa’s been here since spring so he’s got a good grip of the offense. He was here for spring ball. I’m usually working next to him. He’s a solid guy and he could play every position so he’s very good.”
Standing at 6-foot-7, Wheeler has a huge frame to work with. Maybe not as big of a frame that Zach Banner has to work with, but it’s still impressive. Wheeler currently weighs 285-pounds, but is looking to build on that in the future, just maybe not during the season as it’s tough to add weight when you’re getting so much work in on the field.
“I’m 285 and probably want another 10-pounds,” Wheeler says. “It’s just lifting and eating. You just got to pack it on.”